The course ANTHROP 3005: Careers with Anthropology prepares students from all sub-fields of anthropology for life beyond the degree. Students conduct exercises to discover what they are looking for in work and careers, they learn how to translate and communicate their anthropological and other skills to employers and clients, and they learn how to research their career communities using informational interviewing and other networking strategies.
A critical part of the course are guest speakers from a wide range of fields and professions. The guests discuss how they have leveraged their anthropological skills to network, get interviews, and land jobs. Below are profiles of some of the guest speakers who discuss their careers, how they use anthropology in their current positions, and share career advice for undergraduates. Most of the guests are alumni from our own program and were interviewed by students enrolled in the course.
Profiles of careers in/with anthropology
Braelyn Gerchak interviewed Madelyn on September 10, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Madelyn Gutkoski is a 2013 graduate from The Ohio State University who double-majored in Anthropology and Spanish. Her education has led her down many paths, which include studying abroad at Universidad de Belgrano while an undergraduate student, interning at Complete Research Connection, becoming an English to Spanish translator for Perrysburg Schools, and obtaining the title of a contracted ethnographer. Her passion for bridging the gap of knowledge between individuals was only heightened when she earned her Master’s in Business Anthropology from Wayne State University in 2015. Today, Madelyn works for Owens Corning as a product developer.
How was your study abroad program through The Ohio State University?
Studying aboard was something I've always been interested in. As an anthropologist, in general, we’re curious about other walks of life and to me, Latin America was my culture that I connected with in a different way, so that's why I decided to go there. It was the best thing I've ever done. Ever. Hands down. I would recommend it to anyone.
What advice would you give to current undergrad students who want to pursue a degree in anthropology?
I think as anthropologists, we're really good at disseminating data or reporting out on things that are happening, but what I realized is that we're not really good at selling or influencing. So, I would just get good at selling your skills and really play them up and go to an employer and say why you are unique and different. Anthropologists bring such a valuable perspective to any field of work, so being able to translate why this is important is pivotal for other being able to understand anthropology.
How do you communicate what an anthropologist is to your co-workers?
At first, I was so proud that I was an anthropologist, but then I had to describe what that means all the time. So, I stopped, and people actually see me as an engineer, but they see my expertise in end-user research. Some of my co-workers are skeptical of the power of the anthropological perspective in product development. The most challenging skeptics, my design targets, I work closely with and bring them along on the research with me rather than just reporting out my findings. By doing so, I am able to use anthropology in everyday work while also teaching my coworkers how it is beneficial to my research.
Wayne State MA in business and organizational anthropology: https://clas.wayne.edu/anthropology/grad/ma/curriculum/business-org
Owens Corning: https://www.owenscorning.com/en-us
Faith Reeling and Rachel Hutchison interviewed Sara on September 24, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Dr. Sara McGuire started her education at the University of New Haven where she earned a B.S. in Forensic Science with minors in Chemistry and Criminal Justice, as well as a B.A. in History. She landed a summer internship with the Smithsonian analyzing human bone samples by using stable isotope analysis. With her interest sparked, she attended a master’s program at Bournemouth University in England for Biological Anthropology where her dissertation focused on the dietary reconstruction by stable isotope analysis of Late Iron Age and Early Roman individuals from a site in Dorset county in southern England. Sara then completed her PhD in Anthropology at The Ohio State University in 2020 with a specific focus in Biological Anthropology, Bioarcheology, and Anatomy. Sara currently works for the federal government.
Finding field and research experience in anthropology as an undergraduate can be daunting and difficult at times. Do you have any advice for going about finding those opportunities?
Keep an open mind, and don’t limit yourself based on location or organization. There is a need for anthropologists everywhere, regardless of the subfield. Apply wherever you think they may be taking interns. It can’t hurt, it only takes a couple of hours to get your name out there. Even if you find that it’s not for you, you may have useful experiences along the way. For example, I had the opportunity to work and talk with anthropologists at the Smithsonian Museum during my internship. That was a good opportunity to network with them and other staff, asking them if they had any opportunities to share. It’s all about finding the opportunities where they are and taking advantage of them. If you don’t like it, reach out and see where else you can go. I didn’t know anyone at the Department of Justice, but I put myself out there and look what happened.
How did you set yourself apart and make yourself stand out?
Really just working hard. I did many study-abroad opportunities, both for my history degree and my masters’, and those were great ways to interact with and experience other cultures. That gives you great interpersonal skills that are applicable in a wide range of situations. Pursuing things you love as well is important because you're going to develop a passion about it. I love skeletons so much; I can learn things about your life based on things in your bones. I’m passionate about it, I love it, and that shines through. People will see that you’re serious about your field and know what you want to do.
Would you recommend going to graduate school when pursuing a career in science, like yourself?
It really depends. As an undergrad, I never thought I was going to go to grad school. I thought I was going to work in a lab and it was going to be boring, but whatever. But then I found anthropology, and I knew from talking to scientists at the Smithsonian lab that I would need at least a master’s degree to have the specialized skill set to be able to do those types of scientific analyses. So, I got my master’s and must have applied to 150 plus anthropology lab jobs and I was either way overqualified or needed a PhD. So, I went and got my PhD and that really helped me in the long run because I was able to continue developing my skills and continue learning. That really gave me more experiences and I think made me more employable. I had very strong chemistry skills coming out of undergrad, but I don’t think that I had the life experience necessary to start this career the right way. I was a young 21 when I graduated college; furthering my education and taking a couple years off to work gave me real world experiences that made me a more competitive employee.
Smithsonian internships: https://www.smithsonianofi.com/internship-opportunities/
Department of Justice internships: https://www.justice.gov/careers/interns-recent-graduates-and-fellows
Federal Bureau of Investigation internships: https://www.fbijobs.gov/students/undergrad
Brooke Bungard and Sarah Maloney interviewed Dolly on October 1, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical Sketch: Dolly Hayde is currently a Researcher at COSI’s Center for Research and Evaluation, where she specializes in research and evaluation of informal learning experiences. She received her Bachelor of Art in English, Anthropology, and American Studies at the University of Arkansas in 2009 and completed her Master of Arts in Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 2011. Soon after, in 2013 she received her M.A. in Museum Studies at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis. Dolly worked as ethnographer and data analyst for SmartRevenue where she conducted qualitative and quantitative fieldwork and data interpretation. Later, she began working as an audience research associate at Indianapolis Museum of Arts. She also worked as an anthropology teacher for Junior High and High School students. She has spent more time in museums and other informal learning settings, and soon after began working as a Clowes Museum Fellow in Evaluation at the Eiteljorg Museum and later took her current position at COSI in 2013.
How did you end up in museum evaluation and what is that like?
I joke a lot with people when they ask how I got to be a museum evaluator. I always say when I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a museum evaluator, but the truth is, I didn't know what that was until I went through lots of academic training and learned that was a thing. I love doing research with people and I love doing research about people. I didn't necessarily want to be doing that work in an academic institution.
So, I spoke with my advisor at the time and she really encouraged me to think about museums. I went in thinking I would become a museum educator, so I took all the classes, and I did a lot of that work too. In fact, applied for a lot of jobs in both evaluation and museum education, but museum evaluation really hit the sweet spot for me of being able to study people and use the skills that I picked up in anthropology and think about what makes people tick and why people do the things that they do without necessarily losing all the cool stuff about museums. I'm a very lucky person in that I get to use every part of my education at all times in my job.
What is informal learning and, since you have done both, how would you compare what you do to a more formal teaching position?
Formal learning is what all of you all are doing right now, you are taking a class within the context of an educational setting that is pitched to you in a structured way. There is also non-formal learning, which is kind of like all of the structured ways of learning that are adjacent to formal learning [like a workshop]. Informal learning is how you learn things outside of those formal contexts. It's the stuff that happens while you're living your life. The focus of what I study in the world of informal learning is generally about the choices people make with respect to leisure, like choosing to go to a museum, choosing to go to a zoo, or an aquarium. Trying to think about how people are making choices about learning for fun is a lot of what I do.
What part of your degree in anthropology do you use the most? What is the most essential?
My fundamentals of anthropology and history anthropology courses, I use all the time. Those are the things that helped me philosophically when I'm thinking through problems. Those are the things that justify the routes that I'm taking through solving problems. I'll give you an example of something that I'm dealing with right now. I work with social scientists from a lot of other disciplines and use a lot of the paradigms that are important to anthropology, where we need to consider things like subjectivity, positionality, and context.
The other thing that I have learned in anthropology that is critical to my work is being able to talk to people. You would be surprised how many people struggle with this, and it is crucial to everything I do, such as gathering data from people, asking questions and interpreting data. If I want people to use what I learned, I have to be able to help them understand it. I have to be able to talk about it in a way that makes sense to them. This is something you learn by being in the field, bridging communications, and thinking about other cultures rather than just your own. And that is something anthropology has made me more sensitive to than I would be otherwise.
MA Museum Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: https://liberalarts.iupui.edu/programs/museum-studies/
Zack Powell and Elizabeth Neff interviewed Bruce on October 22, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Bruce Larson is a professional archaeologist with over 40 years of experience in the field. He has worked as an archaeologist at Arizona State University, with the Virginia department of Historic resources, and as a naval anthropologist. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah (1981) and a master’s degree from the College of William and Mary (2003). He specializes in Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Currently Mr. Larson works for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic as the Cultural Resources Branch head. His command is responsible for all environmental protocols for the United States Navy as they do work in the continental United States, island territories, and overseas, and ensures that as navy missions go forward, they do not inadvertently destroy, disrupt, or adversely affect cultural resources, whether they be at home or abroad.
When did you know you wanted to be an Archaeologist?
I grew up in the Chicago area and as a kid, and when I was about six or seven my grandfather and my parents took me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and I was captured almost immediately. I think my earliest recollections from that young age was with dinosaurs before they were cool, fossils of all sorts, and then cultures from around the world.
Do you ever get into conflict with the Navy over cultural resource management, and how do you resolve those conflicts?
Knowledge is power, to be blunt. What we do is get out and make sure that we can actually have data to justify an approach. So, the earlier, we can get out, get the information in the hands of those who are doing planning, the better. For example, we were brought up as a team to support the development of a security fence around an Air Force facility. The goal there was to identify if there were any environmental problems that needed to be related to the host nation. We found two archaeological sites right in the way of the fence. So immediately we came up with a series of recommendations using host nation law, but also consistent with our protocols and the Department of Defense, but more importantly as professional archaeologists, not only in the United States but worldwide through international conventions.
In this particular case, we were able to work with the engineers designing the security fence in the area that was going to have a potential adverse effect to a part of this Swahili urban center that we found and gave them a protocol as to how to proceed. That was going to be limiting surface disturbance. Surface disturbance would be strictly monitored by us with a work stoppage authority by my team and we would record the data that was in the direct impact area and coordinate that directly with our colleagues in Kenya. That’s a real-world example of how we can take advantage of this knowledge that we've gained through our inventories. Developing treatment plans that can then effectively steer away from significant cultural resource sites”
Do you have any professional aspirations that you're looking to achieve or that you've maybe already achieved?
I learned from my father years ago to be goal oriented. I think in many ways there is always a goal out there yet to be done. In terms of professional development, in that, to be blunt, I'm clearly not a spring chicken anymore, so I think that my goal right now is mentoring. I have a lot of experiences seeing mistakes that have been made over the years by myself and others, seeing the change in the discipline, and one of the things that I really look forward is to mentor.
Do you have any advice for students struggling with their chosen career path?
The smartest thing you can ever do with your trajectory is realize your limitations and overcome those by hard work. You just have to dive into it. What I am suggesting is you always push the envelope you push yourself to the limit. Make it your business to learn what you said you could do in the first place.
Braelyn Gerchak interviewed Ariel on September 10, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Ariel Miller is a 2013 graduate from The Ohio State University who earned a dual degree in Anthropology and Environment and Natural Resources. During her undergraduate years at Ohio State, she was an intern at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. She recently earned a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University (2020) and is now a Manager, Research and Technical Assistance at the Council of Development Finance Agencies.
Did you always have a career path, or did you find it along the way?
I think, if you're studying people, then you can study people alongside literally anything else. For example, even if you're practicing anthropology and math, you know people are involved, even if it's just numbers. So, I think it lends itself nicely to being paired with other disciplines. To answer your question, no I did not have a set career path. In fact, I haven't had a single job so far that I knew that job existed before I got it. I think careers are in a constant state of development and it is important to explore as many options within anthropology that interest you.
How do you use an anthropological perspective in your career?
Absolutely! Anthropology makes us a little bit more comfortable looking and understanding people in an unconventional light. Because of this, it teaches critical thought it doesn't feel so uncomfortable to ask foundational questions about things like politics and society. This is beneficial in the workplace in order to better understand the culture within the environment.
What is the greatest tool gifted to you through studying anthropology?
Anthropology provides new perspectives for ways to question my own and others’ assumptions. There are always complicated problems in society. Now more than ever, light is being shed on these issues. Anthropology plays a key role in understanding others beyond myself, which is such an amazing gift.
Council of Development Finance Agencies: https://www.cdfa.net
Master’s in City and Regional Planning: https://knowlton.osu.edu/city-and-regional-planning/master-city-and-regional-planning
Alexa Ustaszewski interviewed Andrew on September 17, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Dr. Andrew Weiland graduated from Ohio University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004. He attended graduate school at The Ohio State University where he earned his Master of Arts in Anthropology in May 2013 with his thesis “Marshelder (Iva annua L.) Seed Morphology and Patterns of Domestication in Eastern North America.” Continuing his graduate education at Ohio State, Weiland earned his PhD in Anthropology with his dissertation titled “Pathways to Maize Adoption and Intensification in the Little Miami and Great Miami River Valleys” in 2019. Weiland currently works as the Cultural Resources Program Manager for Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.
Can you talk about your current position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
So, my position in terms of curation involves some public outreach like dealing with our interpretive rangers and discussing how to develop programs that have an anthropological or archaeological basis to them. Then it also involves basic housekeeping and care of those objects. Another major duty is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, that has to do with the return of human remains to Native American groups. That’s a really rewarding part of my job, working with tribes and doing right by the tribes. A lot of the archaeology part of my job is just compliance. We just make sure that there are no cultural resources being damaged.
As an undergraduate, what kinds of opportunities and internships did you seek out and how did you find those opportunities for yourself?
It wasn’t until I got into graduate school that I actually started pursuing lots of opportunities with lots of people. Rather than drawing from my own experiences as an undergraduate, I would give general advice to seek out the things you’re interested in and don’t feel as though you aren’t ready to reach out to people. There are all sorts of people that will be happy to get back to you. If you have basic interests in a subject within anthropology or some sort of research that you’d like to do, don’t be afraid of reaching out to people or organizations that are out there.
Can you talk about your experience doing fieldwork, how you find field schools, and how that process works?
I would say that for any job in archaeology you should have a field school. That’s just a bottom line. Even for museum jobs that is looked kindly upon, although maybe not necessary. My own personal experience was that I didn’t do a field school during my undergrad because I was more interested in cultural anthropology, and then in order to get a job in cultural resource management, I went back to school briefly just to take a field school so that I could get those jobs. Cross check who you’re working with. Reach out to people who are established in archaeology and ask if this is a good field school because you don’t want to waste your time.
How do you use anthropology in general professional situations, not necessarily when you’re doing archaeology or curation?
A lot of my reading and classes in cultural anthropology have helped me out on a personal and professional level understanding people’s perspectives and being open to those perspectives without being demeaning to other people’s viewpoints.
Do you have any tips for students when it comes to pursuing careers?
Don’t necessarily follow the career path that you think you should do. Realize it’s okay to make lateral moves and do something that you didn’t expect to find yourself doing. I did that quite a bit after my undergrad and I don’t regret a bit of it. Even if you are seriously driven on your career path, consider alternative opportunities that arise. I think that realizing alternative paths are available and seeking experiences that you’re passionate about is the most important thing. Find things you’re passionate about. Find things that are more rewarding to you, and you will eventually get rewarded for following them.
Hopewell Culture National Historic Park: https://www.nps.gov/hocu/index.htm
Lola Valion and Emma Steele interviewed Elizabeth on September 3, 2020. The interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
Biographical sketch: Elizabeth completed her BS in Zoology with a minor in Anthropology in 2008 from The Ohio State University (OSU). She attended the School for International Training and earned an MA in Intercultural Science, Leadership, and Management in 2011. Between 2009 and 2011, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali while simultaneously completing her master’s research. Before returning to OSU as a doctoral student in Anthropology, she worked for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Columbus, Ohio. Elizabeth graduated with her PhD in Anthropology in 2020. While a doctoral student, Elizabeth further developed her professional experience by teaching Anthropology 101 at OSU (2014-2019); developing and implementing youth workforce development curriculum for a Franklin County social services provider (2017-2018); and consulting as a researcher for Measurement Resources Company (MRC), a performance measurement and evaluation consulting business here in Columbus. Elizabeth is currently a Senior Research Associate and Program Manage at MRC.
Can you describe your career path from your undergraduate training in zoology to your current position at Measurement Resources Company?
I had a career path mapped out when I came to college, but I didn’t end up following it. To reach where I am now, my success has been with being able to accept career opportunities when I come across them. Another key to my success is, while in any job, being able to identify the skills I want to learn from it; essentially looking forward to what I need to get out of one job to get the next job I want. Sometimes that means gaining management experience in a company that is completely outside my academic or other interests. I also seek out a lot of opportunities by pursuing network contacts. When I have met people in the past that had careers that I thought would be satisfying, I asked about how they got to where they were. This helped me determine degrees I would want, or types of internships/jobs with which I would need to build my resume.
The best way for me to take you through my path is to start at my first job - which was at a dog kennel. My attitude toward life really came from that job, allowing me to be good at doing the grunt work and to enjoy it and find pride in it - and that allowed me to say yes to any, seemingly, little opportunity. Sometimes people get caught up with accepting an entry-level job because they deserve something higher, but in reality, those entry-level jobs are how you move up within organizations or make lateral moves into departments of which you really want to be a part.
So, I started off college in zoology because I wanted to study elephants. I ended up getting an internship at an elephant sanctuary and did a study abroad in Kenya on wildlife management. My research there ended up being on people's interactions with elephants and other conflicts that they were having in their lives, which is what really turned me onto the field of anthropology. After college I knew I wanted to join Peace Corps, and I wanted to do something that would take me to the next level of education and experience. So, I enrolled in a master's international program with School for International Training, which allows you to complete your Masters coursework in a year and then join Peace Corps to conduct your research (unfortunately this program is no longer available).
My Masters research is a great example of how I work to leverage the most that I can from an experience. I had noticed that Peace Corps was asking these young volunteers to relay the culture they are experiencing and the meaning they’ve attributed to it back to people in America with very little training as to how to think about or observe culture. Peace Corps is essentially asking volunteers to be cultural anthropologists. So my research began to center around the volunteer program, how effective it was at preparing volunteers to talk about culture/their experiences, and how it could be better. From my study’s recommendations, I was able to contribute my recommendations to Peace Corps Headquarters, who were in the process of standardizing their training programs. I tell you this story because I saw a problem that needed to be solved and I was able to figure out how to position myself to be the one to solve it - in other words, creating a needed job to be filled and positioning myself to fill it.
Would you recommend students to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer?
I think Peace Corps is one of the best things either an anthropologist or a non-anthropologist could do, and it is the main reason that I am where I am now. There are many reasons I recommend Peace Corps - for one, it’s two years living abroad, for free. During this time, you can save money and actually come back with a bit of money.
Additionally, the job market wasn’t looking great at the time I decided to join, so I thought I might as well do something where I’m not going into further debt, yet still doing something productive. I think Peace Corps and studying abroad are the two greatest things you can do – even if you don’t plan on doing anything internationally – you just learn so much about yourself. If you are intentional about it, you can also learn invaluable soft skills that are highly desired by the job market today. You can also build a professional network.
Further, when you finish Peace Corps you get on a noncompetitive list for Federal government jobs. This is key in terms of being competitive for Federal jobs, if you are not a veteran or current Federal employee.
What opportunities did you take advantage of while in college?
When you are in college you should be building your professional network, and your professors are your greatest window into that. Especially at a school as big as Ohio State, you have to make sure that you are making an effort to connect with at least one or two professors so that they get to know you. Go to their office hours to talk about your career interests; make your face stand out from the crowd. When I was in undergrad, I just went up to Dr. Moritz one day and asked him if there was anything that I could do for him and he gave me some simple tasks, and that was like my “in”. Ten years later, I came to him for a PhD.
I also wish I would have known sooner about the importance of choosing professors and not classes. Look at professors who are working in areas that you are interested in, instead of looking at the most desirable class-times, because it makes such a difference. Again, those people are going to be in your professional network and can help direct you to new opportunities. Even if it’s an 8 AM class, connecting to that professor will make it easier to wake up for it.
My other piece of advice is to seek out studying abroad as much as you can – try to find the scholarships – because that will be a huge resume builder in whatever you do and whatever field you end up in.
Any parting advice for students?
If you are someone who is thinking about a PhD, I really recommend doing a Masters degree that is outside the box or that is more skills-targeted. For example, my Masters degree is not in anthropology. The Masters degree that I chose taught me a lot of the social skills that my employers appreciated most. I use my Anthropology PhD to establish my expertise in research methods, particularly in my current position. Also, there’s no rule that says once you graduate undergrad you have to go directly to graduate school. Enrolling in a Masters or PhD program is a huge investment, and I would recommend going into it with a sense of purpose, of intentionality. Be able to tell yourself why you’re doing this and what you want to get out of it. If you’re unsure, spend time doing Peace Corps, do some entry-level jobs, learn more about yourself first.
Lastly, when it comes to networking, you’re not just emailing someone because you’re interested in what they do – you’re emailing someone and saying, “this is what I’m interested in, do you have anyone in your network that you think I should get in touch with?” It’s about initiating engagement with other professionals and following up with them, not just the ones who you already know.
MRC’s Company website: https://measurementresourcesco.com
School for International Training: https://www.sit.edu
Peace Corps: https://www.peacecorps.gov