Anthropology BA, Archaeology concentration 2014
As someone working in the field of public anthropology, Jessica Ericson frequently attends archaeology and anthropology conferences and finds herself serving as an ambassador for CSU Anthropology and Geography. “I always brag about CSU because [department alumni] have such a presence at a lot of the archaeology conferences.”
Jessica doesn’t just talk anthropology with colleagues in the know. In addition to a lasting career in cultural resources management, she also co-runs Community Connections LLC, an enterprise that develops and leads archaeology outreach and education programs in addition to offering technical services in project design, historic preservation, and grant writing. The firm leads educational activities, interpretive tours, and site visits to make archaeology accessible and engaging for both adults and youth, and Ericson credits her professors and experiences as CSU for cultivating her dedication to public anthropology and showing her a career in archaeology is attainable.
What is your current position?
Archaeologist and business owner of Community Connections LLC, which a company that my business partner, Jasmine Saxon, and I started in 2019, after we met through the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists. We are not a typical cultural resource management firm, we’re more public facing and only take projects or do things that relate to the public.
What kind of events do you organize through your business?
We try to organize an archaeology meet-up at least once a month around Denver, usually at a brewery and family-oriented places, and we try to build events and get to as many conferences as possible. That’s a big suggestion for anybody trying to get into the anthropological world: Conferences, conferences, conferences.
We’ve also created some kids courses and projects with South Park Site Stewards and the South Park National Heritage Area, and we do historic tours. This year [October 2023]. Community Connections is running International Archaeology Day [at Red Rocks Park], which is exciting.
How did your experiences as a CSU Anthropology student lead to your career path?
Well, Professor Jason LaBelle got me, like, my first three jobs! It’s been my experience within archaeology that a lot of it is who you know.
Basically a week after graduating from CSU, I was on a plane and heading to Fairbanks, Alaska, to start my first CRM job, and I’ve just been going and going ever since that flight. I had mostly done fieldwork for various archaeological firms but, a few years in, I knew I wanted to do something more [related to public outreach] so I started running tours for historical places which I had done while I was in college, too. I was always coming back to tourism and archaeology and put those together to create Community Connections.
The Archaeology Field School was such a shift for me to realize, ‘I can do this [as a career].’ I didn’t even fathom it before. Once I did the field school, it was just like, ‘Oh, OK, I wanna do this forever.’ I’m really proud to come from CSU.
What knowledge and skills from your degree have been most useful since leaving CSU?
Honestly, there’s so many classes that I still go back to like Lithic Technology (ANTH 457) and Archaeology and the Public (ANTH 456) and my bio anth courses. I’ve been able to go back to several of those classes and find articles that still help in the field today.
And then the Archaeology Field School was such a shift for me to realize, ‘I can do this [as a career].’ I didn’t even fathom it before. Once I did the field school, it was just like, ‘Oh, OK, I wanna do this forever.’
I’m really proud to come from CSU.
Do you have any specific memories or experiences from those classes that has stuck with you?
I remember it was, like, 106 degrees out during the field school and someone was trying to teach me how to run the total station and all of us were just delirious with the heat and not enough water and just out of it completely. But I just remember, in that moment, looking out over the plains in Larimer County and just being absolutely enamored with the place, the process, everything. It was a really awesome moment of realizing I could do this.
What are you most proud of since graduating from CSU?
Going into the archaeology program, I was told by so many people and websites that anthropology was a waste of a degree, but I wanted to do it so badly and I was stubborn enough to stay within the field. So, that’s a point of pride that I have stuck with it and had a pretty successful career out so far. Of course, starting my business with my business partner has been so much fun.
Now, I definitely try to help people see that there’s possibilities when others might not think there are. We can see companies where people use their anthropology degree to forward businesses and fields and [to help companies] see things from different perspectives.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m pretty extroverted so I like hanging out with a lot of people. I like to travel, and hang out with my boyfriend. We’ve got two dogs and a cat. I would say like I would like to hike more, but I hike so much for work that I’m just like, ‘Nah, I’m good!’ But, yeah, read, dream, hang out. And I love quesadillas!