The Fiske Center Blog

Weblog for the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Alum Profile: Heather Law Pezzarossi


Heather showing a Nipmuc community member around the lab in 2012.

1. What is your position now; what do you do on a day-to-day basis? For those of you who are further out from UMB, you can say something about your route to your current situation (additional degrees, career changes, etc.)

I earned my Master’s Degree from UMass Boston in 2008. My Master’s project was based on the Hassanamesit Woods Project, where I served as a TA in 2006, our first year of the field school, and continued until 2008. Since then, I’ve gone on to receive my doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. My doctoral project was also based on work at Hassanamesit Woods, where I continued to work as Project Archaeologist each summer until 2013. After I graduated from Berkeley in 2014, I moved back east to Syracuse University, where my partner and I have positions in the Anthropology department, he as an assistant professor, and I as a visiting scholar and adjunct professor. That position allows me to maintain an academic community so that I can continue to publish my work and pursue further research interests with an academic affiliation, which is important.

2. What is the most interesting project (field, lab, academic, or community) that you have worked on recently?

My two most important recent projects are Remi and Lilou, ages 2.5 and 11 months. I have devoted much of the last three years to their full-time care. Being a stay-at-home mom has taught me a number of things, not the least of which are: the true meaning of exhaustion, the limits of my patience, my tolerance for Daniel Tiger. But I also see that I’m lucky to have the opportunity to step back a little, slow down and focus on them for a while. Not everyone can do that and I know I’ll always be glad that I was able to.

Career-wise, I’m working my way through several writing projects. I have learned how much you have to truly want something to do it after a full day of momming. And in that sense, I’ve reaffirmed my goals and interests as an archaeologist. I finished my dissertation when my oldest was 6 months old. For the last year I have been writing and editing a volume on the Archaeology of Indigenous Persistence in the Americas for the University of New Mexico Press, which is nearly completed. I’m working on a book about Nipmuc archaeology with Rae Gould, Stephen Mrozowski and Holly Herbster, and I’m writing up my first book manuscript based on my dissertation. I’m also developing a second research project based on my interest in Indigeneity and Modernity that I’m really excited about. I’ve also designed and taught a class in the Indigenous Archaeology of the Northeast from the Paleolithic to the Present, and I continue to search for a more permanent teaching position as a specialist in Northeast Historical Archaeology and Collaborative Indigenous Archaeology. Many more progressive institutions are reassessing the unsustainable wages and unfair expectations associated with adjuncting positions and realizing the importance of supporting dual career families in more equitable ways, so I’m hopeful that something will work out in the near future.

Heather in her element at Hass Woods in 2007.

3. What is one thing that you remember specifically about your time at UMass?

My time at UMass was so special to me. I met my partner, Guido Pezzarossi there, and we made many lifelong friends. Dr. Mrozowski was (and continues to be) a great mentor. My summers in Grafton working with him, figuring out the Sarah Boston Site, that is what I remember most fondly about my time at UMass.

4. What is the best advice you got (or wish you had gotten) in graduate school?

I got a lot of advice in graduate school. Much of it had to do with the difficulties of advancing in academia as a career couple. I was warned repeatedly, that academia is not an easy path, especially for partners in the same field. They told us that we would never get into the same doctoral program, and we didn’t. But we each applied to 9 different programs, and got into two different schools that were close to one another. They told us we would have a hard time getting tenure track appointments at the same school, and so far we haven’t. But we are both active in the field and support one another’s progress. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I was warned, but also glad that we were both too stubborn to let that stop us. The best advice I’ve gotten is that life is messy and complicated and the richer it is, the more unpredictable its path will be. I hope that helps people who are thinking about applying to the Master’s program at UMass, or thinking of continuing on afterward.

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