What three words would you use to describe L&C?
Congratulations on your Fulbright! How did it feel when you got the acceptance call?
Finding out I had been awarded the Fulbright grant was one of the most surreal and incredible moments of my life. I applied first in 2019 and was a nonselect. Heartbroken, but still determined, I applied again in 2020. This time I was an alternate. Having come so close, yet still not getting it, made the idea of applying again daunting. However, as I began my graduate program at the University of New Mexico, my advisor highly encouraged me to try one more time.
On April 6, the day notifications were going to be sent, I decided to distract myself and go for a hike. Just as I was beginning the trail, I got the notification that I had been selected as a finalist. After two rejections, and over three years of working on my application, the feeling of finally getting accepted was unbelievable.
Tell us about your upcoming research.
My research will examine the traditional and modern irrigation systems across Morocco to develop a deeper understanding of historical water management and its applications toward the growing threat of climate change. I plan to focus on how the khettara, a traditional irrigation system, can illuminate the correlation between environmental and societal factors in Morocco. By understanding these trends, we can better understand how to manage and assist modern-day communities struggling under the effects of desertification and climate change.
My research will involve interviews with people impacted by the changes in climate, archaeological survey of the khettara and accompanying qsors (historic towns), and archival records of the irrigation systems. The data gained during my fieldwork will be analyzed using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). I will be working with Jamila Bargach at the nonprofit organization Dar Si Hmad and John Shoup at the Al Akhawayn University of Ifrane. My faculty mentors include Frances Hayashida of the University of New Mexico and Dale Lightfoot of the University of Oklahoma. This research will provide answers to historical inquiries, as well as inform on current issues regarding global climate change.
What got you interested in ancient irrigation systems?
I first encountered the khettara irrigation system during my L&C overseas program to Morocco. Like any young archaeologist, I had dreams of working in Egypt. Therefore, as I entered college, I eagerly enrolled in Arabic 101 to begin my path toward the great pharaohs and pyramids of Giza. I immediately fell in love with the language and enrolled in the only Arabic-language overseas program.
When I set foot in Morocco, I was struck with a feeling of familiarity that I had not expected. I was raised in rural New Mexico in a small town called Pojoaque, and the minute that I arrived in Marrakech, it felt like home. The eerie familiarity only grew stronger until it reached its peak one early morning at the edge of the High Atlas mountain range and expansive Saharan desert. Our guide casually mentioned an ancient irrigation system that was crucial to the success of people living in these arid regions. I looked over and saw something I had never really expected to see: an irrigation system that so closely resembled the one that I had been raised with. Here it was, 5,000 miles away, carved into the Moroccan dirt. This sparked in me a burning curiosity that I’m not sure I will ever be rid of and began a long, four-year obsession with the importance of these irrigation systems both historically and their place in the present day.
I am so honored and excited to be able to continue the work that I started four years ago, thanks to an unlikely connection between Morocco and New Mexico. What started as a childhood desire to see the pyramids of Giza has led to an obsession with an irrigation system that I find more beautiful than all the gold in any pharaoh’s tomb.
How did your overseas study in Morocco add to your experience as an undergraduate student at Lewis & Clark?
When I was choosing my undergraduate institution, I decided on Lewis & Clark because of their overseas programs. Without that program in Morocco, my life would probably look very different today. I always feel incredibly cliché whenever I talk about my overseas experience, as so many people say their experience abroad changed their life. But truly, in more ways than I will ever be able to understand, going to Morocco set me on the path that I am on today.
It was not just the Morocco program that set me on that path. Through the L&C Dinah Dodds Endowment for International Education grant, I received funding to stay in Morocco for 12 weeks after my program ended and conduct independent research on the khettara system. I was able to take this research and make it the basis for my honors history thesis my senior year, and it has provided the foundation for my current graduate studies. Being able to remain in Morocco on my own, work with local organizations, and conduct primary research as an undergraduate was an incredible privilege. I am forever thankful to Lewis & Clark for giving me that opportunity.
When I returned from Morocco, I discovered that I had enough credits to graduate a semester early. However, I had been so affected by the Moroccan program that I decided that I would do one more semester abroad. This time I decided to pick a place completely unrelated to my course of study and experience an area of the world I had never seen. I ended up in South Korea for the fall of 2018 as it offered an intensive Korean language program that I was very excited about. Living in Seoul was equally as rewarding as Morocco, and while it did not impact my life as drastically as the Morocco program, it was an experience I will treasure forever.
What advice would you give undergraduate students interested in following a pathway similar to yours?
If you are in the position to do so, apply for everything. Reapply if you do not get it the first time. My Fulbright acceptance was the culmination of two previous rejections as well as rejections for dozens of other things. For so many things like the Fulbright, timing and luck are just as important as being qualified.
Also, I would tell any aspiring undergraduate archaeologists that there are a surprising number of jobs in archaeology. For some reason, archaeological jobs continue to be this weirdly kept secret. While academic jobs are limited, there are so many other ways to be an archaeologist through forest service positions, national park jobs, and private cultural resource management (CRM) companies. If you like history and also travel and being outdoors, it is a fulfilling and rewarding career. I have worked in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Morocco, and Australia, and will be returning to the Pacific Northwestin summer 2021 before I start my Fulbright back in Morocco.
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
As I mentioned previously, the overseas opportunities were my deciding factor for Lewis & Clark. I knew that I wanted a strong history program, a strong language program, and the opportunity to study abroad. While a few of the other colleges I considered offered strong academics, L&C’s overseas program was unmatched.
How do you describe the liberal arts?
I think the thing that I liked most about the liberal arts was the option to study so many things that were not directly related to my career path. The most shocking discovery for me was that I really liked biology. During my senior year, I ended up in a genetics biology course to fulfill the science requirement. Initially, it terrified and overwhelmed me, but it ended up becoming one of my favorite classes.
How did you select your major?
What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?
While I might be the only history major who says this, my favorite class was Historical Materials with Associate Professor Mo Healy. This course is devoted entirely to writing research papers—my favorite thing to do in college—and is notoriously one of the hardest courses at L&C. The final project was a monumental task that involved picking a primary source document (in my case I picked the archaeological notes and letters of Gustav Nordenskiöld who “excavated” at Mesa Verde) and to annotate 100 terms. The whole project was like one big archaeological excavation through books and web sources. Plus, Mo was one of my favorite professors in the history department and is an incredibly supportive and kind teacher. I have learned so much from her.
Who was your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?
Joann Geddes led the spring 2017 Morocco trip as her final semester at Lewis & Clark, and I am forever grateful I was part of her program. She was an English instructor and director of Academic English Studies with dozens of overseas programs under her belt. Though she was never technically my teacher, Joann pushed me to pursue my passions and believed in me more than anyone ever has. In Morocco, she encouraged me to apply for the Dinah Dodds grant, helped me with my French, and reached out to contacts to find ways for me to stay in Morocco and continue my research. After I returned, I was constantly at her house for tea talking about my coursework, what I was doing with my thesis, things I planned to do after college, and life. She has written every single recommendation letter for me in the past four years for internships, jobs, grants, and graduate school. Even though it has been over two years since I graduated, we email every month—and have tea every time I am in Portland—and she continues to support me in my journey.
How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your graduate studies?
The courses that I took at Lewis & Clark were quite challenging and the professors expected a lot from me. However, even though my major was difficult, the professors were so supportive. I learned so much about how to be a better writer and researcher throughout my four years at L&C. I improved not just because the classes were challenging, but also because my teachers pushed me to be better and genuinely wanted me to succeed. Having just completed the first year of my master’s program, I can say that I use the skills I gained at L&C almost every day.
Now that you’ve been out of college for a while, what would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?
One of the most important things that I learned was how to find opportunities to pursue my passions. Lewis & Clark not only provided me with the tools to succeed in the career that I want, but also gave me access to the opportunities I needed to get started.
What are your career goals after graduate school?
To be an archaeologist. :)