Alumni Highlight: Terry Brock

Alumni Highlight: Terry Brock

Dr. Terry Brock is a historical and public archaeologist, and is currently the Assistant Director of Archaeology at the Montpelier Foundation in Orange, Virginia. He served as the first Campus Archaeologist from 2008 to 2010 while a graduate student at MSU. As someone who was there at its inception, Dr. Brock is responsible for helping to build the CAP program, including both its physical and digital presences.

As part of our ongoing series highlighting CAP alumni, CAP Director Dr. Stacey Camp sat down with Dr. Brock to ask him about his time as Campus Archaeologist and what it was like to be there at the birth of the program.  

Terry Brock digs a unit during the Beal Street Survey in 2009. A lifelong Spartan and East Lansing native, Terry served as the first Campus Archaeologist from 2008-2010.

SC: Can you tell us a little bit about the years that you served and how you got involved in Campus Archaeology?

TB: I was the first person to hold the job of Campus Archaeologist, which was when I was in graduate school. Even before that, my [undergraduate] field school was actually the Saints’ Rest project, which was sort of like Campus Archaeology before there was Campus Archaeology. Then, when I started the graduate program there were a couple surveys that a number of graduate students worked on. I took part in that and that was when I learned they were going to be hiring a Campus Archaeologist and [starting the Campus Archaeology Program].

I was super interested in that for a number of reasons. It was going to give me a lot of field experience that I didn’t feel I actually had prior to being in graduate school. But also I grew up in East Lansing so I grew up on Michigan State’s campus. My dad’s a faculty member at Michigan State so since I was two, I’ve been part of Michigan State’s community. In a strange way I’m a stakeholder – a member of the local community. It was really neat that I got to bring that lived experience of being on campus to the actual study of the campus. And then I got to work with Lynne Goldstein [founder and former director of CAP], which was really fantastic as well.  

SC: What was it like to be a member of CAP during its formative days and what were your experiences like during that time?

TB: It was super exciting to be part of Campus Archaeology at the very beginning because we were building everything. There was no model for what a campus archaeology program would look like. No one else had ever done this before, and that made the process really exciting. I imagine Lynne knew exactly what she was doing every single step on the way….

Terry Brock cleans an artifact. As Campus Archaeologist, he quickly learned to be prepared for anything. After getting called to a site on short notice one day, he spent the day mitigating in flip flops because he didn’t have time to grab his dig kit. After that, he filled the back of his car with archaeology equipment so he would always be prepared.

SC: Usually she does! 

TB: But for me it was a really fascinating experience to be a part of something from the very beginning and to learn from Lynne and watch her work and then be a part of it. The most important part was the relationship building. Lynne had an entire career’s worth of relationships already built at Michigan State from her time as [Anthropology Department] Chair. She did a lot of maneuvering to make sure that I, as Campus Archaeologist, was in the right place at the right time, but then I had to do the work of making sure that we were actually demonstrating value and building relationships so that we’d get the phone call next time.

The other part that was really fun was actually figuring out what Campus Archaeology was going to be. Like, how were we going to tie what we we’re doing into the department, into the university, so that its value is demonstrated beyond what we as archaeologists think is important? How do we actually tie that to what the institution values?

That’s when we established the focus on education, research, and outreach and tying those to things the institution cares about. Public engagement is important because that is what Land Grant education is, working with communities and doing outreach work. Research is obvious, and education—that’s where the [internship and fellowship] programs came into being.

The Campus Archaeologist job in and of itself is an educational opportunity. For me personally that was enormously valuable because I was learning how to do archaeology while I was doing this job. I didn’t have the field experience to be leading crews, but I was able to gain that experience and learn so much. It provided me a space to fail, which I did repeatedly.

The foundations of College Hall, the first academic building on campus. Terry fondly remembers excavating the remains of College Hall, near where Beaumont Tower stands today.

SC: That’s what grad school is about.

TB: I sometimes shudder to think about when later Campus Archaeologists look back at the work we did – I’m pretty sure we didn’t document that [site] as well as we could have, or in retrospect that probably wasn’t the right survey methodology – but it was a space where I could learn that stuff and that was okay. I got that mentorship from Lynne but I also got it from all the other graduate students that were working on these projects.

I think that is one of the really important parts of Campus Archaeology. You are learning as you are doing. It’s hands on. Super “Land Grant.”

SC: In our interview with Chris Stawski he was very complimentary of your and Dr. Goldstein’s skill at incorporating social media into CAP’s outreach strategy. Could you tell me how you used social media for CAP to benefit it during your time in the program?

TB: We got into social media in, I think, January of 2009. I had been on Twitter for a little while and started to see the utility of it as an outreach tool really early on.

I started tweeting photos from the field because I was working on a lot of projects that no one could access. We had decided that public outreach was going to be one of the things Campus Archaeology was about. But how do I do public archaeology when I’m monitoring a backhoe that’s digging a 20-foot hole behind a fence next to the Brody Complex? How do I share that? I can’t set up an info tape or do a site tour. This was a way to provide access and talk about the process of what was going on when people couldn’t physically visit the site.

Terry Brock examines an artifact at a dig near Saints’ Rest. This photo was originally posted on the Campus Archaeology Flickr page. Terry played a leading role in establishing CAP’s digital presence. In our interview he discussed how connections made on social media often turned into real-life connections. One fun example: someone once brought the CAP team Biggby coffee because Terry tweeted that it was cold where they were working!

I pitched it to Lynne and she said, “Go for it!” So we started the Campus Archaeology Twitter account. What was wonderful was we could reach people that we wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise because of access to the site. But we could also reach our stakeholders—alums, current students, the local Lansing area community—without having to leave campus. We could be a really loud, big voice in the social media space when we were actually only a part time grad student and Lynne Goldstein.

It led to all kinds of really neat collaborations and relationships that I think the program has really benefited from. Like with Dining Services, these random-seeming connections can happen in this social media space.  

SC: And we’ve built those longstanding connections now with Dining Services. We’ve done all kinds of really fun partnerships the last couple of years. So it can definitely lead to productive relationships!

TB: What was great about those is there was the digital part, but there was also meeting people in person—using Twitter as a means of also bringing people together. That’s really how it started and our thought process behind it. We had specific things we were trying to do with it. Groups we were trying to communicate to. And I think for the most part it was really successful.

Author: Mari Isa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *