Today the Department of Anthropology at McMaster held a workshop session on non-academic careers in anthropology. In my opinion it was the best graduate workshop they have held this year. A huge issue I have had with my education at McMaster has been the heavy focus on grooming their student for academic jobs but still warning us against the perils that face this career choice. I don’t blame them, I think it is pretty ingrained in the structure of the system. Apparently they are hoping to hold one of these sessions once per semester. I applaud their choice to do this as for a while it seemed that most of my career advice was coming from HBO’s Girls- or at least what not to do.
There was a panel of three alumni from McMaster who had careers related to anthropology. You can read their bio’s here. I was surprised by the amount of research they still engaged in and how directly related to anthropology their jobs were. The three people were:
Marcia Barron (PhD 1999, Cultural Anthropology/Applied Anthropology)
Andrew Galley (PhD 2012, Cultural Anthropology/Anthropology of Health)
Cadell Last (BA 2011, Biological Anthropology) – http://cadelllast.com/
Adhering to the lists that I appreciate most from blogs, here is a quick summary of some of the insightful points that were discussed:
- Cadell was a huge advocate for creating an online presence to establish yourself as an authority in your specialty
- Focus of the general research skills you acquire in graduate school (could have been more specific about this) – combing qualitative and quantitative data
- Articulate clearly why you as an anthropologists can help people
- Communicating why anthropology and your research matters to a broad range of audiences. Pay attention to popular science
- Avoid isolating yourself in academia- create a blog to go along with class assignments and research projects. Putting your work online will improve how you communicate with others.
- Have conversations with your supervisor about career planning and your goals. (We’ll see about this one. I still haven’t told me supervisor about my intentions of not continuing to my PhD because I am worried about his reaction)
- The difficult situation people in grad school are in where their closest friends are also their competitors- I haven’t really dealt with this yet except slightly through grants and scholarships. Still, I strongly believe that Your success shouldn’t be dependent on the failure of others
- Make it easy for people to contact you through your blog- whoops, I gotta do this. I’m sure people are dying to privately message me about my gif choices.
- They did have some good ideas about being online curators of science content and the possibility of summarizing academic papers into short clear recaps. I write annotated bibliographies all the time. I don’t think my supervisor even reads them so I might as well be putting them online. I would have appreciated reading other people’s annotated biblios while I was in my undergraduate.
- An excellent point was raised about how co-op degrees and internships are promoted in your undergraduate but we haven’t figured out how these fit into graduate education. I would love to do an internship but I think it would be too big of a sacrifice at this point.
- Props to Andy for bringing up what a supervisor’s role is in professional development of graduate students. I like to think that it could be a partnership rather than a solitary effort.
Anyhow, I am grateful this session was held and I was happy to see many people turned out. We were able to go to the bar for beers and snacks after. *I have a solid rant about this that I need to get out of my system- so ask me in person.
Last note: Simon Fraser University launched a new professional Master’s program in Big Data that is set to begin Fall 2014. Seems awesome and a great use of time that will prepare you for an emerging job sector. The website implies that a background in computer programming is recommended. I wonder if they will be able to accommodate for students without this computer science background? If so, I think this may be a good option once I finish my MA.
Shocker- archaeology doesn’t make the list.
Found this list on The Muse, a blog I wasted a solid hour on today because of it’s killer content. Check out their post on the 1-3-5 To Do List. I am really enjoying grad school but I am also really looking forward to being done and entering the job market. Ever since I came up with a new career plan during the Christmas break my anxiety level has dramatically dropped. For a long time I have known that I didn’t want to go on and do my PhD and finally having an idea of what I wanted to do after my MA has been a huge improvement and has reduced the stress of school.
It seems that lately things happening in the technology industry have been captivating my attention. Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion, an app that I personally find lacks a high quality or pleasant interface. Today I learnt about Google’s Project Tango, a revolutionary smartphone they are developing that has remarkable 3D capturing capabilities. Check out the two videos below:
‘Say Hello to Project Tango’
The second video shows a quick example of someone actually using one of the phones to capture a room in 3D in seconds. It even has the ability to give you measurements from its recordings. Google is sending out 200 prototype phones to professional developers to start working on apps. If only I had that skill set, further indication to me that I am in the wrong discipline. So what I am curious about is how long until we see archaeologists benefitting from a device like this? I am not sure if it requires an Internet connection to produce these recordings but if it doesn’t then it would be super easy to start implementing a device like this in the field. I feel like archaeologists lost their minds over being able to use iPads in the field. With the onset of new technology like this it makes research that used to take many painstaking hours to be done now able to be completed remarkably faster. I do think it is funny that many research labs spent thousands of dollars on ‘sophisticated’ machinery and then a few years later an app comes out that produces similar results. Sometimes I am reminded that archaeology is the discipline of old white men with their heads stuck in the past. Well, time for us to catch up again with the rest of the world.
I am pretty set on buying the new iPhone 5s and it doesn’t seem like this Google phone will be available any time soon. The fact that I am even considering not buying a Mac product is insane because I have been Mac devoted for the last decade.
Along with my thesis on Northwest Coast archaeology and GIS, I am picking up some other helpful minors while in grad school. They are less research intensive but still satisfying. My first minor is domestic cat psychology. The other is Harrison Ford’s body.
In other sexy male archaeologist news- everybody should check out the Archaeology Beefcake blog. It is a bit of a niche market.
A review of a presentation: A US Navy archaeologist’s search for the lost cave of San Nicholas Island
I have started this assignment many times and thankfully the third time was the charm. It seems from other classmates that I was not alone in having difficulty finding a presentation to review that fulfilled all the components I wanted: 1. The right length 2. A topic relevant to my work 3. Had the presenter and the slides within the same frame. At this point 1/3 isn’t too bad.
The presentation I finally settled on was called The Search for the Lost Indian Cave of San Nicholas Island given by Steven J. Scwhartz in 2012. Scwhartz was an archaeologist for the US Navy (because apparently those exist) and has since retired. This presentation was given at the California Islands Symposium and seems to be part of a session about the Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island. This island may sound familiar to a few of you and that is because it is the supposed location of where a young girl was found that inspired the story of Island of the Blue Dolphins. The ten-year-old girl in me would be ecstatic that I was using this book in an academic setting twelve years after first reading it.
This presentation follows the story of Scwhartz and other archaeologists in trying to uncover the cave inhabited by Juana Maria, a Nicoleño native woman who lived on the island alone for 18 years. Most of the content focuses on the attraction of the cave to scholars, and the unfolding of how historical documents and archaeological investigations led to discovery of the illusive site. Scwhartz’s approach to the presentation incorporates aspects of story telling to coincide with his research pursuit. At several points I laughed out loud, which is not quite the emotional response as Lori’s tears, but is still pretty good for a presentation. Because this talk was part of a session on the same site it meant there was not as great of a need for background information or the introduction of ideas. The introductory video can also be viewed online and would have provided the audience with enough context, alleviating this responsibility of each presenter. In this case I think that Scwhartz was too reliant on this because he did not have any kind of introduction to his presentation; he just started with the beginning of his story. The title is the only indication of the direction of the talk and whether or not the cave was found is not revealed until later.
A large portion of what Schwartz talks about is the journey of following the evidence, with one thing leading to something else but then dead-ending until a new piece of information emerged. The story telling style of the presentation was certainly engaging. Schwartz does a good job of explaining the difficulties in finding the cave and the errors of previous misconceptions about the island. There were a few occasions when it seems Scwhartz led the audience down too many dead-end paths of failed inquiry. There is an appeal in getting insight into the tribulations of seeking the lost cave but I wanted him to get to the meat of the talk fast- where the cave was actually found. He mentions the work of previous archaeologists in an interesting way. He lists them off nonchalantly as if to reiterate that there was archaeological interest in the island but no one previously had made any worth while discoveries.
As I think about preparing a short presentation for the CAAs watching this video got my thinking about finding the balance of what content to include. It is one thing for someone to criticize you for not including something or not going into enough detail. The limited amount of time allocated per person is obviously going to affect this and we can’t expect all relevant components to be included. But if the presenter makes the poor decision to include content that is not necessary then I think they can be criticized for choosing questionable stuff over worthwhile information. There were some occasions in this video where Scwhartz included maps or pictures that were a little too irrelevant and the time could have been better spent on another aspect of his project. This is addition to my belief that Scwhartz pace was too slow as he went through the materials. I think he could have covered all the same material in twenty minutes instead of thirty minutes or included more content in the same amount of time.
The basics of a good presentation were present in Scwhartz talk. His accompanying slides were well done and his comfort with the material is clear by his laid back attitude. Most of the images Scwhartz included were well placed, appropriate to the content, and aided in making the presentation more captivating. This work was a prime example of using historical documents in conjunction with archaeological evidence. His incorporation of these historical texts and images were great, especially the old maps that exhibit the wonderful art of cartography. It does not appear that Scwhartz read from a script, although I cannot say this definitively because the video only showed Scwhartz speaking for a few seconds. Because he is such a veteran on the topic it is not surprising that he can speak without a script and I must say, the man understands comedic timing.
At the 20 minute mark in this video I had very little criticisms and was eager to see whether or not they had found the Lone Woman’s cave. 25 minutes in I started getting worried that there was only a few minutes left and still no results were shown. 26 minutes in, and the presentation crashed and burned. Scwhartz realizes that he was missing a few slides, ones that were quite significant to the presentation and where he had a picture of finally encountering a human occupation layer in the cave. It throws him off and Scwhartz doesn’t recover too well, ending mostly on a flustered note. He does include a summary of the implications based on discovering the cave. At this point they had not yet excavated into the human occupation layer and could not say with absolute definitively that it was the right cave but they were 90% sure. His presentation was this wonderful build up, using an exploration narrative to accompanying the research findings, and then a horrible conclusion. Like a perfectly good movie that is ruined in the last few scenes. Ex. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Scwhartz took a long time to reach the climatic point of his presentation and then ended it abruptly.
The aims of this presentation were not to discuss theoretical approaches or what patterns could be identified. It was a showcase of an interesting journey to uncover an even more interesting story of a remarkable young girl. The cheerful attitude of the presenter can be felt as a viewer and everyone loves when things turn out. The downfall of the presentation was in the improper segmenting of time dedicated to certain components and too great of a lead up to a finding that isn’t even shown. Still, the story of finding the cave was worth telling and I am now interested to see what future excavations reveal at San Nicholas Island.
I should be sleeping. Instead, I am going to reflect on the books that have been keeping me occupied for the past two weeks. Reading is a bit too solitary for me. I think I need to make a book club.
Books I finished:
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Absolutely fantastic! This book has been out for ten years now and I’m trying to catch up on modern literary masterpieces that I overlooked in my youth. This story follows the lives of two boys living in Afghanistan and the event that tears them apart. Not only was this book heart wrenching but I also learned a ton about Afghan history that I honestly knew little about. It’s only the beginning of February but I think I’ll make the claim that this is my favorite book of 2014 so far. There was a movie made from the book but I haven’t decided if I want to see it. Anyone recommend it?
After finishing this I am hoping to read A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author at some point this year. Pretty sure I put it on my birthday list.
The Imposter Bride – Nancy Richler
I had super high hopes for this book. It had components that I usually draw to- Canadian setting, coming of age tales, Jewish family, young female lead, postwar. It was an easy read, but I found it pretty boring. Richler tries to build up this suspense about why the mother abandoned her baby and the secret of her fake identity. Just one of those books where little happens and none of the characters are particularly interesting. Yeah, I would recommend skipping this one. Nothing gained except a new knowledge about diamond cutting.
The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean M. Auel
Ok, I know I am about 30 years behind on the hype around this book. How have I missed this? It totally fits my favorite niche of archaeology fiction books. One other graduate student told me that this was one of her required readings in a first year archaeology class, which I think is awesome. For the few of you who don’t know, this is a novel about a clan of Neanderthals and a little Cro-Magnon girl who comes to live with them. I am pretty in love with the artistic liberties Auel has taken, such as Neanderthals being able to access memories from past generations. It is the perfect tale about a strong female who eagerly wants to fit in but at the same time needs to be true to herself and the abilities she has. The main character, Ayla, really reminds me of the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce that was one of my favorite series growing up. I am really excited to finish this book off. It is such a fun read. I have been warned that the next two books turn into weird caveman erotica. Regardless, I am hooked.
Last Train to Istanbul – Ayse Kulin
Tyler gave me this book for my birthday and I started it last night. It is a bit early to tell but I am enjoying it so far. Apparently it is #1 on Amazon.ca in the historical fiction category, so that’s something. So far it centered on two sisters, one in Istanbul and the other in Paris, and the lead up to the beginning of WW2. It’ll be nice to get a history refresher mixed in with a story about the price of love.
Beautiful cover. Please don’t disappoint.
Is anyone reading or have read one of the books on the Canada Reads 2014 lists? I love Jian Ghomeshi (who doesn’t?) though I am not as excited about the panel or books as I was last year. I was hoping to read The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and Cochroach by Rawi Hage. Annael by Kathleen Winter also looks really good but it also looks terribly sad and I don’t know if I want to deal with those kinds of emotions right now.
If you have any book suggestions let me know. I made an Amazon wishlist for my birthday this year, sent it out to my family and friends, and the books have begun trickling in. Last Train to Istanbul was the first one I opened and I am going to wait to open the rest until I am reading to start a new book or until my impatience gets the best of me.