The Excellence in Academic Outreach award honors those who exemplify UT’s land-grant mission by using intellectual capital to benefit the citizens of Tennessee.
Erin Darby, associate professor of religious studies, is a scholar of early Judiasm, the academic study of the Hebrew Bible, and archaeology in the Levant, an area made up primarily of Jordan and the modern state of Israel. “She has created and oversees a dizzying number of outreach projects that enrich communities at home and abroad,” a colleague wrote. Darby runs a study abroad program, Dig Jordan, which is the only faculty-led study abroad program in the Middle East in the UT system. Here at home, she’s responsible for organizing events such as Zooarchaeology Day, National Archaeology Day, and the Arab Fest, all of which make archaeology and the Middle East more accessible to broader audiences. She has even hosted an archaeology day at a local preschool. In Jordan, her excavation is a large employer and her training has made many local residents employable in other archaeological and tourism jobs. A colleague concludes that Darby’s outreach efforts have “greater significance and more successful outcomes than seems humanly possible for several senior scholars combined, let alone for a single scholar who has only just now received tenure.”