“I was not the little girl who wanted to be a ballerina; I wanted to be Indiana Jones,”
admits Early College High School at Midland College (ECHS@MC) student Dusty Ellis.
“I have always wanted to be an archeologist, but now after my success at Midland College,
I am starting to look toward anthropology as well.”
Dusty Ellis is only 17 years old and is finishing her junior year in high school.
She has already taken 14 college courses at MC, and the University of Texas San Antonio’s
Journal of Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Work has published her paper “Cultural
and Historical Views of Women in Ancient Mayan Civilization through Sculpture.”
Past issues of the journal have mainly featured articles published by UT San Antonio
undergraduate students. The fact that Ellis’ work was found to be of the same standard
as students at four-year institutions in the UT system is impressive.
The idea for her paper came about when deciding on the topic for her honors English
course with MC professor Dr. William Christopher Brown. It took more than 20 drafts
before the paper was complete.
“The first question Dr. Brown asked me was what I was my major,” Ellis remembered.
“Then he asked me why I wanted to major in anthropology, and I told him I really love
ancient history. I have always loved it. Ever since I watched a documentary in middle
school about the Mayans, I thought I was going to solve the mystery of their disappearance,
so I just started researching it on my own. After doing some ‘soul searching’ with
Dr. Brown, it became apparent that choosing a topic based on the Mayans would be the
most interesting for me personally.”
With the topic down, Ellis moved onto conducting research. The second step in her
writing journey was a little more complicated.
“It was difficult to find sources on Mayans, specifically women. Most of the time
books and documentaries were about Mayans as a civilization,” Ellis said. “I was really
looking for the era when the first female queen was alive, and there really was not
too much available. So in a way, all of the sources I found were a little ‘off,’ but
when I put them all together in an organized argument, it worked.”
Twenty-three pages later, the paper was finished. Dr. Brown asked Ellis if she wanted
to submit it for publication.
“Dr. Brown said no one had taken him up on his recommendation to submit articles for
publication, but I thought, ‘why not?’” Ellis said. “If it gets rejected, that would
be fine; if there was a chance it was going to be published, that was a chance I was
willing to take. I would love for more students to branch out and submit their papers
because I know the high quality work that MC students complete.”
The editors took some time to decide which papers to accept. Finally, the good news
“It was surreal; I honestly did not think my paper would be selected,” Ellis said.
“It did not set in until days later that I had actually gotten published, and it was
a nice feeling. It is something really amazing, and I did not expect it to happen
Accepted articles go through a rigorous editing process. Perhaps even more impressive
than Ellis’ article being selected is the fact that the editors accepted it without
“Dr. Brown and I spent hours looking for mistakes before we submitted it,” Ellis said.
“I was surprised it was accepted without revision, but I probably should not have
been because we had done so many corrections—so many drafts.”
Ellis has enjoyed her time at ECHS@MC. She is involved in the Phi Theta Kappa International
Honor Society and the MC Honors program. Her favorite class so far has been a speech
class with Professor Meredith Martin.
“I was a terrible public speaker,” Ellis said. “I would visibly shake, and my voice
would be octaves higher than it should have been. After taking Professor Martin’s
class, my speech skills have improved enormously. One of the most important things
I learned from that class was to focus on a topic that had a real emotional attachment
for me. If I tried to find a way to fit my passions into my speeches or papers, the
process was much easier.”
It will come as no surprise that Ellis has set high expectations for herself. After
she graduates from ECHS@MC in 2020, she wants to get a bachelor’s degree from Angelo
State University, then take a gap year with the Peace Corps before working on her
master’s degree with some study abroad experience. Her ultimate educational goal
is to get a doctorate degree from Oxford University in England. Ellis recognizes
that the special sense of community at MC has inspired her and given her the confidence
to achieve these dreams.
“There is a lot of support at MC.” Ellis said. “Faculty and staff really support
and encourage students. There are a lot of hard-working students at MC, as well.
Everyone really does want to succeed, and that attitude is contagious. Everyone is
trying to support each other. There are several different support systems at MC, and
faculty and staff are always looking to improve the systems already in place, which
is something I admire.”
If you would like to read Dusty Ellis’ published paper on the Mayans, email email@example.com
for the link to the online journal.