Friday, July 1, 2011

Smithsonian archaeologist Katherine Brooks, MCC-Blue River student success story

Katherine Brooks has taken a path from MCC-Blue River to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as a working archaeologist. She is a sterling example of Blue River student success.

She was recently awarded a summer fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where she will work in the Anthropology department. There Katherine is researching a Smithsonian collection of American Indian artifacts which she has already been studying. After this summer, she will apply for a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Smithsonian as well.

Now Katherine finds herself in a teaching role at the University of Arizona. “Now that I am teaching college freshmen and sophomores myself… I understand what a huge difference it makes when you have the chance to talk about goals, questions or concerns.” Around 250 students pack into one of her lecture halls. But at Blue River, Katherine says, “I had twenty students or less in many of the courses I took at MCC, which afforded the opportunity to not worry about a giant auditorium filled with other kids. And I was able to relax and concentrate on the subject material.”

“I picked up some really great study habits in my first year at Blue River,” Katherine says, “and I had the opportunity to get to know my professors, which allowed me to get extra help and one-on-one advice.” MCC-Blue River was a great jumping off point for Katherine’s career in archeology because she was able to learn the skills she would need for academic success in any field she might choose.

Katherine attended MCC-Blue River from 2002 to 2004, obtained a Bachelor’s degree in American history from UMKC and then a Master’s degree in Anthropology and Museum Studies from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. She is currently working on her PhD in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. But that’s not the whole story.

Katherine’s skills and knowledge earned her a chance to assist at a New Mexico State University excavation for a month. She also supervised the NMSU archeology field school. She trained in Sicily and worked at archaeological sites in California, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

One of her most memorable digs took place in New Mexico. “The site which we excavated was near Deming, New Mexico,” she says, “in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. I wrote my master’s thesis on the pottery from this site… It’s definitely not glamorous. There are many rattlesnakes, no shade, and it was averaging about a temperature of 101 to 106 at mid-day. Anyone who works in Southwest archeology knows that it will be hot, and you either love it enough to overlook that or you switch to a different region.” Katherine can’t get enough of the archeologist’s life, however. She asserts, “I will always continue to do fieldwork.”

Katherine Brooks has a story to tell that spans the globe. Her life and career prove that you can get anywhere and everywhere from right here at MCC-Blue River.

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