Making the Summer Count: My Tips For Undergrads and Graduate Students

By now graduation season is almost over, you could be relaxing on the beach, or getting your last minute travels in before you enter the field like me in a few weeks. Over the last few years, I’ve learned just how much the summer counts and to always make the best of it. These tips are designed from my own good (and bad) experiences, so I hope that they help you in some way.

For my rising senior undergraduates:

For those of you who may be perusing the blogs looking for insight into professional organizations or the graduate school life, keep in mind these few tips:

1. If you are a senior and are planning on applying for graduate school in the fall, start e-mailing professors in the departments you are looking at. Introduce yourself, tell them your interests, ask them about theirs. This is one of the most important tips I can share with you. It is crucial that you begin these conversations early to give professors a sense of who you are, what you have to offer, but more importantly for you to get a sense of who they are and if you are compatible. I’m sure there are horror stories out there about students getting to their respective institutions and finding out that they are unable to work with people they admire and aspire to be like. DO NOT LET THIS BE YOU. Fostering a good relationship with your committee and/or advisors is one of the best ways to ensure that your graduate experience is smooth and somewhat less bumpy.

2. Thoroughly, thoroughly research the departments, what they have to offer, what the university has to offer, and what the city the college or university in has to offer. Choosing a graduate school is like choosing a partner to spend the next few years of your life with. Think carefully about your likes and dislikes as they pertain to socialization, weather, distance, public transportation, etc. For example, I only applied to schools on the east coast. Why?  The major reason is my family, I did not want to go half way around the country and have to worry about how or when I would get home if there was an emergency, the second was it was more familiar to me and I thought it would be easier to adjust. It just so happens that the two main schools I wanted to apply to, University of Maryland- College Park and the University of Florida, were on the east coast. Moving to Florida was still a major adjustment, but in the end it was the best decision I could have made at that time.

3. Begin drafting those personal statements for graduate school applications and scholarships/fellowships. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but taking the time to eloquently write about your desires to pursue a graduate degree takes time and it also gives the person reviewing them some time to read over them. Look into statewide and/or federal fellowship programs.

For my rising first year graduate students:

1. Start thinking about what conferences you would like to attend for the year. By now most of the abstract portals are open, if you plan on submitting  a paper or poster presentation. If you are just planning on attending and networking, put a little of your summer earnings away to help pay for the conferences fees and registration and/or any travel arrangements that need to be made.

2. Whether you are on an M.A. or Ph.D. track, start thinking about your end goal and an end date for that goal. It seems strange but it helps keep things on track and in perspective. While life does happen, you need to think about where you see yourself in the next two, three, four, of five years. On the first day of my graduate school orientation, I remember the school’s officials saying, we love you but we also want you to get in and GET OUT. 

3. Update your resume and CV and order yourself some business cards. They will come in handy, TRUST ME! has these really neat mini-business cards, 100 for $19.99. They are eye-catching and a conversation starter. is also a recommended source for getting high quality business cards for a decent price.

For my continuing graduate students:

1. My biggest tip, is to hang in there. We’ve all probably reached that point where we are tired of being in school, wondering what’s next, and trying to stop ourselves from giving up. You’ve made it this far, and hopefully, like me, you won’t have much longer.

2. Depending on where you are in your program, I’m a fourth year (yikes!), start thinking about what kinds of jobs you’d like to pursue in the afterlife, I mean after graduation. If you’re thinking about being in academia, start figuring out how to get that teaching experience under your belt if you haven’t already. If you’re thinking about a government track, like me, start figuring out how you can either intern or volunteer in the specific agency you’d like to work in.

3. If you haven’t kept track, figure out where you stand in the program, especially what the next steps for you are. As I’m approaching the time to take my qualifying exams and defend my dissertation proposal, it helps me to stay focused, keep the end goal in mind, and to give me the swift kick in the butt to not let procrastination set in. Depending on how hectic your summer is, try to prepare for those comprehensive or qualifying exams by reading and preparing your bibliographies.

Regardless of what point you are in in your academic career, make the summer counts. Take the time to relax when you can, catch your breath, but also get ahead in what’s to come in the next few months. The summer flies, but don’t let it be a wasted summer!


Publication in just…. How many easy steps?

This past January I had the pleasure of attending the annual society conference in Seattle, Washington. As usual, the conference was an amazing opportunity to learn about current research taking place in the field, network with colleagues and potential employers, as well as let loose and have a little fun at the annual dance on Friday night. In addition to this business as usual, I had the amazing opportunity to chair a panel discussion focused on publishing that was geared specifically towards students and recent graduates. With the help of Jennifer Jones, Nicole Bucchino and Mary Petrich-Guy, we were able to assemble an all-star panel of people from various universities, publishing companies and research institutions, who were able to answer all of our burning questions on the art of publishing.   

Despite taking place at 8:30am on Saturday morning, the panel discussion had an excellent turnout and the panelist were lively and eager to answer our questions. Due to our focus audience, many of our questions focused on some of the basic ins and outs of publishing. How do I get my work out there for publication? What medium of publication (journal article, edited volume, blog, etc.) is best for me? How do I cope with rejection? Fortunately in this panel discussion I was the one asking the questions and our panelists came prepared with excellent answers. While I dont have space to recap the entire panel here, I would like to share some of the major points I took home points from panel. 

First off, all panelists unanimously agreed that the act of simply writing was important. Such an elementary step may seem obvious to some, because you cant publish something that you havent written. However this all-important step is one of the most difficult steps to accomplish. One panelist suggested that devoting one hour to writing every day was a good start, while another advised that writing 1,000 words a day was an admirable goal. So step #1 to publication? Write. Simple, right? Well sure, but write what exactly? Again, panelists were in agreement on this one too; their suggestion was to write about what you know and to tailor your publication for a medium that is appropriate for your target audience. Because of this, the form a publication will take depends on the program of study, degree, career path and the goal of the publication. So, how to choose? Journal article? Single author or co-author? Chapter in an edited volume? Article in a newsletter? Blog? Fortunately, I have some very good news for you here. Our panelists were all in agreement that there is no such thing as a bad publication. I thought this was particularly interesting given that some of the newly emerging electronic and open access publication mediums (like Academia, for example) make publication a little easier perhaps, or at least more accessible to students than some of the more traditional publication mediums. However, after a lengthy discussion of the issue the panelists were still in agreement and all of the aforementioned mediums were given the thumbs-up for pursuit. 

Moderating this panel discussion was a truly enjoyable experience and would like to thank Charles Ewen, Annalies Corbin, Teresa Krauss, Carol McDavid and Doug Rocks-Macqueen for graciously participating in our panel. We are currently putting together our topic for next years panel, so please stay tuned! 

What the Tech…?!

A recent SHA Academic and Professional Training Student Sub-committee survey asked student members what technologies are necessary in archaeology and as professionals. In continuing support of the identification, discussion, and application of relevant technologies, student member, Tim Goddard, agreed to (re)introduce the concept behind the Technology Room – a great space for students and professionals to engage in one-on-one conversations about current technologies in historical archaeology.

Thank you for the opportunity to blog about the Technology room from/for a student’s perspective. I gladly serve on the SHA’s Technology committee. I am also a Graduate student finalizing my PhD. Several years ago, when I first joined the committee, one of my first conversations with fellow members explored the challenges of presenting the use of technology to SHA members who were not already a part of the “technology crowd”. For many previous years, the same group of colleagues presented the latest technologies they were playing with and composed the small number of technology sessions at annual meetings. Despite the fun of this, rarely did we see new faces – especially people wanting to learn about technology.

The Technology Committee was created to serve the SHA’s needs as they relate to technology. This can include almost anything, which has been the case thus far. Only the Website has remained outside the purview of the technology committee. We serve to advise the SHA board and any interested members on almost any technology-related application, either for the Society, or for use in the field of archaeology. As you can imagine, this is an extensive scope. The diverse technical needs of archaeologists require that the committee have a number of members from a wide variety of technological backgrounds. We cover topics including: social media, geophysics, remote sensing, data collection, data management, GIS, LIDAR, 3D, virtual worlds, network management, etc.

pXRF Technology Leicester 2013. PxRF technology allows us to identify the chemical composition of soils and/or artifacts. The committee regularly offers workshops at the SHA to learn how to use this technology. The following link is an example of one use by one of our committee members David Morgan (

With some of my own work in WebGIS, I was frustrated that it was not possible to demonstrate my research in a virtual poster session allowing people to view and interact with my presentation via a computer terminal. To do so would have meant me renting a table space, electricity and Wi-Fi, in the exhibition room. Something that is not really feasible for most students! I also know firsthand from teaching that there are a large number of archaeologists that have technology phobias. This fear can be found in young students as well as established emeritus colleagues around the world. So I wanted to know how we could better serve those members at the conferences. We developed the idea of the Technology Room.

Our first experiment with a dedicated technology demonstration space was at the 2011 meeting in Austin, Texas. We decided to focus on three to four key technologies that we felt every archaeologist should know about. We found a handful of our colleagues working with these technologies and invited them to bring the actual technology to our room and to sit down for a block of time to answer questions and provide demonstrations, and hands on experience were possible, for interested colleagues. We strove to recruit archaeologists using technologies in their research projects rather than sales representatives. The idea was great and we got positive feedback, but our execution that first year needed some help.

LIDAR technology Leicester 2013. LIDAR typically comes in aerial or terrestrial applications. This is a terrestrial style scanner being demonstrated in the Technology Room. A good link to see LIDAR uses in heritage is

In the following years we continued to showcase various technologies by having practicing archaeologists demonstrate the technology in the exhibition room, which was always problematic and also made communicating difficult with all the noise. Last year, in Leicester, was the first year that we had our own dedicated room, making communicating much easier. We saw a drop in traffic indicating that we still need to get the word out there about the Technology Room. An undergraduate student who I supported at Leicester found the Room worth noting in a blog he posted about his first conference experience. There is something for everyone in the Technology Room.

UAV Technology Leicester 2013. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are popping up everywhere in archaeology. From a simpler Quadcopter to multiple thousand dollar units with multiple sensor platforms are finding many uses every year in archaeology.

What are the purposes of the Technology Room?

  1. Present the latest and greatest technologies being used in archaeology.
  2. Have a practicing archaeologist familiar with the technology to educate others about what did and didn’t work.
  3. Learn what pitfalls to avoid.
  4. The real costs involved.
  5. Share technology driven research that can’t always be demonstrated in a traditional symposium.
  6. Network with various technology minded colleagues

What is the benefit to Students? Students:

  1. learn about technologies that you might not know about through your own institution;
  2. are often our best presenters as they grew up in a technology age and can help others with technology phobias in a professional context;
  3. can learn and see technology in a low pressure environment;
  4. and can network to find projects using a technology they might be interested in working with.

So I challenge you:

What Technology are you interested in? What role do you feel technology should play in archaeology? What are the problems we face with technology? How can we (SHA) or your institution better train you for technology-related applications?

Comment below as well as stop by the Technology Room this January.

Tim Goddard