30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology, Day 17

Advice from the Trenches-Literally: Learning and Networking Opportunities in Tennessee

Nathan Allison

According to a recent study, nearly 61% of recent graduates who completed an internship throughout their undergraduate degree had employment offers by the time they were graduating compared to the 28% of undergraduates who did not participate in some form of internship. This is especially true for archaeology students. A quick look at archaeologyfieldwork.com or Shovelbums.org shows you will be hard pressed to find any entry level positions or Cultural Resource Management jobs that do not require at least one field school experience. As a recent graduate with my MA degree, this blog post is to share my experience with the learning and networking opportunities I’ve had in Tennessee and how fundamental they have been in my goals and recent career endeavors.

Laying in the grid at the Magnolia Valley Field School

Laying in the grid at the Magnolia Valley Field School

Having moved to Tennessee recently after finishing my MA, I realized I needed further field experience in order to compete for the jobs I wanted. In early spring of this year I was introduced to Dr. Tanya Peres of Middle Tennessee State University’s Anthropology department. I learned Dr. Peres would be conducting a Register of Professional Archaeologists certified field school through MTSU and the Rutherford County Archaeology Research Program. The field school was both a prehistoric and historic site located in Eagleville, TN and would become the perfect opportunity for me.

Processing artifacts in the MTSU Archaeology lab

Processing artifacts in the MTSU Archaeology lab

Participating in the Magnolia Valley Field School I was able to see how fundamental concepts learned in the classroom are practiced in the field. These field skills are necessary for any job in archaeology and having the opportunity to take the time and apply them in a real world situation is paramount for success. Having completed field school this summer I volunteered for Dr. Peres floating materials from the Magnolia Valley Field School and processing artifacts in the lab to gain as much hands on experience as possible.

As crucial to internships and field work is networking. Throughout my time participating in the field school I met some tremendously talented and passionate folks working in archaeology. These connections and networking led to multiple projects throughout the summer. After field school my next opportunity came from Jesse Tune of the Center for the Study of First Americans and PhD candidate at Texas A&M. I acted as research assistant visiting both private and public prehistoric collections collecting data throughout Tennessee. These trips culminated in working with Tennessee Division of Archaeology to help record more than 200 prehistoric site in Harding County.

Flotation tank selfie!

Flotation tank selfie!

I believe these experiences have enhanced my professional CV and given me an upper hand in the job market. I have gone on to work several CRM projects using everything I’ve learned, and am currently working on a historic site in Franklin, TN. Through the experiences I have been given in field school I know my methodologies are sound, and through my networking experiences I have practiced building professional connections to help further my career. I feel honored to have had these opportunities working in Tennessee. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get involved!

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