Friday, July 13, 2007

A Long Commute: Northern Arizona University

I hopped in my car last Tuesday and took a drive up Interstate 17 to Flagstaff. As I approached the end of the interstate (yes, it actually comes to an end in Flagtown), the Skydome figured prominently in my field of view. Home to the NAU Lumberjacks football team, it is the largest building on the South campus of Northern Arizona University... and my landmark for where to turn.

I had an appointment with Dr. George Gumerman IV, the chairman of the Anthropology Department at NAU. I wanted to learn more about the department, the graduate program, and to discuss the feasibility of joining the program and commuting from Phoenix.

It was great talking with Dr. Gumerman and seeing the Anthropology facilities. They are very focused on the experiences they provide for their graduate students. they place an emphasis on the importance of working with your cohort, whether just exchanging ideas or collaborating on research projects. they do not offer a Ph.D., so the Masters students get all the attention.

They have recently revamped their website, and there is a lot of information about the department and its faculty. The primary focus at NAU is on Applied Anthropology, but they also offer thesis-track programs in both Socio-cultural Anthropology and Archaeology. I mentioned to Dr. Gumerman that I had considered the University of South Florida (another school with a strong Applied Anthro program), and he noted that NAU had placed several of their graduates into the Ph.D. program at USF.

I proposed to Dr. Gumerman that prior to entering the Masters program officially, perhaps I should try commuting to NAU as an unclassified graduate student, taking one course and seeing how it all works. Much to my relief, he agreed. He recommended the Lithics course which will be offered in the Spring semester, and I can hardly wait.

So, what about the commute? Well, it took me 110 minutes to drive from Pinnacle Peak Road and I-17 (that's basically where I work) to the parking lot outside the Anthropology building in Flagstaff. The return trip was almost identical... so that's almost four hours, roundtrip. It was an easy drive, but also easily the longest drive I've ever done in a typical day, even in the sprawling Valley of the Sun. I'l willing to try it, though!

NAU does not have a foreign language proficiency requirement, so the only class I still need in order to be accepted with no deficiencies is Linguistics, and I'm taking that in the Fall from Dr. Hudak. Looks like it's time to start asking for recommendation letters, since all application materials for the masters program are due at the end of January.

I'd still like to learn Spanish, and with a four-hour commute, some language tapes might be just the thing.