Betts’s current research involves doing geophysical, remote-sensing surveys of prehistoric effigy mounds. “Remote sensing allows us to 'see' beneath the surface and document the construction methods and forms of effigy mounds without impacting or damaging them,” he says. “This project is rewarding because it allows me to work closely with students, has the potential to provide new and innovative data on the mounds, and also creates a connection with the research on effigy mounds conducted at Luther during the 1970s and 1980s.” He considers the effigy mounds area to be a signature element of northeast Iowa's prehistory and cultural legacy and finds it rewarding that he can contribute something new to the understanding of the mounds.
Betts led a semester abroad to Malta in 2011 and thought it was a phenomenal experience. “We were fortunate to travel to Rome, Pompeii, Sicily, and—the personal highlight for me—Turkey,” he says. “Without a doubt the highlight of this experience was being central to so many amazing places and experiencing firsthand the rich history and prehistory. At the same time, we had the opportunity to interact with people who had personal connections to the events of the Arab Spring and the migration of people from Africa to Europe.”
“Between the students I have in the first-year seminar course that I routinely teach and those in my introductory classes, the thing I enjoy most is to getting to know the students during their first year. It’s so fun to see how much they grow intellectually and personally during the four years they’re here,” Betts says. “A close second for me is simply being around college students on a regular basis. It’s easy for their enthusiasm and excitement for learning to rub off on me.”
An additional role that Betts has at Luther is serving as the director of the Anthropology Laboratory. “The lab houses large collections of archaeological and anthropological artifacts. All of the items are a tremendous teaching and research resource,” he says. “It commonly employs around 10 students each year who gain valuable experience working with the collections.”
Betts acknowledges that he didn't appreciate a liberal arts education until he went to graduate school at a large university. “My experiences there caused me to critically reflect more on my background as an undergraduate at Luther,” he says. “It instilled in me the desire to ultimately provide the same type of instruction and mentoring I received as a student.”