Who Am I to Talk: A short biography

I told my sister that I was going to create this blog and her response was, “Great, but what gives you the authority, especially if you don’t share their identy as queer or latinx or whatever? Or are you trying to tell me something?” She’s right, of course, I have no authority; no university, group, or agency has asked me to do this and I do nor claim to speak for any group. I am just me and I can only speak to and from my own experiences. So, before I start dispensing any advice and before you consider listening I think it fair to tell you who I think I am, because if I know anything at all it is that I don’t know it all.

By some account, archaeology is in my blood. My grandmother was Grace Burkholder an avocational archaeologist who made significant contributions to the study of early civilization in Eastern Saudi Arabia and rock art in Southern Nevada.  Grace, when she worked abroad, sent crates of books on all sorts of natural and cultural topics that I devoured. When she returned to the States, she introduced me to life in deserts and sent me to archaeology summer camp in Kampsville, IL.

I went to college thinking I might still pursue a career as a marine biologist, but my love of ancient things, puzzles, and the social world drew me back to Archaeology. Over the course of my academic career I  studied with marxists, processualists, structuralists, and a proud handful of feminists, but my current path was set by a series of unfortunate events. First, I heard a trusted advisor comment that an invited speaker’s ideas would not be of such interest if she were not young and attractive. Second, an advisor reccommended that I remove “feminist theory” from my CV because it would suggest (to some) that I was “hard to work with.” Third, I was accused of leading a “feminist protest” when I quietly stepped out of a brown bag talk to go teach a class. Fourth, I was the first woman hired at a small consulting firm soaked in bro-culture long before such a term existed to name it.

My “#MeToo” moment came at that first real job.  I didn’t mind that our digs were a little dirty. I only minded a little that my boss had a habit of chewing tobacco constantly. I seriously minded that the owner smoked a ciagr in the office and walked around shirtless in the summer, but I only witnessed it once. The critical moment came one lunch time when I looked up to find “the guys” looking at one computer screen with such intent focus that none of them noticed me walking up to find the screen occupied with pornographic pictures of women. So many emotions: hurt, sad, offended, regretful, angry. I focused my response on the least explosive, excluded, and piped up, “Do you have any ‘beefcake’? I just think we should be fair.”  Embarrassed silence ensued followed by apologies and it never happened again (at least, while I worked there).

I returned to teaching, which to date has been entirely at public, comprehensive, undergraduate institutions. Though my departmental colleagues cast me as a researcher (I did make several major grant applications, one successful), I see my work as a combination of teaching and service, and I use my research as a basis of authority from which to teach and engage.  I teach a core requirement focused on changing/challenging patterns of inequality in society, and an upper division course that examines the orgins of our modern gender system, inviting students to question the androcentrism, heterosexism, racism and other power structures that try to tell us “it has always been this way.” On campus, in my community, and within my professional associations I have used my research as a basis to address gendered and racial inequality and to promote the kinds of inclusive cultural environments I think we all need to thrive.

It’s been a long strange journey, for sure, but who am I now? Here’s the list of my applicable identies you may find relevant, in no particular order of importance:

  • Femme Tomboy, to use the terminology of author Ivan Coyote, with something of an addiction to endurance sports like triathlon and long-distance running (when I am not recovering from traumatic injury and orthopedic surgery)
  • Queer co-conspirator and practitioner, as best as I can given that I am a white, cis-gendered, middle class, middle aged, androphilic woman, and mother who aspires to using her abundant privilege to smash the patriarchy (which most days feels like scratching away at a monolilth with a toothpick)
  • Creative type who loves creating (crafting, painting, oragami, sewing etc.), moving (yoga, dance, and in the last year acrobatics and circus/aerial arts), and writing which is mostly fiction/fantasy and poetry, but I’m thinking of starting a blog 😉

Welcome to Archaeology Mentor


I started this blog  after years of discussing how to better support and mentor women in archaeology beyond the occaisional pep-talk and “atta-girl” at professional meetings and conferences.  In that time, I have also come to a keen awareness that “women,” by any spelling or definition is not broad enough to define the breadth of intersections and identities of those I know are actively seeking mentorship and willing to provide it. In this blog I endeavor to provide insight, encouragement and career advice to archaeologist and those in related fields. I hope that most, if not all of what this site provides is useful to the broadest scope of people.

By speaking from my experiences as a womyn, I do not want to exclude or make less of the struggles of those who do not identify as such. My intention is to help a greater diversity of individuals find ways to not just survive – grad school, job searches, peer review, publication, promotion, tenure, etc – but to thrive by finding purpose, sustaining passion, and achieving balance so that those who tell our stories, preserve our pasts, and prepare the next generation can give voice to the myriad intersections and identities of our past, present and future.

What you will find on this site:

  • Personal essays and perspectives on a career in archaeology
  • Guest essays from others examining their own career in these related areas (Please volunteer a contribution)
  • Annotated links to outside sources relevant to archaeology, academia, museums, government, work-life balance, families

If you like what you find, let others know you found it helpful. If you haven’t found it helpful, let me know what would be helpful by using the contact page.  Either way,  get in touch with me about making your own contribution to this site.