William & Mary Alumni Spotlights: Dr. Summer Moore
Several alumni from William & Mary’s Anthropology Department have used the skills and knowledge developed throughout their studies to pursue prestigious careers in Cultural Resource Management, in the State, Federal, and Private sectors. And some of these have been successful in blending and balancing their work in CRM with a continued engagement with academic archaeology. Dr. Summer Moore, who successfully defended her Ph.D. in April 2019, is a prime example of this, now conducting work as a Senior Archaeologist for a CRM firm in Hawaiʻi. In this article, Dr. Moore discusses with her former colleague Tomos Evans the influence of her doctoral studies on her work, keeping her foot in the door of academia, and any advice she has for current and prospective students interested in working in CRM.
What’s your archaeology and Museum-based background like? How did you come to decide on WM for graduate school? What was your research topic at William & Mary?
Before coming to William & Mary I spent time doing contract archaeology for a CRM firm based in Colorado and then worked as the Archaeology Collections Manager at Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Dr. Kahn was the Associate Anthropologist at the museum, and I made the decision to apply for and pursue my Ph.D. at William & Mary after she joined the Anthropology Department. My dissertation research addressed continuity and change at 19th-century Hawaiian house sites on the Nā Pali Coast of Kauaʻi Island. The project used data collected from legacy collections and new excavations in the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.
What’s your current role, and where are you based?
Right now, I am a Senior Archaeologist at ASM Affiliates, a CRM company based on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Before that, I worked as a Project Director for International Archaeological Research Institute, Inc./International Archaeology, LLC, based in Honolulu.
What aspects of your PhD research best prepared you for the work that you’re currently doing?
Creating and implementing a research design for my dissertation project, and obtaining funding through grant agencies, was good experience for directing archaeology projects in my current role. On a smaller scale, the combination of excavation, mapping, and historical research that provided data for the dissertation was also excellent preparation for the types of skills needed in my daily work.
What aspects of your work were you less prepared for, or found more challenging coming out of a PhD?
I worked in cultural resources management before coming to William & Mary, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into. Transitioning from the (largely) self-directed scheduling of graduate school to working in an office environment on a regular schedule takes some getting used to, as does keeping a close watch on how hours are allocated among research tasks to meet project budgets.
What have you found most exciting about your current work? Are there things you enjoy doing that you were unable to do in academia?
I have very much enjoyed the opportunity for an in-depth understanding of the cultural history of various places on the landscape in Hawaiʻi. While academic research tends to be very focused on a small number of sites with excellent research potential, in cultural resources management you have many project areas in all sorts of settings. Several of the project areas I have researched are spots I encounter all the time in my daily life, so it has been exciting to gain a greater knowledge of the cultural landscape of my community.
Your CV shows that you still have your foot in the academic door via conference presentations, article publications, and I have also heard you are working on a book manuscript. Can you talk about some of the challenges of working in CRM while still striving to publish and present your research?
Well, time is certainly a factor. While academics and graduate students are, of course, very busy, finding time to prepare manuscripts for publication on top of a 40+ hour work week focused on other archaeological projects can be challenging. Many companies, including the company I work for, provide support for writing and preparing conference presentations. This type of assistance is extremely helpful, but it is still not easy to keep up with a lot of writing.
What would be your main advice for graduate students in archaeology interested in pursuing a career similar to yours? Anything you wish you’d known earlier?
Think about where you want to live, and make sure you tailor your program to give you the background to make that possible. Pick up contract jobs in the summer or on breaks when you can, and try to become familiar with a variety of site types and depositional environments. Probably most importantly, do what you can to become proficient in a marketable skill like GIS, faunal analysis, or osteology.