By Heather Rodriguez
Michael Waters, a professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts, holder of the Endowed Chair in First American Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans, has been recognized as a 2017 University Distinguished Professor. This award is one of the most prestigious awards bestowed upon a Texas A&M University faculty member.
“University Distinguished Professors represent the highest level of achievement for our faculty,” said Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president. “They are recognized as preeminent scholars in their fields and their accomplishments are exemplified by seminal contributions to their respective disciplines. They demonstrate to the world the high quality of scholarship underway at Texas A&M University.”
Waters, who joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1986, is an an internationally recognized scholar who pioneered the discipline of geoarchaeology– the application of geological methods and concepts to archaeological research.
“I am particularly interested in when the first humans came to the Americas during the last Ice Age and how they adapted to the new environments they encountered,” he said. “In this field, a solid geoarchaeological background is critical, as the details matter.”
Recently, his research has determined the age of the 13,000-year-old Clovis culture and presenting the first and oldest ancient human genome of the Americas. He was also part of a research team that recently discovered mastodon bones and tools in a Florida sinkhole, suggesting humans were in Florida 14,500 years ago. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) named this discovery one of 2016’s top science stories.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Pamela Matthews said, “Mike Waters is the consummate faculty member. His research changes our thinking, his teaching transforms students’ lives, and his service is selfless and collaborative. I am delighted in this recognition of his work.”
In addition to conducting groundbreaking field research, Waters also teaches anthropology classes for both graduate and undergraduate students.
“I try to be engaging and excite students,” he said of his teaching style. “I am a first-generation student, and I hope I can inspire young students to aim high.”
He also teaches his students how to think critically and scientifically when learning about the world around them.
“I love to have students realize that we know a lot, but we need to know a lot more,” Waters said. “There is always more to learn, and we have only scratched the surface of any topic.”
Of winning this award, Waters said he feels honored.
“It is nice to be recognized for my research contributions,” he said. “But I did not get here alone. Without the support from family, friends, and colleagues, this would not have been possible.”
Waters and the four other 2017 Distinguished Professor honorees will be recognized by Texas A&M President Michael K. Young at a reception on April 26. More information, including a complete list of University Distinguished Professors, is available online.