Sometimes students have to let go of one dream to open their minds to pursue a new one. If all had gone according to plan, senior Camille Morgan from Raleigh, N.C., would be applying to veterinary schools. Instead, she discovered a passion for anthropology through the opportunities and guidance provided by Associate Professor of Anthropology Paul Thacker.
“He opened my eyes to some different things I could do with my life. Looking back on it, it makes a lot of sense. It fits me,” says Morgan of her decision to pursue anthropology after a trip to Portugal with Thacker. “I’m not sure I would have taken that big of a step to change that dream I had had for 18 years without him.”
Morgan spent five weeks with Thacker in his archeological field-study class in the Rio Maior valley in Portugal two summers ago. After helping excavate an Upper Paleolithic site and an Iron Age hilltop fortification, she was hooked on learning about ancient civilizations. She credits Thacker for his enthusiasm for anthropology: “It translates to students because he gets so excited and wants to share everything he knows.”
Last summer, she returned to Portugal with Thacker for his field-study class, but this time she went as a student leader and researcher. With Thacker’s guidance, she developed a project to collect clay samples from different locations to identify possible sources of raw material used by Iron Age peoples to produce ceramics, an important topic because the location of ceramic production can offer hints into trading patterns and local economies. She analyzed the samples once she returned to campus, and she hopes to publish her results. Thacker has been by her side every step of the way, pushing her academically every day, she says.
Morgan was an ideal student to mentor because of her determination, attitude and academic initiative, Thacker says. “Geological survey is physically demanding and requires getting very dirty. Camille kept a positive outlook and remained focused on our sampling goals even after a long, hot day of hiking rough terrain through huge briar patches.”
Morgan is now focused on her future. She’s considering several options: graduate school in archeology, Wake Forest’s master’s in education program, a career in forensic anthropology, or a position with the FBI. A return trip to Portugal is likely. Thacker’s guidance as she studied the past will guide her future, she says. “It’s clear that he cares for his students and does everything that he can to further our education. It is nice to know I have someone on my side. I am sure I will have a friend for life.”