ALUMNI HIGHLIGHT: KATE MEYERS EMERY
Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology program has provided fellowships for a number of graduate students in anthropology. These fellowships are awarded to enthusiastic, motivated students who are interested in gaining a unique learning experience. The fellows dedicate a lot of time and energy into conducting research involving archaeological projects on the Michigan State campus, as well as presenting their work at conferences and participating in public outreach events to educate the public on our program. Due to the amount of effort exerted by each fellow, we thought it would be a great idea to highlight alumni by interviewing them about their experience in the Campus Archaeology program.
In our last blog post, we interviewed Lisa Bright, former Campus Archaeologist, which can be viewed here. For our second alumni highlight, we interviewed Dr. Kate Meyers Emery. Dr. Emery graduated from Michigan State University in 2016 and secured a position as the Manager of Digital Engagement of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. We asked a Dr. Emery a series of questions (below) to learn about her experience as a fellow, but we were also interested in learning how participating in the program helped her to secure her current position and how she continues to apply skills learned in Campus Archaeology in her career.
Q: What years were you a Campus Archaeologist?
A: I was the Campus Archaeologist from 2011 to 2013, my second through fourth years of grad school, but I was part of CampusArchaeology the entire time I was at Michigan State, from being part of the team my first year in 2010, to being a teaching assistant and team member in my last two years from 2013-2016.
Q: What were the major projects that you worked on/with fellows on?
A: I had the opportunity to work on some really amazing projects during my time in Campus Archaeology, including the demolition of Morrill Hall and discovery of the related boiler, and the opportunity to excavate a portion of Saints’ Rest that had been previously undisturbed. My final summer with CAP, I got to help lead the field school that excavated the Gunson House midden, which helped us to learn more about a period of campus history that we had been lacking for physical evidence.
Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP?
A: There was a lot I learned as part of CAP, from technical skills like report writing and GIS, to more broad skills like how to lead a team and be a mentor. I think the most important was how to communicate with the public about a topic that they may have either misconceptions about, or that they might have no background in.
Q: In what ways did CAP make you more marketable when searching for a job?
A: CAP gave me a lot of highly transferable skills that could be applied to a wide range of positions. I learned how to lead a diverse team with varying skills levels and how to work with different types of departments across an institution. I learned how to write technical reports, blog posts, social media, conference papers, and public presentations, all of which require a slightly different tone and approach. I learned how to use a wide range of digital tools, from mobile apps to social media to databases to mapping programs. Throughout the entire process, I was also learning how to be a professional, how to present myself to others, how to network, how to maintain relationships, how to showcase myself as part of a team.
Q: How did CAP help you in your job now?
A: In my current position as manager of digital engagement at the George Eastman Museum, I’m using various digital tools to reach the public and share what the museum is doing and has in its collections. Many of the skills I use on a day to day basis were ones I either developed or honed as part of CAP. I give public tours of museum exhibitions and the historic mansion at Eastman Museum; a skill I developed as Campus Archaeologist, giving historic tours of the campus. I use social media and blog posts to share what is occurring at the museum; a talent that was honed over the course of my time with CAP using a variety of methods to showcase what we were doing and discovering. I find creative ways to engage the public in our exhibitions by using podcasts, maps, scavenger hunts and more; a skill I used frequently as part of CAP to find new and interesting ways to present what we were doing.
Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?
A: We had some pretty daunting projects while I was the Campus Archaeologist, primarily revolving around the replacement of the steam tunnels around West Circle. There was so much happening at the same time. We would be doing a planned survey in one area, while monitoring construction in another area, all while trying to keep up with planning our next phases in collaboration with the construction crews. We had a couple really intense summers, and had to make a lot of decisions about where our energy was going and how we would divide up the crew to cover everything. During this period, I learned a lot about project management, leadership, and multitasking.
Q: What was your favorite part of CAP (highlights)?
A: There were a lot of great moments for me in Campus Archaeology, but the thing I remember the most fondly was getting to share what we were doing with both the academic community and the broader public. I loved when people stopped by to learn more about what we were finding, I loved sharing new discoveries on social media, I loved getting to work with others to present on our findings. That probably explains why I’ve ended up in a job where my focus is communicating the past with the public.
It is clear that Campus Archaeology has positively impacted Dr. Emery in both her past and present experiences. I suspect she will continue to be able to apply the many skills gained as a fellow in her future endeavors. I, along with all current fellows, would like to thank Dr. Emery for taking the time to share her thoughts and reflections, as well as all of the hard work she put in during her time at Michigan State University to help make the program successful.
Please visit the Campus Archaeology alumni page to learn more about our past fellows and what they are doing now (https://campusarch.msu.edu/?page_id=6301).