Ben FordIndiana University of Pennsylvania anthropology professor Ben Ford, IUP’s 2023–24 Distinguished University Professor and chair of IUP’s Department of Anthropology, has been selected as a Fulbright US Scholar for 2024–25.

Ford will do his Fulbright study in Portugal during the spring 2025 semester, during his planned sabbatical.

His project, “The Human-Landscape ‘Conversation’ in the Lagoa da Pederneira Region, is designed to contribute to a better understanding of human interactions with coastal landscapes.

“This is an incredible honor and an extremely exciting opportunity,” Ford said. “While this research is valuable in its own right as a contribution to our knowledge of the human past, especially in a maritime nation such as Portugal, long-term analysis of human-environment interaction can also contribute to modern policy development,” he said.

“While in residence in Portugal, I intend to share the research through presentations and lectures. I also hope to provide lectures based on my previous research in the Great Lakes, drawing comparisons between the shores of the lakes and coast of Portugal, as well as lectures on the role of seafaring in human diasporas and contact,” Ford said.

“In the spirit of the Fulbright Program, this project is anticipated to be the beginning of a collaboration that will strengthen as future projects develop,” Ford said.

“My goal is to eventually involve students in data collection, fostering collaborations. This project will provide a specific and tangible means for IUP students to experience global culture. Based on the success of the Fulbright research, I hope to further develop relationships with Portuguese colleagues that will permit future student-faculty research and study abroad opportunities,” Ford said.

His project includes synthesizing known archaeological landmarks and recording new archaeological sites along the margins of the former Pederneira lagoons; combining the archaeological data with historic textual and cartographic evidence, as well as topographic and geological data to record the changing relationships between human and landscape as the lagoons filled with sediment; and applying a landscape agency theoretical perspective to the region’s past human-environment interactions to foster a transdisciplinary social and environmental sciences approach to understanding how past humans understood landscape change.

Fulbright Scholar Awards are competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Fulbright scholars also play a critical role in US public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations.

Alumni of the Fulbright Program include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 80 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

IUP faculty and staff have received 75 Fulbright scholarships since 1951, and IUP students or recent graduates have received 20 Fulbright Awards since 1968.

Ford has been a faculty member in the Anthropology Department since 2009, serving as chair since 2017. His scholarship focuses on maritime archaeology with a specialization in the Great Lakes and maritime cultural landscapes, and on historical archaeology with a specialization in the frontier period of western Pennsylvania.

In addition to the Distinguished University Professor recognition, Ford has received the IUP Distinguished Award for Research and the IUP Sponsored Programs Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research.

During his Distinguished University Professor year, he has worked to recenter his research into a new, long-term scholarly and social project titled “Heritage Futures.”

“The goal of Heritage Futures is to leverage heritage to heal past wrongs and foster a healthier future,” Ford said. “Rather than a single project, Heritage Futures will be a working group of professionals, students, and community members that engage in an ongoing series of research, education, and outreach projects.

Ford is considered to be one of the world experts on maritime cultural landscape studies—the archaeological study of coastal and maritime landscapes to understand the feedback loops between humans and these environments. In addition to editing one of the formative books on this subject, The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes, he has authored a monograph, book chapters, and articles on this topic.

As a result of his contributions to this field, he was invited to speak at National Park Service and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration workshops and provide advice to policy makers. He was part of the founding of the Pennsylvania Archaeology Shipwreck Survey Team, which trains SCUBA divers to record Lake Erie shipwrecks and serve as ambassadors for the lake’s maritime history, and he is working with representatives of the Seneca Nation to explore submerged landscapes in Lake Erie.

He was the keynote speaker at the Third European Conference on Scientific Diving (Madeira, Portugal) and was the 2015 Archaeological Institute of America McCann-Taggart Underwater Archaeology Lecturer.

Paralleling his maritime archaeology work is research in the archaeology of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Pennsylvania.

Ford has a long-term relationship with Historic Hanna’s Town and the Westmoreland County Historical Society, providing archaeological services and data to support the site interpretation. He recently worked with Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds to record an African American cemetery near Harrisburg, which involved creating teams of students, professionals, and community members to work together to record the 700 graves in the cemetery.

Ford cocreated an Alabama University Press book series on restorative justice through archaeology and is leading a multidisciplinary team to identify African American settlements on Pennsylvania park and forest lands in western Pennsylvania.

He is the author of six books and is currently working on a new book about Great Lakes archaeology. His 2011 The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology was translated into Chinese in 2018, and he also has contributed to major international publications such as The Routledge Handbook of Global Historical Archaeology.

In addition to his books, he has more than 50 published works to his credit: a combination of book chapters, articles, book reviews, and reports, many involving students as co-authors or providing a forum for students to present their research in edited volumes. His active engagement of students in research was recognized in 2020 with the IUP High Impact Practice Award for providing undergraduates with authentic research experiences, and in 2022 with the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Mason Award for educating Pennsylvania archaeologists.

Ford also works with students on their own research to complete their master’s thesis work and has served on two international external PhD committees.

In addition to his service and leadership on many IUP committees and groups, he is a reviewer for a number of international journals, presses, and granting agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, and Israel Science Foundation, as well as serving on publisher advisory boards.

Ford is the chair of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Board that approves all National Register of Historic Places nominations in the state and advises the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. He has held national leadership positions as the Register of Professional Archaeologists Standards Board chair and as a director of the Society for Historical Archaeology, an international organization with more than 1,500 members.

While research is a passion, student success is his motivation.

“My primary professional product is my students—more than any article, book, or external activity, students will be my legacy,” Ford said. “I spend significant time preparing for classes, teaching, and mentoring. I pride myself on providing students with innovative and difficult assignments that constantly push them to improve their writing, critical thinking, and anthropological skills, while also providing a safety net that transforms failure into a learning experience,” he said.

He also focuses on group exercises to reinforce the collaborative nature of the discipline and regularly exposes students to research through credit-bearing, volunteer, and paid experiences.

As chair of the Anthropology Department, he is committed to student success and to expanding the value of anthropology to IUP students. He led the department in endowing its first scholarship and worked with his colleagues to craft the university’s second Writing Across the Curriculum plan, create the Cultural Competencies Certificate, and write an Open Education Resources (free, online textbooks) for a popular IUP Liberal Studies course.

In addition to his service to his profession and to IUP, he is a former member of Indiana Borough Council and past chair of the Community Development Committee.