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Digging Into Her Future
Finishing her master’s degree in archaeology at the top-notch program at University College Dublin, Ireland, Maggie Kobik ’11 draws a line straight back to Washington College and her formative experimental archaeology classes with Bill Schindler.
Experimental archaeology is a small world, but even by those standards, when Bill Schindler, associate professor of anthropology, attended the conference “Experimental Archaeology: Making, Understanding, Storytelling” at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens, he had a special interest in one speaker.
Maggie Kobik ’11, who was earning her master’s degree in archaeology from University College Dublin’s School of Archaeology, was presenting her thesis at the October conference in Greece. Schindler had taught Kobik as an undergrad. When he moved to Dublin in August to work with UCD’s Center for Experimental Archaeology helping develop concepts for the Eastern Shore Food Lab, their paths crossed again. And then in Athens, as Schindler presented his own paper—“Using Anthropology, Experimental Archaeology, Food Sciences, and Culinary Arts to Fuse Ancient and Modern Foodways”—Kobik was now there as a colleague, presenting “Reconstructing a Minoan pottery kiln from Priniatikos Pyrgos, Crete.”
“I was so proud to watch Maggie present the results of her master’s thesis research at an international experimental archaeology conference—and, it was in Athens! The ideal place for an archaeologist to be!” Schindler says. “Maggie is an incredible student and her enthusiasm for learning by doing was contagious for all of the students in the experimental archaeology class she took with me. I am not surprised to learn that she has made the same impact in the graduate program at UCD.”
Kobik graduated in early December and is still in Ireland, where she has been tutoring a first-year model for UCD’s School of Archaeology and working on a medieval excavation in Dublin, digging and managing the finds. She also worked with Schindler on a segment for RTE—Ireland’s national television and radio service—called “What Are You Eating?”—in which she helped him butcher animals with stone tools and discuss how understanding the ways people lived and evolved in the past has affected her perceptions of food, preparation, and consumption. The segment is airing early in 2018.
When Kobik first came to Washington College, she was torn between majoring in music or anthropology. Two things sealed her decision: a freshman class about late antique art, and meeting Schindler, who was then a new teacher in anthropology.
“His first year was my sophomore year. I took every class I could with him after that,” Kobik says. “He had an experimental archaeology course I had never even heard of or considered, and it was such a multidimensional way to look at things.” She chose anthropology as a major with minors in archaeology and art history, eventually joining the Anthropology Club, International Relations Club (she became president), and WACapella, as well as working as a peer mentor and acting in multiple plays.
“I wanted to do archaeology,” she says. “Washington College doesn’t offer that as a major, but I knew I could turn an anthropology major into an archaeology-focused major by taking archaeology and art history courses within that framework. … I love digging. There is something really special about being on site and touching the archaeology. It might only be stain on the dirt, but it’s a stain on the dirt that’s been there for thousands of years.”
Kobik says that she chose the graduate program at UCD primarily because she was interested less in classical archaeology than on northern European archaeology. First, she took several years off after graduating from Washington College, moving to Philadelphia and working for awhile before considering going back to school. She applied to the UCD program without even knowing Schindler’s connection to it. “I found out he knew about this program pretty much the day I arrived in Ireland, which is a funny coincidence.”
Kobik says Schindler’s classes and teaching philosophy of soul authorship definitely helped her find her path. “The concept of putting yourself as a modern person in the shoes, so to speak, of an early person is so much about putting yourself in their environment and surrounding yourself with as much of their world as you can,” she says. “Because archaeology is ultimately trying to figure out how people lived—not necessarily, what made this rock a better rock that that one, but the idea behind choosing this rock or that rock.”
Along with her academics, she credits living in the international house and her other campus involvement with teaching her critical people skills.
“I think that helped me take a step back and learn to communicate better with all kinds of different people,” she says. Working on an intensive, one-year master’s degree in a new country was easier because of that experience. “It taught me how to delve into my community and reach out to the people around me and ask for help when I needed it—probably a lot more than I realized at the time. It’s learning how to be diplomatic, more than anything learning how to handle tough situations with people who have totally different viewpoints and come to a solution together. And I definitely didn’t know how to do that at all going into Washington College. I think the classes and the community there 100 percent gave me those skills.”