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Julia Ring'18, Anthropology Major from Milwaukee, Wis.

February 2018

Major: Anthropology
Museum Studies
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.
Current Position:
Curation Intern, European Department at the Milwaukee Art Museum

  • Dr. Shannon Fie, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Dr. Nancy Krusko, William S. Godfrey Professor of Anthropology

Julia Ring'18
What were you involved with on campus?

I worked as a collections assistant in the Wright Museum of Art with James Pearson and Christa Story for all four years as a student at Beloit.

You were also involved with a field course in public archaeology, can you describe that experience?

For two weeks over winter break, myself and a small class of anthropology students took off to St. John in the Virgin Islands to work with park archaeologist Ken Wild in the Virgin Islands National Park. The intention of the class was to learn about excavation techniques while excavating a unit which would be done to prep a spot to install an informational sign about the beach the lab we were working at was situated, which happened to be the oldest building on the island, a Dutch warehouse from the 1600s.

The project we worked on was set aside for us due to the continued relationship between Beloit College and the Virgin Islands National Park, so it fit well into the timeline.

What inspired you to pursue that program?

I chose this program because my focus in anthropology was archaeology, and while I took the Principles of Archaeology course on campus and we did a small excavation with the class, I wanted to further my skills excavating. I also wanted to work with the National Park Service.

You were also involved with the Venture Grant program at Beloit. Can you reflect on the outcomes from that program?

In the summer of 2016, I wrote a research proposal and venture grant proposal to complete a 28 day backpacking and canoeing trip in the Yukon Territory of Canada with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). As an avid backpacker and accomplished expeditionist (my first 30 day trip was completed when I was 17) this trip fit well into my ability and interests of outdoor education and anthropology. My research was essentially an ethnography about the kinds of backgrounds of people who come onto this trip to see how much they take away from the experience, skill wise. NOLS has 6 learning goals they hope to instill in participants (communication, leadership, small group behavior, judgment in the outdoors, outdoor skills, and environmental awareness). I used surveys primarily due to the many conflicts of interest that would come about from conducting interviews, since I lived in such close quarters with everyone the entire time we were out there. The takeaway was that people who had the least amount of outdoor experience learned the most and marked the most success with the six outcomes. The people who had more experience showed less takeaway with the six outcomes, but not because they didn’t learn anything, rather their values on a scale started higher, and what they did takeaway was likely going to be specialized to one specific value that needed the most improvement.

What roles did your mentors play in these experiences, and in your academic career at Beloit?

I was very lucky to have mentors as good as Nancy and Shannon. Nancy was my advisor, and was always beyond supportive. She knew the best ways to tie my passions for the outdoors into my anthropology education. When I came back from studying abroad in New Zealand, I was still determined to graduate early, and Nancy was able to figure out how we could make that happen, and lo and behold, it did. Nancy was also the one who tweaked my research proposal for the my Yukon Venture Grant experrience, and helped me make sense of all the data I had when I returned. Being able to have someone so knowledgeable and helpful to write this kind of final research write-up is something that I would’ve been so lost without. Now, if I had to do it the process again from start to finish, I absolutely know I could.

Shannon was always quick to push me, but always with my own best interests in mind. Working under her at Beloit and with her in the Virgin Islands, I learned more about archaeology than I ever thought I would from an undergrad education. Then when it came time for me to do my senior capstone, she was the one who tore apart my resume and cover letter so it could be as good as possible for when I submit it. Getting the job was just enough to recover the pride I had lost in the process. I’m kidding about that, but she was instrumental to so much, and for that I’m grateful.

How did your research and field course work as an undergraduate at Beloit College inform your vision for the future of your career?

Being able to work with NOLS and the National Park Service was an incredible boost to my education and to my resume. There’s a joke in the outdoor industry that all NPS rangers are ex-NOLS instructors, and all NOLS instructors are ex-rangers, so I’m thrilled to have both on my resume already. NOLS is the industry standard when it comes to outdoor education, and without the funding from the Venture Grant, I would never have been able to afford the experience. And without the Lockwood Grant in the anthropology department I never would have been able to afford my field course in the Virgin Islands, which has been incredibly important in developing my abilities as an archaeologist.

Now that you've graduated from Beloit, what are you looking forward to in your career?

This February I start an eight month contract with Americorps as a trail crew leader out in Monticello, Utah with the Four Corners Discovery Center and Canyon County Youth Corps. I look forward to having my office be under the stars in the Utah desert while teaching environmental stewardship and working to directly benefit the Navajo Nation.