Our success at Omrit comes of the leadership and labor of many.

Our primary staff includes Dr. Jennifer Gates-Foster of UNC at Chapel Hill (Co-Director and Ceramicist), Dr. Michael Nelson of CUNY Queens (Co-Director and Architect), Dr. Benjamin Rubin (Co-Director and Field Director), Dr. Jason Schlude of CSB|SJU (Co-Director and Educational Director), and Dr. Dan Schowalter of Carthage College (Co-Director and Administrative Director). And of course, participating students come from all these universities and sometimes more.

Here is the CSB|SJU team for the June 2017 season.


Dr. Jason Schlude, Assistant Professor of Classics: Dr. Schlude is an ancient historian and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the Roman Near East. In particular, he has researched and published on the relationship between the Roman empire and the Middle Eastern empire of the Parthians. As Educational Director at Omrit, he coordinates the student educational experience by helping to direct excavation onsite and by organizing educational programming, which includes a series of lectures by known scholars and guided site tours.

Samuel Butterfass is a rising junior at St. John’s University and is pursuing a Classics major and English minor. He is also a member of the R.O.T.C. program. In Fall 2016 he delivered a paper, “With Flaccus: A Conversation with Erich Gruen’s Alexandria,” at a conference at Macalester College in honor of the esteemed ancient historian Erich Gruen. It is currently available at http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu. This summer he sets his sights on the field of Classical archaeology—and Omrit. He notes, “I think that participating in a program like this, where I’m actually dealing with primary evidence myself, will greatly enhance my reading of materials in class and allow me to empathize with scholars in a new way … I intend to apply the basics that I’ve learned about archaeology and the ancient world to contribute as much as I can to the documentation and interpretation of the site.”

Aimee Hanson is a rising senior at College of Saint Benedict. She is a Classics major and English minor who also is pursuing Music Performance, and she comes back to Omrit this year as a dig veteran to join the staff in a supervisory capacity. She returns with the support of a student-faculty collaborative grant from CSB/SJU. Congratulations, Aimee, and welcome back to Omrit!


James Mathison is a rising junior at Saint John’s University, pursuing a communication major with the intent to go into public relations or marketing. Like so many of us, he grew up with a fascination for dinosaurs and Indiana Jones! So he jests, “I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to live out my inner child’s fantasy.” But more seriously, he hopes to get a better sense for how scholars from all over the country, and world, can communicate with each other in the recovery and interpretation of an archaeological site like Omrit. In short, he is excited “to learn more about archeology and how it’s done.”

Anna Norris is a rising junior Biology major and Psychology minor at the College of Saint Benedict. In the future, she plans to conduct scientific research specifically related to genetics or neurobiology. She is joining the excavation team at Omrit since she “find[s] archaeology fascinating,” and in particular the fact that “researchers can understand the past with objects that have withstood the test of time.” She further explains, “This trip is an opportunity for me to participate in this amazing research, as well as explore a beautiful country with strong historical and religious ties to many different cultures and communities. I am very excited to be a part of this amazing once-in-a-life-time experience … and deepen my love for science, history, and religion.”

Jessica Rentz is a recent graduate of William Jessup University, where she double-majored in History and Bible & Theology and minored in Archaeology. In addition, she excavated previously in Israel in 2015, and in 2016 she spent six week studying archaeology and history in Greece under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. In Fall 2017, she will pursue a Masters of Art in Religion with a concentration in the History of Christianity at Yale Divinity School. She plans to continue with a Ph.D. and become a university professor, focusing on household archaeology and religious practices within the home from the 1st-4th century CE.  She looks forward to returning to Israel to now excavate at Omrit and spend her days studying its culture and history and meeting new people.

And here are team members from previous seasons.

June 2016 Team:

Omrit Team 2016

Above (from left to right): Dr. Jason Schlude, Jack Fitzpatrick, Aimée Hanson, Rafael Roman, and Fabian Crisanto, standing upon the hill of Omrit, overlooking the Huleh Valley in northern Israel.

FabianFabian Crisanto is a History major and Anthropology minor. Excited about the future prospect of pursuing an M.A. in Anthropology, perhaps after volunteering with the Peace Corps, he see Omrit as an “opportunity [that] will provide [him] with the perfect experience and knowledge about what it takes to be an anthropologist.” He is also enthused about the location of Omrit, considering that the “historical past” of Israel is truly “vast.”

JackJohn “Jack” Fitzpatrick is pursuing an Elementary Education major with an endorsement in Mathematics as well as participating in the ROTC program at Saint John’s University. With a real interest in the relationship between culture and environment, Jack has found an excellent study abroad project in Omrit. A self-described “adventure-seeker,” he is accustomed “to seek out activities, trips, or events that not everyone will have an opportunity to participate in within their lifetimes.”

AimeeOne of the reasons Aimée Hanson came to the College of Saint Benedict was to dig at Omrit! A Classical Studies major (not to mention Philosophy and Music Performance Minor!), she seeks an “opportunity to interact with the remnants of the Roman Empire in a hands-on manner” and is “eager to apply to fieldwork what I have already learned thus far in my Latin, literature, and history classes, in addition to learning much more about the broader Roman Empire.” In the future, she plans to pursue a career in archaeology or cultural preservation.

RafaelAn Elementary Education major, Rafael Roman is driven by a passion for history and a desire to be the best teacher he can be. He is confident that the experience of archaeology, the recovery and interpretation of past artifacts, will give him a new way to engage students. He notes, “My hope is that through this program I can learn some techniques … to teach history to students that might not like it or do not know that they like it. I also hope to gain a better understanding of material history so that I can bring a knowledge of how historians use artifacts to piece [together] ideas about the ancient world … Through this I can bring history to life for my students in a way that my counterparts in the field of education might not be able to.”

June 2015 Team:


Above (from left to right): Megan Lundquist, Benjamin Baumann, Conor Murphy, Dr. Jason Schlude, and Erin Baumer, standing before the temple complex at Omrit.


Benjamin Baumann: A History major and one-time excavator in Bulgaria, Benjamin knows the hard work of archaeology – and how it can enrich one’s “perception of the world in the present and the past.” Having excavated at a prehistoric site, he now hopes to gain archaeological experience at a historical-period site.





Erin Baumer: A major in Classical Studies and Mathematics, Erin intends to connect a range of disciplines at Omrit. In addition, she is excited to experience history beyond the textbook – and “to make an impact on history.”





Megan Lundquist: An Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies major, Megan plans to enrich her understanding of how humans have shaped their environments and communities. She is ready “to work hands-on in the field” and to engage with unfamiliar terrain in Israel.




Conor Murphy: A Biology major and Roman history enthusiast, Conor hopes to see for himself the ancient cultures that he has studied in the classroom. He also wishes to learn about a “cradle of humanity” firsthand as he charts his course for the future.