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.
Mark Moritz interviewed Samantha Underwood on September 2, 2021.
Biographical sketch: Samantha completed her BS in Anthropological Sciences with a minor in Forensic Science in 2017 from The Ohio State University (OSU). She attended the University of Dundee in Scotland (UK) and earned an MS in Anatomy and Advanced Forensic Anthropology in 2019. She currently working as a Tissue Team Lead at Lifeline of Ohio.
Can you tell me about Lifeline of Ohio? What kind of organization is it?
Lifeline of Ohio is an organ procurement organization operating in central and southeastern Ohio. Organ procurement organizations are non-profit companies that facilitate the transplantation of organs, tissue, and corneas.
What do you do at Lifeline of Ohio? What are you roles and responsibilities? What does a typical day look like for you?
I currently work as a surgical specialist also known as a preservationist. My role involves assisting transplant surgeons in surgery. My work includes coordinating supplies, examination of organ anatomy, flushing organs with preservation solutions, sterile packaging of organs, as well as surgical recovery of research organs. A typical day involves traveling to different hospitals around the state, assisting hospital staff preparing the operating room, completing the organ procurement procedure, and helping transport the organ to its final destination. Occasionally we will travel with transplant surgeons out of state to get organs for their local patients. This involves flying in tiny private planes, riding in ambulances, and meeting other transplant professionals across the country.
How did you go about your job search when you finished your MA program? What guided your decision-making?
After finishing my MA program, I knew I wanted to move back to central Ohio to be closer to friends and family. I started searching for jobs involving anatomy and forensics online. I came across Lifeline of Ohio – particularly the position of Tissue Technician – and felt this would be a good fit for my skills.
What are the different ways that you use your anthropological training in your work at Lifeline of Ohio.
I use my anthropological training in a variety of ways at Lifeline of Ohio. My understanding of differing cultural perspectives allows me to empathize with our donor families. My knowledge of anatomy, human osteology, biomechanics and scientific reasoning can be directly applied to our work in a medical setting.
Lifeline of Ohio: https://lifelineofohio.org/
University of Dundee MSc Anatomy & Advanced Forensic Anthropology: https://www.dundee.ac.uk/postgraduate/anatomy-advanced-forensic-anthropology