Alumnus Kuder ‘03 successful in anthropology, archaeology

Vanessa Andrew February 27, 2013 0

Who knows where a childhood interest in dinosaurs and Indiana Jones will take you?  Elizabethtown College alumnus Andy Kuder ‘03 didn’t think that his youthful enthusiasm for archaeology would actually become a reality. Kuder worked as an archaeologist for approximately nine years, and now works at AK Environmental, LLC, an environmental firm, as a staff scientist and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coordinator.
Growing up in Palmerton, Pa., a rural town north of Allentown, Pa., Kuder knew that he wanted to be an archaeologist for as long as he can remember. “As you might expect from a kid, I was interested in a lot of more popular and fantastical images of archaeology, such as King Tut and Atlantis,” Kuder said. “While major discoveries like King Tut are such a small part of what archaeology is about, it still helped me keep my interest piqued.” Kuder also harbored an interest in hiking and spending time outdoors and had an “early affinity” for the environment. “In retrospect, these interests, particularly a love of the outdoors, served me well in my career,” Kuder said.
After graduating high school, Kuder doubted that a career in the social sciences would be practical. Starting at Etown as a biochemistry major, Kuder soon realized that what he thought was a more viable career path might not be the correct path for him, causing him to switch his major to “undecided” so that he could pursue other options. This decision ultimately led him back to archaeology. “It wasn’t until my sophomore year, when I was taking an Introduction to Physical Anthropology course that I finally decided on a career path,” Kuder said. “I was listening to a presentation on primate dentition by Dr. Elizabeth Newell, associate professor of anthropology, and even though I was wavering back and forth on deciding to pursue my interest in archaeology as a possible career choice, it was that presentation that finally decided it for me.” Kuder also found inspiration while taking several other classes, including studying Sanskrit with Dr. Jeffrey Long, professor of religious and Asian studies. “[Dr. Long’s] passion for teaching and interest in varying cultures was definitely inspirational to me moving toward a career in archaeology,” Kuder said. “His influence helped compel me to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin to study the Indus Valley civilization.”
After Etown, Kuder attended graduate school, but decided to leave after a year to gain more experience performing fieldwork in the archaeological private sector as a consultant. “Personally, I’ve run the gamut of experiences post grad,” Kuder said. “Most archaeologists who do not continue into graduate school spend their time as archaeological consultants, which was actually my first foray into field archaeology.” He was hired by a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firm that provides consulting services to private and public organizations, land developers and other companies, like PennDOT. The archaeological consulting done at a CRM firm consists of three phases of work, ranging from initial testing of an area, usually by excavating shovel test pits, to data recovery at Phase III, which is rare, but includes a large area being opened up for a full excavation. “Most of the time, archaeological field techs perform Phase I survey,” Kuder said. “Although it isn’t always the most interesting form of archaeology, it does provide a great opportunity to travel if you want to do so and also an opportunity to spend time hiking outdoors and get paid for it.”
Kuder ascended the hierarchy of the archaeological field quickly over a period of three years at several companies, starting out as a field technician, then a crew chief, who acted as an overseer for a small group of field technicians, to a field director who oversaw entire projects. After gaining all this experience in the archaeological field and working in various environments, he landed a position at a local engineering and environmental firms. “Engineering and environmental firms are relatively common and not all of them have CRM as part of their skill set, but plenty do,” Kuder said. “I became a full-time field director at the local firm right at the time the Marcellus shale gas boom was occurring and with it came a host of potential job opportunities.”
This firm had a high interest in telecommunications and land development, which was not as interesting to Kuder, and after five years, he joined AK Environmental, LLC, where he is currently employed. “I personally was more interested in providing consulting services for the energy industry, as it is fast paced and ever changing,” Kuder said. “The work involves extensive field work as well as coordination with an array of organizations and interested parties — everyone from Federal and state agencies to Tribal entities.” He also said that the workload constantly keeps him occupied. “Over the course of my archaeological career, I was lucky enough to receive some training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which is a computer-based mapping program. This type of mapping is building quite a bit of steam and is relevant to a wide array of industries — from local planning departments to emergency services to the environmental industry,” Kuder said. “AK was in need of someone to manage the GIS department, so I jumped at the chance to explore this new opportunity. GIS is a very in-demand and diverse skill that allows me to increase my marketability while still permitting me to be involved in both environmental and cultural resource management.” Kuder uses it to construct maps of many things, specifically “wetlands, endangered species habitats, archaeological predictive modeling and archaeological site demarcation.”
With a constant strong desire to succeed professionally, Kuder still relates a lot of his success back to his time at Etown, due to the connections he made during his time on campus and the opportunities he was given while still a student. He advises second-semester seniors to soak up the experiences while they still can. Kuder insists that, even though the sociology and anthropology department at Etown is small, he was provided with a large number of options related to his specific interests for future career paths. “First, I would say to make the most of the knowledge your professors possess,” Kuder said. “The professors I had at Etown were an excellent resource, specifically for an academic career path if that is what someone chooses.” Kuder also offers advice for those not interested in graduate school. “If you wanted to transition right into employment, there are definitely opportunities right out of college,” Kuder said. Currently, the environmental and cultural resource management consulting fields are growing because of the Marcellus shale gas boom in the northeast and midwest and a national interest in energy independence.”
Still involved in Etown events, Kuder tries to visit the campus with his wife, another Etown graduate, and his niece, who will be attending the College next year. “I’ve always tried to keep in contact with professors from the sociology and anthropology department in case any of the recent graduates have questions,” Kuder said. “I would absolutely be open to further discussing the opportunities for a sociology and anthropology major in today’s job market, as well as answering questions from people who are interested in pursuing a career in archaelogy.”

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