Program News

Virtual Orientation Zoom

October 07, 2020

The HRM program hosts its first online orientation to great success

Though Orientation Week is usually one of only two times that HRM students connect in person with their cohort, program advisors and professors, this year has obliged us to reconsider how we usually do things. Last year’s tour of Stanley Park, tracing its Indigenous roots with archaeologist Geordie Howe, certainly wouldn’t be an option. Zooming wasn’t a huge pivot given the curriculum is online-based, but without the in-person conviviality, excitement and mingling that generally takes place on SFU campus and sets the tone for the academic year, we weren’t sure how things would roll. Luckily, tech issues didn’t cause any delays or hold anyone back from being present, says Program Director John Welch: “Everybody from Accra, Ghana to Ventura County, California showed up with solid video-conference etiquette, keen interest in one another and the Program, and of course, ample bandwidth.”

But how to keep the eight new students and their faculty focused and captivated through a computer screen and international time zones? With 15 hours of sessions scheduled between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, participants could have keeled over from Zoom exhaustion. And yet, the pace and intensity of discussions continued to build from each seminar to the next, flowing among topics that ranged from thesis data and citation management to recommendations for managing relationships with faculty supervisors. “Even without the tradition of time spent outdoors and around tables with food and drink, we managed to learn about one another, and build a bit of esprit du corps—essential foundations for the collaborations now underway in coursework and thesis scoping sessions,” says Welch. 

Wednesday began with introductions over coffee before the formal welcome with Prof. Rudy Reimer/Yumks and outgoing Archaeology Department Chair George Nicholas. Incoming Chair Hugo Cardoso kicked off Thursday’s events. Along with preview lectures of each of the four required courses, workshops and expert panels, the two-day event presented valuable knowledge that kept everyone engaged. “I owe all the success of the Orientation to our eight new students,” says Welch, “all lovely, accomplished, thoughtful, and dynamic colleagues. A real treat to see their fine minds begin to focus in on the intellectual and logistical challenges ahead.” 

This cohort includes the first international HRM student from outside North America, Bright Amedekey, whose research focuses on understanding the transformations of cultural landscapes and the management of heritage sites in Ghana. Sarah da Ponte intends to investigate the processes of Indigenous healing through archaeology, and brings with her years of experience working with First Nations and homeless populations in Montreal. Nolan Gizikoff works in the Interior of BC as a Field Director for Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council; his research will investigate mitigation and excavation methods currently used at Teck’s Highland Valley Copper Mine. 

Brett Nuttall’s research will likely examine relationships among the presence of traditional use sites and the distribution of archaeological sites within the Prince George Natural Resource District. Emily Slifkin’s research is focused on environmental archaeology in Florida; her masters will compare and contrast the fauna found on the lands belonging to the Calusa, the Tequesta and the Mayaimi tribes. 

Currently working in the Cultural Resources Program with California State Parks, Barbara Tejada plans to explore coastal and inland trade relationships at the Fernandeño village site of Siutcanga in Encino, California. Tyler Statz works for Circle CRM Group in Calgary; his thesis will examine how boundary restrictions of contract archaeology have affected how sites are recorded. Theodora Jonsson-Macrae co-owns Falcon Cultural Resources, and will use her Masters research to develop Indigenous archaeology-based educational projects for Washington State schools.

Hearing the firsthand experience of HRM grad Earl Stefanyshen offered a fresh insight into life as an MA-HRM candidate in his insider debrief “What I Wish I Knew When I Started the HRM Program.” Having just finished the program a year ago, Stefanyshen outlined his best advice for new students, noting it took him about 2 years to complete his MA. His take home message was to seize control of time management from the very beginning. “It’s an intense program, and it’s a lot of work compared to a conventional Masters,” he says, “more is offered but more is demanded.”

Since it’s fairly common for students to underestimate how long it will take to write their thesis, Stefanyshen suggests allotting ample time. Acknowledging the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, Stefanyshen says it’s a great way to practice presenting the significance of one’s thesis simply, in just three minutes and one slide. He notes it’s a great exercise in distilling your presentation and engaging an audience that doesn’t specialize in your field of research. 

Wednesday’s expert panel on discovering pathways to success in graduate school was equally useful, with Professors D’Andrea, Burley, Collard, Jamieson and Remier offering valid insights for students to embark on their graduate studies journey. Thursday wrapped up the Orientation with a discussion about the complexities of working with First Nations communities in a workshop led by ace facilitators Aviva Rathbone and Ginevra Toniello. 

The Heritage Resource Management professional program saw its first virtual thesis defence this past spring in the early days of the pandemic. We have now completed our fourth successful cohort intake and Orientation, albeit from a distance. 

A logical next step for dedicated archaeologists seeking career mobility, SFU’s online professional program in HRM will begin accepting applications for the 2021-2022 cohort on November 1, 2020.