UCSC Anthropology’s Jack of All Trades

Hunter Burgess, Class of 2015

Photo: Hunter Burgess

Hunter Burgess working in Judith Habicht-Mauche's ceramics lab

It is my first day on the job and I am on the fourth floor of the anthropology and archaeology building wheeling a cadaver and two white boxes labeled boldly with the word “head” down a hallway. I’m taking great care not to bump into a wall or let anything slide off the precariously stacked gurney. I get in the elevator finally and press the first floor button. As the elevator descends I let out a sigh of relief for making it without trouble ... so far. At about that same moment someone on the third floor has called the elevator and it stops. I watch to my horror as the door slides open to reveal balloons and tables filled with hors d’oeuvres along with a host of new students, parents, and professors. I look out at the crowd, blank-faced as they stare at the scene in front of them. I quietly shuffle to the elevator panel and press the “close doors” button several times, after what seemed like far, far too long, the door closed and I assume the reception went on as planned, perhaps with a chill in the air, though.

This interaction would set the tone for my most productive years in college. My name is Hunter Burgess and if you are around Soc Sci 1 you have most likely run into me at some point. I am a graduating senior and I have worked a variety of jobs in and around the Anthropology Department here at UCSC. I have worked for Richard Baldwin setting up for classes as well as helping to manage the lab tutorial class. I have also worked for Professor Gifford-Gonzalez in the Monterey Bay Archaeology Archives. In addition to that, I have worked for Professor Habicht-Mauche as a ceramic lab assistant and, lastly, as a comic book research assistant to Professor Wolf-Meyer, which was one of my least-expected vocations. All of these jobs have been fascinating and have taught me a multitude of both useful and entirely too specific skills. For example: if you need a couch removed, I only require a tarp and a crow bar, plus sufficient Personal Protective Equipment, of course, but that is a story for another day.

I am first and foremost an archaeology student and I have known that this is what I wanted for most of my life. A certain Hollywood, hat-wearing and whip-bearing archaeologist may have had something to do with that early fascination. I declared as an anthropology major as soon as I possibly could. Through the Anthro Society I found out about the upstairs lab spaces and volunteered to help out one of the seniors cleaning a collection of bones that we got from UC Irvine. After that, I took the lab safety tutorial and found myself cleaning out beakers and performing bug box checks in the anatomy lab. Most of my first quarter in the labs was spent learning that physical anthropology was really not my thing. After one particular day of dissecting half-decayed sea birds--which smell about as bad as you think they would--I washed up and went to the dining hall where I promptly chose a nice ice cream after a hot day in the labs. This was a nearly fatal mistake as the vanilla ice cream met the rotting sea bird that had invaded my sinuses and suddenly I was eating french vanilla aged seabird. This was the last time I would eat after the anatomy labs and probably one of the last times I was a part of a dissection. I stuck around working for the department, however, and then moved on to working in the archives after being introduced by a friend I made in my first upper-division class. I did this for the rest of my sophomore year, and by the end decided to go back to the lab and apply for a paid position as a lab assistant, which brings me to the story I mentioned at the beginning. From there I was also asked to work in Professor Habicht-Mauche’s ceramics lab. Between the science fiction jokes, the actual ceramic analysis techniques, and our jug of bad acid, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to pursue this as a career. I thank Professor Habicht-Mauche tremendously for the help and support that she has given me over the years here. With her help, I was allowed to work on research that would lead me to presenting a poster at the Society for American Archaeology conference in San Francisco this past April.

In addition to professors, I can not overstate how important Richard Baldwin has been to my undergraduate career. Thank you very much for your guidance and for the chance to be a part of such a rewarding and infinitely surprising operation. I also want to thank Professor Wolf-Meyer for introducing me to the amazing American history hidden within the pages of the “Letters to the Editor” in the early Marvel comic books that I researched and catalogued.

Lastly I want to thank all of my peers, professors and people that have helped me to thrive during my 4 years at UCSC. I cherish my time spent here and am grateful to have been part of this small anthropology family.