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New Appreciation for Professional Anthropology

Today’s blog post is by one of our two summer interns, Eric Rodriguez. This is the second year of the AAA Summer Internship Program. Learn more and support the program today!

Eric Rodriguez here, one of two 2012 AAA summer interns. I am just reaching the midway point of my dual internship with the AAA and the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) located in Washington D.C.

Reflecting on the first half of these internships, it amazes to me to see how far I have come in a short time span. Whether it is primarily the social or work environment, my understanding of Washington and professional anthropology has matured and increased my love for both the city and this career field.

These first weeks of the AAA internship have embedded a better understanding of the publishing and outreach programs of anthropology. As Susannah and I continue to work on our summer project, I have come to a personal understanding of the detail that is required to launch a nationwide campaign. When I review a budget or revisit proposals for the National Association of Student Anthropologists, I realize the inner workings of professional anthropology and how I can potentially see myself entering this area of anthropological work.

Conservation lab at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

My new found appreciation for professional anthropology can be best captured by my time at the Naval History and Heritage Command. In the first weeks at the Naval Yard, my time was focused on more clerical work rather than conservation. I have had the opportunity to continue primary document research for the USS Scorpion and to assemble a lesson plan for high school students to learn about the opportunities and technologies that are available in maritime archaeology. I have also been able to continue sharpening my ArcGIS skills by assembling lithology, podology, and topographic maps for the USS Penobscot project in Rhode Island. While I highly enjoy working on these projects, I hope to spend the second half of the internship in the conservation lab directly working with the artifacts. I am especially excited to be working with Meshlab and Scanstudio softwares, as I have not been able to sharpen my skills with them since working with Dr. Davide Tanasi in Siracusa, Italy. The NHHC experience has only increased my desire to work in maritime archaeology whether it may be in an academic setting or in a professional atmosphere. The advice given to me by my supervisors has provided venues and potential job opportunities to continue practicing archaeology before enrolling in the MA—Maritime Archaeology program at the University of Southampton next fall.

Artifact storage center of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Living and working in DC has brought a new appreciation of the city. Growing up close to the DC area, I would often make family trips to the see the museums and tourist attractions of the city. While my family loved the area, I never fancied DC itself. However, my current experience here has changed that. Not only has the amazing work experience led to this realization, but also the opportunity to explore the various districts. One habit I have acquired is walking to and from my internships, trying never to take the same path twice. This choice has allowed me to appreciate the beautiful architecture and neighborhoods of Washington. Urban exploring always reveals the soul of a city and what I find to be the more enjoyable aspects of larger urban environments, cultural districts. By myself or with friends, I take great efforts to visit hole-in-the-wall restaurants and shops. A favorite of mine has been Busboys and Poets located in Columbia Heights, a must for anyone looking for a restaurant with a great atmosphere, open mic nights and fantastic cuisine. Thanks to venues such as this, I think it’s safe to say that this city has finally charmed me over.

As I continue to work and explore DC, I hope to continue gaining insight into professional archaeology and Washington as I may one day find myself working in this field and in this city once again. Until then, I will continue enjoying the rest of my time here both inside and outside of the workplace.

Ciao for now!
Eric Rodriguez

Introducing Eric Rodriguez, AAA Intern at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval Heritage and History Command

Today’s guest blog post is by one of two AAA Summer Interns. This is the second year of the AAA Summer Internship Program. Learn more and support the program today!

Hello all,

My name is Eric Rodriguez and I am one of the two summer interns for the American Anthropological Association (AAA). For the next five weeks, I will be splitting my time between the headquarters of the AAA in Arlington,Virginia and in the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) located in the Washington Navy Yard.

This past April, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Anthropology and History with a focus on maritime archaeology and Mediterranean history. For this degree, I published a thesis focusing on research conducted last summer under the supervision of Dr. Bryan Hanks of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Sheli Smith of the Partnering Anthropology with Science and Technology (PAST) Foundation. The shipwreck under study was the Austro-Hungarian vessel Slobodna located in Molasses Reef off Key Largo, FL. Using structural analysis and the interpretation of excavated artifacts and historic documents belonging to the ship and its time period, I was able to address the profitability of the vessel as it pertained to the unique circumstances that Austria-Hungary was situated in the 18th century. I drew from this experience a love for maritime archaeology that I would carry from that point onward.

Following my thesis defense, my professor, Dr. Kathleen Allen informed me of the AAA internship. Hoping to continue gaining experience in this field, I applied. A few weeks later, I received Damon Dozier’s call informing me that I was selected for the internship, which promptly led to dancing in the hallways of the anthropology department. A few months later, I found myself here in Washington,D.C.with my first week set an exciting pace that I’m sure will carry on in the weeks to come. I spent the first half of the week at the AAA, where I hope to gain experience outside of the research component of anthropology and into the public and publishing sectors. My first project for this internship is to boost student membership in universities, a task that I am quite sure Susannah and I are more than capable of completing.

On Wednesday, I made my way to the Navy Yard to intern at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NHHC. The purpose of the NHHC is to control and apply preservation and conservation on all sunken military craft and the artifacts that have been exhumed from these sites. After meeting the staff and other interns, my supervisor George Schwarz and I discussed some of the recent projects in maritime archaeology and shared personal field stories. Due to my strong background in the subject, I was given the opportunity to immediately join ongoing projects. One of my many responsibilities is to respond to inquiries concerning the history of vessels that have been recently discovered and identified.  This research has allowed me to gain insight into the designs and functions of many crafts such as WWII-era German U-boats and several confederate ships from the Civil War. My tasks are not solely research; they stem into public education as well. This first week I had to opportunity to prepare a lesson for high school students, introducing them to maritime archaeology. Some of the long-term projects I have the opportunity to assist in concern the USS Scorpion, which the 2011 AAA/NHHC intern had the opportunity to conduct research, and the Bonham Richard. The Bonham Richard has a special place in my heart as its famous Captain John Paul Jones and his battles aboard this ship have been a favorite of mine since childhood. It is truly an amazing privilege to be working with such vessels that hold great significance in American history and maritime archaeology.

Outside of my internships, I have done a great deal of exploring the lesser-known areas of DC, braving the recent heat wave. I am residing in one of the WISH Foundation’s Capitol Hill locations with interns from various regions of  the United States. With such a variety of people, I get a chance to understand different perspectives, something anthropology has trained me to enjoy. I’m sure my time with these individuals in this city will provide a fruitful experience that I will cherish for years.

I am very grateful to both the AAA and the NHHC for granting me the opportunity to continue gaining experience in the many aspects concerning anthropology and archaeology. I am anxious to continue working with these organizations and my supervisors and look to the next five weeks with great anticipation.

Eric Rodriguez

2012 AAA Summer Interns Announced

Through generous member donations, two anthropology students, Eric Rodriguez and Susannah Reed Poland, will have the opportunity to spend this summer working with the AAA as part of the Association’s Summer Internship Program. They will also work with partnering host organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The students were selected from almost fifty candidates based on their field of anthropological interest, academic strength, and recommendations from their professors.

Eric Rodriguez is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, and majors in anthropology. As an AAA summer intern, Eric will intern with Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). NHHC is the official history program of the Department of the Navy. Eric will be working with the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NHHC and will be conducting archaeological and historical research, synthesizing field information to prepare policy and case studies, as well as conserving artifacts and assisting with the inventory, management and artifact loan programs.

Susannah Reed Poland, is a senior at Stanford University, and is majoring in anthropology as well. Susannah will intern with the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and be placed in the museum’s curatorial department where her tasks would include research on gender theory and object-based work related to a future exhibition on the contributions of, and issues addressed by, African contemporary woman artists.

Both Rodriguez and Poland will also spend a portion of their time at the AAA offices, where they will be working with the Association’s public education program, RACE: Are We So Different?, researching various pieces of Federal legislation and regulatory initiatives and sharing their internship experience with members in Association publications and social media.

The AAA Summer Internship Program is in its second consecutive year. The internship provides professional experience to anthropology students and assists in shaping the foundation of their anthropological careers. This program is fully funded through member donations.

Make a donation to the Summer Internship Program, today!


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