FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich.–No bones about it, Raegan Delmonico loves archaeology.
"You can read a lot about different archaeological techniques as much as you want, but you won't truly understand that until you get out and do your field school and really put your hands in the ground."
The Western Michigan University alumna cut her teeth as an undergraduate student at the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project's field school in Niles, Michigan, unearthing centuries-old artifacts.
"I took introduction to anthropology with Dr. Michael Nassaney," says Delmonico. "He got me involved with the project, and there was no turning back. I got the bug."
The rest is history—which, coincidentally, is the major Delmonico originally thought she'd pursue when she first came to Western.
"I was a weird mess of things my freshman year. I changed my major about three times in six weeks before I settled on history," says Delmonico, who switched her major to anthropology in her fourth year at WMU after taking Nassaney's class
"Dr. Nassaney really took me under his wing. He kept pushing me to apply to the field school and stay involved with the project."
The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project—believed to be the longest-running archaeological field school in the country—gives students hands-on experience at a working archaeological site.
"You can read about different archaeological techniques as much as you want, but you won't truly understand it until you get out and do your field school and really put your hands in the ground," says Delmonico, who grew up in Farmington Hills.
It's an experience that sets many WMU graduates apart from colleagues in the field.
"Getting the experience at Fort St. Joseph was amazing. Being able to do my field school there and then come back as a lab coordinator is an amazing resume builder," says Delmonico, who is among the 93% of recent alumni who took part in an experiential learning opportunity at WMU. "People can't believe I coordinated the lab as an undergraduate."
The experience—along with a WMU alumni connection—helped Delmonico land her first job on a Phase III project at an Oneida village site in Wisconsin.
"It was kind of out of the ordinary. For most cultural resource managers, (first jobs) are usually Phase I; not a lot of digging, just walkover surveys," she says. "But I got really lucky and got to work on a Phase III. It was large-scale excavations, and it was all prehistoric."
Once her work on that project wrapped up, Delmonico continued west to Utah, where she has been involved in a Phase I surveys on Bureau of Land Management property for a company called EcoPlan Associates. She hikes about eight to 12 miles per day through the high desert, logging any artifacts she finds.
"It's mostly lithics, some ceramics; it's a lot of native artifacts that we find," says Delmonico. "The landscape there is beautiful, and I basically get paid to hike all day, which I love!"
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