ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: CHRIS STAWSKI

ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: CHRIS STAWSKI
CAP Alumni and Former Campus Archaeologist Chris Stawski

        Chris Stawski was involved with Campus Archaeology at its inception, beginning as an archaeological technician in the summer of 2008.  Chris also held the position of Campus Archaeologist during the 2010-2011 academic year.  During his tenure with CAP, he was a crew chief twice during the Campus Archaeology Summer Field School, and helped to create the framework for a Geographic Information System database for campus archaeological and historical research and analysis.

        Chris earned his PhD from Michigan State University with a focus on archaeology in 2012, and since has been applying his skills in higher education, where he had taught for 5 years as an adjunct faculty member in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University. 

        Chris currently works at the University of California Berkeley’s Extension Program, and assists the Dean’s Office in project management and research.  It is in this position that he uses his skills first developed working as Campus Archaeologist, which include establishing and maintaining campus partnerships, effectively communicating with external stakeholders and departments, and collaborating in multi-disciplinary research.

Campus Archaeology Program, July 2011 East Lansing, MI

Q: You were in of the first groups of CAP fellows, what was it like when you were all establishing the program and how did it change over your tenure?

 A:      While CAP was first being established, the focus was on trying to figure out what we were working with archaeologically and trying to get a sense of the history and pre-history of the campus. A parallel focus was trying to be good campus partners.  I took a lot of meetings with folks across campus to help foster collaboration and to make sure people knew who we were and what our mission was.  This was where Dr. Goldstein was so successful in the early years of CAP, and its due to her laying the groundwork for these relationships that made CAP a truly successful program.

A:       As things went on, people started to take more notice, and we emphasized the outreach in an effort to engage both the internal community at MSU, the larger archaeological community, as well as the local East Lansing community.  The summer field schools were a great success in this respect, and really made people aware of what we were doing on campus. Archaeologically, over time we got a good handle on the landscape and what we may expect to find, and started building models that were informed by the survey and excavations we did.  This led to more structure for the program, more opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate participation, and more research.

Q: What was your year as Campus Archaeologist like? 

A:       My year as Campus Archaeologist was spent organizing. I worked with some very excellent undergraduate interns, and together we helped to curate, standardize and structure the artifact collection for CAP. That was a big undertaking, but very helpful for all future collections. My own personal project was to build the framework for a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the archaeological investigations we did.  It was pretty bare bones in the beginning, but subsequent people at CAP have improved upon the database and structure since I left. My final months as Campus Archaeologist were spent helping to run the 2nd ever CAP Summer Field School.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?

An example of an early CAP twitter post

A:       My biggest challenge was social media. Terry Brock and Dr. Goldstein were so good at using these platforms for CAP, and I was completely illiterate in terms of Twitter and Facebook.  But I kept at it because that was a crucial way in which we interacted with the public.  As an archaeological program, I would have to imagine that we were a very early adopter of social media, especially Twitter.  I have since gotten a bit better with Twitter, but it is still not my strong suit 🙂


Q: What was your favorite part of CAP (highlights)?

A:        My favorite parts of CAP were the summer field schools, working with the undergraduate interns on their projects and seeing them present at the undergrad symposium, and just being in the field.  You never knew when you may be called in to go to a construction site, or be asked to do some initial investigation of an area.  It was so fun loading up my truck and heading out with my peers to go excavate on a nice fall day.  Those are some of my fondest memories from my time at MSU.

Q: What were the major projects that you work on/with fellows on?

A:        Like I had mentioned earlier, one of the biggest projects was curating and providing a structure to the artifact database at CAP.  The other major project was the Faculty Row project, which was a huge construction undertaking in the oldest part of campus. That was my first major project, andI spent all summer helping to oversee and mitigate the major earth moving being done.  That was also the first time we used GIS at CAP.  We found a great map of the old Faculty Row buildings, and I was able to take that map and overlay it on the current aerial imagery of campus to get a better idea of where we may find archaeological sensitive areas and material.  

Q: What are you currently working on now?

A:Currently I am the executive assistant to the Dean of the UC Berkeley Extension Program.  I help to manage the Dean’s Office as well aid in managing projects, research and analysis related to the mission of the program.  Prior to this role, I was an adjunct lecturer in the Anthropology Department at San Francisco State University.

Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP? How do you bring what you learned in CAP to what you do now? 

A:        For me, CAP was the best example of how you do archaeology and research in higher education, while simultaneously being a good campus partner and engaging in multi-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration.  It helped to take me out of my “anthro/arch” bubble, and showed me the value of inclusivity and teamwork.  Good research must take on a collaborative aspect, and you must be diverse in how you approach your work.  Whether that is a diversity of people, different perspectives and viewpoints, or a variety of departments/programs, it is an essential aspect of all the work I have done since my time at CAP.


I want to thank Chris Stawski for allowing me to interview him and for his excellent perspectives into the early years of the Campus Archaeology Program.



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