Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal

Leigh-Ann Bedal

Associate Professor of Anthropology at Penn State Behrend and Director of the Petra Garden and Pool Complex Archaeological Excavation in Jordan.

About her job: During the academic year I teach undergraduate courses on archaeology, ancient civilizations, human origins, and cultural diversity. My research centers on the archaeological excavation of the royal gardens at the ancient site of Petra, Jordan. As the director of the project, I organize the field seasons and the excavation team; oversee the excavation, which takes place in the summertime; and follow up with research and publication of the findings. 

Hometown: I was born in Burbank, California, and grew up in La Crescenta, which is outside of Los Angeles.

Why she got involved in WEC: As a feminist, I want to encourage young women to have confidence in themselves, and to cultivate a foundation of knowledge and skills that will not only help them to achieve their professional goals and pursue their individual interests, but also to be globally engaged citizens.

Casting a wide net: One of the things I like about the Women’s Engagement Council is that it is designed to expose young women to female role models with a broad spectrum of backgrounds, professions, and interests.

On loving her work: As an undergraduate, I was drawn to archaeology because it offered a path to satisfy so many of my interests. I love learning about ancient societies and how things came to be. I love uncovering artifacts and ruins from the past and being the first to see and touch them after hundreds of thousands of years. I love to travel to exotic places, learning new languages, and experiencing different cultures. As a faculty member, I enjoy sharing the topics that excite me with my students and seeing an interest spark in them.

Most important trait for a professional woman to possess: Determination.

What she wishes every woman knew: Education is a way to provide yourself with options. The more options you have, the more control you will have over your own life. Also, there is no single definition of womanhood. It’s up to each of us to establish what kind of woman we want to be.

Puzzle master: I enjoy logic problems and word games, especially crosswords, acrostics, and Scrabble. Archaeology is like piecing together a giant puzzle.

Always learning: During the pandemic, I began to learn the names of all the plants in my garden (over 100 different varieties and species), and to learn to identify birds by sight and sound.

Most interesting place visited: My research work has taken me to many amazing places in Europe and the Middle East, but Petra holds a special place in my heart. Every time I return, I see something new. Unrelated to my research work, I’d say my visit to Angkor in Cambodia was most interesting. It’s an enormous site with many separate sanctuaries, each of which is ornately carved from top to bottom with intricate scenes and motifs.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be an actress, mostly because I had no direction for a career. I started at a community college with no plans to continue in higher education beyond two years. I ended up earning a Ph.D.


Dr. Bedal is happy to connect with you and is open to mentoring. How to reach her: