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Student Affairs Committee -- Update

New Student Initiative by SAA!

SAA is pleased to announce a new award designed to recognize the best student research paper presented at the Annual Meeting. The Student Paper Award was developed through a Student Affairs Committee initiative and will be awarded annually beginning with the 2000 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. All student members of SAA will be eligible to participate and may enter by submitting a copy of their presentation to the SAC award committee chair, Caryn Berg (Dept. of Anthropology, Campus Box 233, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, email: The award winner will receive a citation from the SAA president at the Annual Business Meeting, a piece of official SAA merchandise, and a $100 gift certificate from AltaMira Press!

Associate Editor's Note: As the new chair of the SAA Student Affairs Committee (SAC) I assume the duties of associate editor of the SAC column in the SAA Bulletin. I have been a member of the SAC for three years prior to becoming chair and I am committed to its central focus of enhancing student professionalism within SAA. One critical mechanism for disseminating information to students is the SAA Bulletin. We will continue to provide articles designed to inform on important topics related to diverse aspects of student professionalism. I also will begin a new feature in the column beginning in September. The student members of the SAC would like to hear more from their constituents in SAA to help guide the initiatives and programs we undertake on their behalf. To facilitate this communication, a brief synopsis of one of our committee's activities will be presented in each issue, along with some questions to generate feedback from student members. I sincerely hope that students will use this format as a starting point to interact with committee members and help us work for you within SAA! Any questions about the SAC can be directed to me at I look forward to working with you all over the next three years.

Jane Eva Baxter

Archaeology as a Way of Life:

Advice from the Sages

E. Christian Wells

Today more than ever, archaeology encompasses a wide range of professional settingsfield research, university teaching, museum conservationand includes a diversity of academic disciplines, such as geography, art history, and environmental studies. One result of this "cosmopolitanization" of archaeology is that it has become broadly relevant to a variety of issues in contemporary society. For example, Charles Redman and colleagues from biology, chemistry, geology, economics, and other disciplines are investigating the results of human activities on the natural and social environments in the Phoenix Basin over the past 2,000 years, and Barbara Fash and colleagues are combining archaeology with art history, conservation, and computer science to model the hieroglyphic stairway at Copán, Honduras, and to monitor its deterioration over the past century.

For students interested in a career in archaeology, there are many paths from which to choose, in addition to the traditional avenues of university teaching and research or cultural resources management. The choice is often difficult, sometimes only reached at the end of a lengthy graduate career. To assist students, I surveyed approximately 40 professionals, including some of the leading figures in their respective fields, and asked their advice on how to situate oneself for a successful career in archaeology. Although the results varied, the majority of respondents recommend acquiring plenty of field experience in a variety of settings, extensive reading in numerous disciplines, publishing frequently, and flexibility in study and research. Following are some of the responses to my survey.

"Test your interest in the field by getting significant amounts of field experience early on; archaeology is a peculiar profession requiring both a willingness to work outdoors, often under what many consider to be "primitive" conditions, as well as taking a delight in such indoor activities as writing, preparing museum exhibits, and teaching. Someone may love the intellectual side of archaeology only to find that sun, dirt, and insects are not all that appealing. In addition, fieldwork helps one to decide whether they can cope with the ambiguity which is the very soul of archaeological interpretations at all levels. Those seeking certainty are better advised to pursue math or economics where at least one can pretend that all is knowable."

Edward Schortman
Department of Anthropology/Sociology, Kenyon College (Ohio)

"Pursue a degree in geography (including GIS training) rather than anthropology. You will have a much better chance of meaningful and gainful employment. My apologies to my colleagues in anthropology, but, at least for the near future, this is very true."

Nicholas Dunning
Department of Geography, University of Cincinnati

"My advice for someone entering Aztec studies is to try to be competent in the documentary and visual evidence as well as the archaeology. Know how to use the primary sources sensitively and individually, considering them as remnants of historical processes, not as statistical fodder."

Emily Umberger
Department of Art History, Arizona State University

"From field recovery to processing, storage, or display, the preservation issues of archaeological materials are best addressed by conservation professionals who have received graduate training. I would advise anyone interested in this area first to seek out conservators working in the objects conservation laboratory of a museum or on an archaeological excavation. These individuals are an excellent source of advice, contacts with others working in the field, and general information about available training programs. In addition, they may be able to offer an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with artifacts in a conservation laboratory setting. Such practical experience will provide an effective introduction to a conservator's interdisciplinary approach to material culture and is also an important prerequisite for graduate program eligibility."

Harriet Beaubien
Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education

"My advice would be to keep one's focus upon the identification of significant research problems/issues and not to let methodologies drive one's research."

Jane Buikstra
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

"First, you must be pursuing the career because it is what you really want to do with your life. Related to this, you need to have a very realistic sense of what all is involved to accomplish this. A realistic and informed approach to graduate schoolthe amount of time it takes to complete a degree, how you will pay for it, and the employment possibilities upon completionshould be as much a part of the decision as one's passion for the subject. This knowledge is often hard to come by, and most students learn it while in school, getting a clear understanding by the time a Masters degree is completed. Passion for the subject and the discipline are required to complete the degree, but are often dampened by the realities of the process. Another thingtake a typing class in junior high."

Andrew Duff
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center (Colorado)

"Although I acknowledge the reality of the dismal academic job market, it has been my experience that most archaeology Ph.D. candidates would prefer an academic job over a job in CRM or in the government, even if the latter are easier to get and pay better. It has something to do with the relative lack of constraints on academic research, and the general and accurate notion that academia is a relatively congenial place in which to spend one's life. So, in order to be competitive for an academic job, one has to publish, give meeting papers, and get some teaching experience."

Geoff Clark
Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University

"Cualquier estudiante que esté interesado en especializarse en arqueología debe ser una persona que disfrute estar en el campo y convivir con otras personas bajo circunstancias muchas veces poco comfortables. También tienen que tener una personalidad sistemática, ordenada, constante, y hasta cierto punto, aventurera! Por supuesto, debe interesarle el estudio del pasado con pasión, al igual que la lectura. En tanto que ciencia social, quien se interese en la arqueología debe ademas, entender que no solo descubrimos y estudiamos "tesoros," sino mas bien sociedades a través del análisis de su evidencia material."

Héctor Escobedo
Universidad del Valle, Guatemala

"Excavate at several different sites . . . keep meticulous notes . . . start to publish clear reports early in one's career . . . read widely (inside and outside one's 'area of expertise')."

Joyce Marcus
Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan

"It's important to remember that an archaeological excavation is not a dirty, drafty, open-air museum. A field conservator must have special skills and a strong understanding of the archaeological process, and must work cooperatively within the team."

Lynn Grant
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology,
University of Pennsylvania

"One needs to be passionately dedicated to this topic (i.e., ancient Mesoamerican iconography and writing), with a real desire to publish findings. Only with hard work will results and rewards accrue. As for choosing a graduate program, I always recommend that priority be given to working with someone whose work one already admires. Without this basic meeting of the minds, it is difficult to sustain academic support throughout one's graduate career and beyond."

Karl Taube
Department of Anthropology,

University of California-Riverside

"As a Forest Service archaeologist for 11 years, I recommend that students have a strong background in orienteering and the outdoors, math and computer sciences, cultural resource management, and technical writing. We spend a great deal of our time surveying for heritage resources. We rely on topographic maps, aerial photos, and compasses to keep track of our location. I would strongly recommend any "outdoor" education classes. In addition, I suggest any student serious about heritage resource management take a class in GIS. We spend much of our time writing technical survey clearance reports. To do so, it is essential to understand the consultation process between federal, state, and tribal governments. For this reason, I would highly recommend courses in heritage resource management and technical report writing."

Neil Weintraub
Kaibab Forest,
National Park Service

"In order to enter into a career in paleoanthropology a student must be in direct contact with someone active in fieldwork or deeply involved in research on original fossils."

Don Johanson
Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University

"As a zooarchaeologist, my advice is: Choose your specialty carefully and think of it as your ticket to archaeological fieldwork, but don't let yourself be pigeonholed into that one specialty. Zooarchaeology, for example (and I think this applies to most specialties), is an excellent analytical focus and one that is "marketable" around the world. But a strict focus on the technical skills can limit your access to the wider theoretical world of environmental archaeology or the study of ancient economies and subsistence change, or whatever wider application you are really interested in. Be sure to include a focus on the surrounding theory and application for any technical specialty you decide to concentrate on."

Katherine Emery
Department of Anthropology, SUNY- Potsdam

"Learn how to look at a work of art and learn how to write. For archaeologists, that may mean taking a course in art history unrelated to the field of specialty, depending on the university where they pursue an archaeology or anthropology degree. Courses in literature and English composition will serve archaeologists more than they can imagine at early stages of their careers."

Mary Miller
Department of Anthropology, Yale University

"For a career in collections management, it is advisable to obtain direct experience with the organization and use of collections in field, lab, and repository contexts. Understanding the use of collections is essential to planning their organization, preservation, and upkeep. Identification of materials and artifact classes, care of different materials, cataloging and database applications, archiving, and electronic and photographic media, are all essential skills."

Arleyn Simon
Archaeological Research Institute, Arizona State University

"My one piece of advice ismaintain perspective. It's easy to focus exclusively on weaknesses in prior work. Research can begin to seem like a kind of housecleaning or, to use a more vivid metaphor, an unpleasant but necessary act of patricide. It's far harder to be creative. We must believe that it is possible to draw on the successes of the past and yet deal with its errors in a graceful and poised fashion. This perspective also should apply to your peers. Good people can have bad ideas, and bad people good onesideas should be detached from their makers so as to avoid bruising, ad hominem squabbles. Try to remember that scholars have feelings too. Disagreements can, and should, be discussed with civility, lest we return to the rhetorical excesses of the 1960s and early 1970s."

Stephen Houston
Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University (Utah)

"If a student is interested in excavating and studying ancient public architecture and art I would advise them to first become familiar with the early publications and notes from the turn of the century up to the present. Too many people start with sources in the 1980s and think they have all the information they need. One can acquire a wealth of information by reading the original source of an idea or the excavation notes of previous archaeologists. Often pieces of the argument or excavation data that were undervalued, misinterpreted, or discarded now take on new meaning in light of more recent interpretations. I also would advise students to draw what they want to record as often as possible, in addition to snapping a photograph. Drawing requires closer scrutiny of a sculpture, artifact, or monumental architecture, resulting in better retention of the information and a deeper understanding of the object. Once this is imbedded in the memory, relationships and connections with other sculptures, iconographic information, and architectural patterns will emerge."

Barbara Fash
Peabody Museum, Harvard University

"It is very important for young archaeologists to think broadly and to continually evaluate where you, and your work, fit in. As we move forward, the discipline and our opportunities within it and within the university context may change. One must build on connections to related disciplines and to broader substantive problems than are the usual operating procedures."

Charles Redman
Center for Environmental Studies, Arizona State University

"Remain flexible, and make sure you are broadly educated. We all come out of intensive graduate programs, and for the most part have been imprinted with a particular idea of what a "proper" career is or should be. The model is based on the large research university, success in financing fieldwork, and not having to pay much attention to teaching. The truth is that there are more jobs for good teachers than for good researchers. By making oneself broadly educated, one is more likely to be able to fill a variety of slots: academia or non-academia; research-oriented or teaching-oriented; public or private. In a nutshell, the big research model is applicable to only a few. Holding that up as a typical career can be detrimental to one's sanity!"

Patricia Urban
Department of Anthropology/Sociology, Kenyon College (Ohio)

"Given the exceedingly tight academic job market and the long-term uncertainties of cultural resource management funding, I would urge students interested in careers in archaeology to weigh their enthusiasm for the subject against future professional opportunities. If their enthusiasm remains undampened and their eyes are open wide to the current pragmatic professional realities, then I would encourage them to pursue their career goals." ·

Jeremy Sabloff
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
E. Christian Wells, a graduate student at Arizona State University, is a member of the Student Affairs Committee.

SAC Members

The Student Affairs Committee has a new chair and several new members! Feel free to contact any of them if you have any questions, concerns, comments, or would like to be more involved!

Jane Eva Baxter, Chair
University of Michigan

Chad Gifford
Columbia University

Sharon Misdea
University of Pennsylvania

Doug Pippin
Syracuse University

Gordon Rakita
University of New Mexico

Heather Van Wormer
Michigan State University

Victoria Vargas
Arizona State University

E. Christian Wells
Arizona State University

Michelle Woodward
University of Colorado

Caryn M. Berg, Ex Officio
University of Colorado

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