What is your current work in the culture, museum or heritage fields?

My employer is an environmental consulting firm that conducts biological and cultural resources studies for small to large projects that require environmental compliance documents. We have several offices in California, as well as an office in both Montana and Hawaii. I work in a single-person office (just me!) in Los Angeles and interface with my coworkers in northern California via telephone and email.

What do you do in your position?

Currently, I am working on cultural resources compliance reports for gas and electric line replacement projects for a large utility company in central and northern California. Right now, I have 9 projects (8 gas lines and 1 electric line) in my in-box. Some are in the San Francisco Bay area, others are in central California. For this client, I am primarily working as an archaeologist because we are tasked with looking at where and how much ground disturbance is required for each project, determining the prehistoric and historic archaeological sensitivity of the project area, and for making recommendations regarding what mitigation measures are necessary, if any. For each project, I conduct a desktop review where I research the ethnography, archaeology, and history of each project location. This work involves reviewing published literature and unpublished gray literature, historic maps, geological maps, historic fire insurance maps, the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources databases, lists of city and county historic resources, Google Earth, historic aerial photographs, property information, and anything else that will help me in making an assessment regarding what the construction crew might find or need to avoid during construction.

How do you think the GPC influenced how you approach your work?

I think that the GPC certificate has made me an even more well-rounded cultural resources specialist. My master's degree was geared towards prehistoric archaeology. As I moved forward in my professional career in the Cultural Resources Management field, it became apparent that one should also know about cultural resources that are above ground, and also ones that are from the historic period. About 10 years ago, I was working on cultural resources studies related to the permitting of telecommunications towers, or cell sites. That project really gave me a crash course in architectural history, because at any one time, I could have 20-30 small projects that I was working on and 50% of them required cellular antennas to be placed on historic buildings. Since then I've taken some history of architecture courses on my own, but wanted additional training in heritage conservation.

Why did you choose the GPC program?

I chose the GPC program because it had the potential to give me training that was specifically focused on the issues that one might encounter in Cultural Resources Management, and it was convenient to me, and affordable. For years I had searched for a university in Los Angeles where I could get additional training in heritage conservation. Moving was not practical for me and I work full-time. The only local programs available to me included a historic preservation program at a private university ($$$$) or a public history program at a public university (but in a location that I would have a long commute in traffic to get to). The GPC program was a no-brainer because it allowed me to take several distance learning courses online and I was able to schedule vacations from work around two on-campus courses, and the tuition was affordable.

What courses have you found most valuable in informing you in your current career?

Although, I initially was interested in the GPC courses for what I could learn about how to deal with built environment resources, I found that the courses really helped my understanding of how different people see culture. In my work, from time to time, I have to consult with interested parties. They could be Native Americans (what you Canadians call First Nations), historical groups, city governments, other ethnic groups, etc. I felt that I gained a better understanding of how each person, and each group, including the experts, have their own biases in defining culture. I am hoping that this understanding will help me relate to different points of view in the future when cultures clash.

What is one piece of advice you have for our current and graduating students?

I would advise students to get additional experience (even if it's volunteer work) outside of the coursework to supplement the knowledge in their field of interest. For example, I've been a commissioner on the City of Pasadena Historic Preservation Commission for the past four years. Sitting on the commissioner side of the table (vs. being the consultant), I see another side of heritage conservation: the agency side. This has given me a greater understanding of the city's role in heritage conservation with its ordinances, landmarks programs, etc., and the process involved in how locally nominated places become 'listed."

Describe your best memory from CRMP.

Even though they were a lot of work, I loved the intensive one-week learning scenario and interacting with my classmates in person and in a team environment. My favorite field trip was to a gunnery building on an island in Esquimalt Harbour where we learned to how to observe and note the condition of the building. The timing of the assignment was fantastic because in my day job I was working on a condition assessment of 11 buildings at a 1890s ranch complex for the U.S. Navy and didn't have any prior experience with this type of assignment. I was able to directly apply the knowledge I gained in the course to my professional work.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I'd really like to compliment the instructors and GPC staff on sharing their knowledge and being available to the students. It was also fun being "the foreigner" in the class. That was a new experience for me.

  • Posted Nov. 4, 2013