March 2017 eNewsletter: Alumna Spotlight: Madeleine Ota ’14

Alumna Spotlight: Madeleine Ota ‘14, Poised to Take On Both Ancient and Modern Worlds

By Alexis Rodriguez, Associate Director of Advancement

Madeleine Ota ’14 has had an exciting journey at Stanford University over the last three years, including an underwater excavation and a glimpse into the ancient world through a 5,000-year-old beer recipe.

Madeleine, who will be graduating from Stanford in 2018, is double majoring in archaeology and classical studies. “I have always been fascinated by the ancient Mediterranean world and its wealth of material artifacts and textual sources,” Madeleine explains. “In my classics courses, I love reading original texts in ancient Greek and interpreting their significance. Archaeology challenges me to engage with material culture and to think critically about how artifacts can help us better understand past societies and cultural phenomena. Both majors are highly interdisciplinary, so I regularly draw from other disciplines in science, technology and the humanities.”

In the summer of 2016, Madeleine spent her time scuba diving in the Mediterranean while working on the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, which is an underwater excavation of a sixth century Roman shipwreck off the coast of Sicily. The ship was carrying prefabricated elements of a Byzantine church, as well as a collection of ceramic storage vessels called amphorae. “By studying the material evidence, we were able to increase our understanding of maritime connectivity in the late Roman period and pose more critical questions about the ancient world,” Madeleine says. “I will be returning to Marzamemi this summer to work on personal research for my senior honors thesis on cultural heritage in the Mediterranean.”

Madeleine’s studies have taken her from Italy to Asia, as she recently made beer with an ancient 5,000-year-old Chinese recipe for the course ‘Archaeology of Food,’ taught by Professor Li Liu. “The objective of this course was to use experimental archaeology to study alcohol product from scientific, as well as anthropological, standpoints,” she explains. “I learned about how to implement the scientific method in the context of archaeology to understand ancient processes. I also gained a better understanding of the importance of alcohol production in ancient societies, as well as modern cultures around the world today.” You can read more about this project on Stanford University’s website.

Madeleine is very involved in all aspects of Stanford student life: she is a Resident Assistant for the freshman dorm, a Peer Advising Counselor for the Stanford Archaeology undergraduate program, a member of the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies program, and sings with the Stanford Talisman A Cappella group. She credits OLP for preparing her for her busy college life. “OLP taught me skills that I use every day at Stanford: time management, study skills, communication leadership,” she says. “At times, OLP was a lot of work, but it definitely gave me the academic endurance to keep up with my workload at Stanford.”

One of her fondest OLP memories was participating in Spring Sing her junior and senior year. “Being a part of this amazing tradition was an unforgettable experience,” she says. “I was so proud of my classmates for their tenacity and outstanding creativity throughout the whole process!”

Madeleine has a message for OLP’s Class of 2017: “Be open to new experiences and new opportunities, even if they’re far outside your comfort zone. Take risks, sign up for college courses you know nothing about, go on adventures, make new friends! I would have never found myself where I am now if I hadn’t tried so many new things.”