OIT Academic Support Solutions Fund Helps the UTSA Department of Anthropology Upgrade Technology in its Graduate Anthropology Lab

September 07, 2017


(Graduate students using the ArcGis software installed on the new lab equipment in the Anthropology Lab.)

 Written by: Nicole Duff, Communications Specialist

Incoming and returning graduate anthropology majors will be greeted by more efficient technology with faster speeds in the Graduate Anthropology Lab in the fall of 2017. This past spring, the UTSA Department of Anthropology purchased new lab equipment thanks to support provided by the UTSA Office of Information Technology (OIT) Academic Support Solutions Fund.

The Graduate Anthropology Lab is housed in the McKinney Humanities Building (MH 3.02.52) on the UTSA Main Campus. This lab serves 60 top-tier masters and doctoral students each semester and enables students to not only conduct graduate research, but also receive academic training and engage in online courses.

“A lot of our students receive external funding from competitive agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Fulbright Program, among others,” said Sonia Alconini, Ph.D., associate professor of Anthropology and coordinator of the lab. “Therefore, we needed the systems to work efficiently in order to facilitate student success and promote graduate research.”

This need prompted Dr. Alconini to submit a proposal to the OIT Academic Support Solutions Fund last fall, requesting funding to replace 15 of the central processing units (CPUs) to ensure the continued success of the Anthropology graduate students. These units were plagued with limited internal memory and processing capabilities.

Students using the new CPUs, which have faster speeds and expandable memory.

(Students using the new CPUs, which have faster speeds and expandable memory.)


However, the grant that OIT awarded to the department, instead enabled the department to purchase 20 new Dell CPUs along with keyboards and mice. With the new computers in place, it was possible to install various programs on the lab’s machines, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS software like ArcGIS. This software is essential to conduct spatial analysis, a critical component in graduate student research.  

“Before the upgrade, the computers in the lab were really slow,” said Adam Birge, second-year anthropology Ph.D. student. “Running sophisticated ArcGIS programs can be a pain if the computer is not up to speed. But now with the upgrade, students like myself can use the computers a lot better.”

The newly purchased CPUs are fully equipped with 16GB of expandable internal memory, which, according to Dr. Alconini is necessary for students to process large files and to utilize the installed software that they would otherwise have had to purchase themselves.

As one of the largest programs with a significant number of graduate students, the UTSA Anthropology program is among the first UTSA fields to have a Ph.D. program. This program contains a cohort of top-tier Roadrunners who receive external funding from the National Geographic, the Ford Foundation and the Graduate Research Fellowship Program among other competitive external sources.

With the updated technology in the lab, graduate students can now conduct research more efficiently as this is a crucial component of the application process for funding.

“This would have been impossible without OIT’s support,” said Dr. Alconini. “We really thank OIT for this award, as without it, we would still be using the old computing systems which we would not have been able to change due to limited resources.”


To learn more about the UTSA Office of Information Technology, click here.

For more information about the UTSA Department of Anthropology, click here.