Graduate Certificate in Cultural Heritage Research, Stewardship, and Restitution (Waystation Certificate Program)

object photograph

Listen to an interview with Lyssa Stapleton of the Waystation Initiative with KCRW’s All Things Considered (originally aired on June 21, 2023). 

General description

The graduate certificate in Cultural Heritage Research, Stewardship, and Restitution is part of a groundbreaking initiative called the Waystation, which organizes and facilitates ethical returns of international archaeological and ethnological objects to the nation or community of origin. The certificate is open to any matriculated UCLA graduate student with a strong interest in cultural heritage research and preservation, archaeology and anthropology, international studies, ethics and law, the history of colonization and the decolonization movement, cultural and area studies, and museology. The new program offers students the opportunity to gain specialized training in skills that are not available at any other university in the U.S. 

Through the certificate program students will engage in object-oriented and community-focused learning that includes laboratory training, materials analysis, sampling and specific testing as well as discussion and examination of the cultural meaning and use of material culture, the history of collecting, ethics, and cultural heritage law. The program directly engages descendant community members to provide advice, insights, and knowledge through their direct involvement in the stewardship of objects and in Waystation Workshops, which take place 3-4 times each academic year. Students will have a unique opportunity to work directly with international communities and objects stewarded by the Waystation, with stakeholders and members of descendant communities, and to contribute to the creation of new ethics and standards for the stewardship of the world’s cultural heritage.  


Who Can Apply?

All incoming or current UCLA graduate students who are pursuing an MA or PhD are eligible to apply. The program will commence each fall and applications can be submitted year-round. Up to ten students will be admitted to the program annually. 

Submit an application online here.



Students will be required to complete 16 units within 1-3 academic years with a grade of B+ or higher. 

  • Core seminar: a critical examination of current and evolving ethical views, legal instruments, and challenges that shape efforts to protect and interpret the world’s cultural heritage. This required course will introduce methods of art historical and provenance research (4 units).
  • Capstone project: individually designed, faculty supervised capstone project that focuses on a single object or group of objects as it transitions through the Waystation during the restitution process (6 units)
  • One additional class drawn from relevant courses offered in other departments (subject to approval from program advisors) (4 units).
  • Active participation in two Waystation Workshops (3-4 will be offered each academic year) (2 units, 1 per workshop). 



Please reach out if you have any questions. We are happy to schedule a meeting with you if you’d like to ask your questions in person. 

Lyssa C. Stapleton, PhD
Waystation Project & Policy Analyst