HRM Program featured on CRM Archaeology Podcast (Episode 114)
The CRM Archaeology Podcast recently interviewed Program Director John Welch about Simon Fraser University's new online MA program in Heritage Resource Management. An excerpt can be found below, or listen to the full podcast here.
Archaeology Podcast Network (APN): Tell us a little bit about the Heritage Resource Management Master’s program.
John R. Welch (JRW): We got it in our heads some years ago that we needed to do more to bridge the gap between academic and CRM archaeology. It’s been a topic of conversation in archaeology for lots of years, especially the notion that the academy needed to do more to prepare participants and staff in CRM. And as we looked around, we realized that it was an especially acute issue in British Columbia where advanced degrees are really not required to be full practitioners. So you have lots of excellent archaeologists doing a lot of excellent archaeology without research degrees. And that’s not often a liability, but it can be, as CRM grows and diversifies you want to have some safeguards built into it. And you want to make sure that people understand that a core principle and aspect of doing CRM is creating knowledge.
So scanning the environment and thinking about what we might do at the time converged with advances in online and distance learning and an interest on the part of the province of BC and the university in creating professional programs. And so we sort of leaped into that, built this program, with four courses, all of them delivered online after an initial face-to-face orientation session on campus. The students take a law and policy course with me, an ethics and professional practice course with George Nicholas, and then business management with Chris Dore and then research design and methods with Dave Maxwell.
It’s set up in a traditional term environment with two courses in the fall and two courses in the spring and then the students are candidates and they write master’s thesis with a supervisor, another member of the ace faculty here at SFU, and have as a result the standard academic degree but one that’s grounded in the practicalities and professional demands of CRM.
APN: How long do you give people to work on their thesis? Are they expected to be working on that while they’re doing their coursework? Can they bring in a dataset?
JRW: We actually are getting students thinking about their thesis during the application stages. We want them to outline and start thinking about what an independent research project is going to look like as part of their application….With online coursework and students not on campus or even in the neighbourhood necessarily, the opportunities for close and sustained interaction with the faculty member are more limited, and so those have to be cultivated deliberately and more thought has to go into planning the thesis early on.
We have an exercise as part of the orientation program — which is three days on campus in the first part of the program — to peer review one another’s thesis projects and then we have meetings between the faculty supervisors and the students during the orientation and then we have the requirement for completing the preparation for the thesis prospectus in the first term of the coursework, and the completing of a full proposal for the thesis in the second term of the coursework. So it’s all built in. Plus there’s online resources to guide students in the completion of that prospectus and that proposal.
I think it’s important to keep in mind for this particular program that our audience isn’t folks right out of undergraduate. We are looking for folks with a couple of years of experience already under their belt. My opinion is that you can’t actually teach people how to be archaeologists in the classroom; that really only occurs in project-contexts whether they be CRM or field schools.
If you take a junior colleague that has those couple of years of experience and they’re ready to make a commitment to a career in CRM, then we’re ready to step in and provide for that professionalization, to give them a deeper understanding of those four key dimensions of CRM — law and policy, ethics and practice, business management and research design — that everybody really needs to know if they’re going to be a leader in the field. Those are things that can be acquired through experience, but there’s also ways to accelerate, to broader and to diversity that training in ways that I think add value in lots of different aspects of the field.
The above excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.