Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Becky Cooper

Second Advisor

Erika Hartley


Ellie Underground: Troweling to the Past is a middle-grade short-form graphic novel written by Hollie Powless. The story focuses on the life of 11-year-old Ellie Hawthorne during the summer before they enter 6th grade. Noticing how their child struggles to make friends offline, Ellie’s moms decide that archaeology day camp at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project is just the thing Ellie needs to connect with kids their age and get them out of their shell. Throughout the story, we follow Ellie as they navigate excavations, artifacts, and time travel during their week at FSJ summer camp. With the help of some new friends and their trusty sidekick Toad, Ellie discovers more about the past and about themself than they ever imagined. Filled with historically accurate archaeology, friendship, and a touch of time travel, archaeology summer camp proves to be exactly what Ellie needs to prepare for the uncertainties of middle school.

While this project is not a memoir, I put a lot of myself and my lived experiences into Ellie’s character and story. With Ellie Underground: Troweling to the Past, I aim to blend my passion for archaeology, graphic literature, summer camp, and LGBTQ+ representation into one creative venture. Inspired by field school experiences at Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and summers spent at Van Buren Youth Camp, I set out to engage middle-grade readers in the presently limited world of archaeological literature. I want kids to know that it is okay to be nervous or anxious about meeting new people and trying new things. Ellie may be nervous about summer camp and even more nervous about starting middle school in the fall, but they learn to be comfortable with the unknown. Entering a new phase of your life can be daunting, but it does not have to be limiting. My readers may not be time-traveling back to the 18th century like Ellie, but their story can nonetheless introduce them to the limitless wonders unearthed by archaeological exploration.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted