Outstanding anthropology undergraduate passionate about Egyptology

Tatijana Jovanović anthro undergrad 3

Tatijana Jovanović presents her research poster, “Shabtis, Real and Fake: Egyptian Objects at Arizona State University," at the 2023 American Research Center in Egypt’s annual meeting. She is graduating summa cum laude this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a minor in art history.


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Her passion for anthropology, specifically Egyptology, started at a very young age for Tatijana Jovanović. Born and raised in Phoenix, Jovanović knew she wanted to attend Arizona State University, where the School of Human Evolution and Social Change is known for its anthropology program.  

“When I was 4 years old, a friend brought a book to preschool that had a picture of Queen Nefertiti on it,” said Jovanović. “From that moment, my fascination with ancient Egypt started. I majored in anthropology as a basis for pursuing graduate work in Egyptology. I knew it was important to have a strong foundation before specializing in graduate school.”

Jovanović is graduating summa cum laude this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a minor in art history. Among her many accomplishments, she is a member of ASU’s Phi Beta Kappa college honor society. 

In recognition of her academic achievements, she has been awarded both the spring 2024 Outstanding Undergraduate Award in social sciences from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Dean's Medal for the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

ASU News talked with Jovanović about her experiences as an anthropology major. 

Portrait of woman with short brown hair wearing black blouse
Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: There were a lot of reasons that I decided to study at Arizona State University, including its No. 1 ranking for anthropology research expenditures. However, the real reason that tipped the scales for ASU was a meeting I had in the fall of my senior year in high school with academic advisor Wondra Lee and then-director and Professor Christopher Stojanowski with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. They both took the time to really promote the department and the many research opportunities that would be available to me as an undergraduate. The personal contact with the department and the research opportunities cinched my decision to attend ASU.

I was born and raised in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. I graduated from Paradise Valley High School. There were no anthropology courses offered in high school; however, I did take several forensic science courses. One thing I would note is that I attended a Montessori charter school from preschool through fourth grade. As part of the Montessori curriculum, we did a lot of exploration of cultures and people from around the world. That work really sparked my interest in topics related to anthropology.   

Q: Were you part of any organizations during your undergraduate career?

A: I have been on the ASU Undergraduate Anthropology Association leadership board since my freshman year. I have been a student member of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) since I was a sophomore in high school when I first attended their annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023, I was awarded the ARCE Annual Meeting Travel Grant to attend their annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I presented an academic poster about my research of Egyptian objects at ASU. I have been accepted to present my second academic poster at the ARCE annual meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this spring. I also received the SHESC Undergraduate Research Award for the spring of 2024. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned not to be afraid to take risks when seeking opportunities to expand my academic knowledge. I was hesitant at first to try and seek research apprenticeships, but once I got the first one, I realized how valuable they are. In addition, completing my anthropology degree has taught me to be more cognizant of my own biases.  

Q: Which professor or class taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I can’t pinpoint one specific professor or lesson that was most important at ASU. Participating in research labs at the school under professors Brenda Baker and Michael Smith has taught me many things about my interests and given me unimaginable skills to help me succeed in the field of archaeology. 

Conducting my independent research project under the guidance of Matthew Peeples, associate professor, has been tremendously valuable. It has taught me how to conduct and plan my own research and helped me navigate my interests for graduate school. 

Lastly, having the opportunity to study my heritage language (Serbian) with Zlata Filipovic, faculty associate, has allowed me to connect to my culture while pursuing a degree at ASU. I am a first-generation Serbian-American. Solidifying my Serbian language has always been a goal of mine as I have a lot of family in Serbia, and speaking with them in Serbian makes me feel closer to them and my heritage. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I have two pieces of advice. First, take advantage of every single Research Apprentice Program (RAP) that interests you. I encourage you to apply even if you think you do not have enough experience. I applied to multiple RAPs the summer before my freshman year and was fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory. That ended up being the first of three research labs I worked in. Participating in research apprenticeships expanded and honed my knowledge of archaeological research and practices.

Second, make time for yourself. The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn while in college is that I am more productive and focused on my degree when I am prioritizing self-care and spending time with my friends. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am planning to take a gap year so that I can focus on my graduate school applications with the goal of starting a graduate program in archaeology, Egyptology in the fall of 2025.

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