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Welcome to sNAPAshots: conversations with professional practicing and applied anthropologist. Let’s meet science communications consultant Suanna Crowley.
Suanna Selby Crowley 0:10
Hi, my name is Suanna Crowley and I am a practicing anthropologist in the field of archaeology. I am a middle aged white woman wearing a black sweater and a multicolored scarf. I have Auburn shoulder length hair and hazel eyes, and I’m here in my home office. My pronouns are she and hers. And I have been a practicing anthropologist for getting close to 30 years now. I currently work for myself as a consultant to higher education institutions, technology startups, research centers, museums and nonprofits. And the name of my company is HeadFort Consulting.
How did you get into anthropology,
Suanna Selby Crowley 0:56
I got interested in the field of anthropology as a very young person. I grew up in Washington, DC, which is a marvelous place to encounter people from all over the world. I went to school with kids from every corner of the globe, and was fascinated by the language, the culture, the art, the music, the food, from a very early age. But the influence on my interest in archaeology actually came from my father and my grandparents, who lived and worked in the Middle East for a portion of their careers. So by the time I came along, I was very interested, fascinated by their personal stories, and by the wonderful things that that filled my home, with different kinds of material culture from that part of the world. So my introduction to archaeology and the ancient history of humanity really came through a very personal kind of window.
What anthropological skills do you use in your field?
Suanna Selby Crowley 2:01
As a practicing anthropologist, say, there are really two sets of skills that I use every single day. These were the skills that I used in early part of my career as an archaeologist, these are the skills that I continue to use today. And those skills are first of all, observation. If you have been able to practice in anthropology, and you’ve done a little field research, you get the big idea behind observation. This is that that close, detailed watching and listening, trying to find patterns in the human behaviors that that are in front of you. As an archaeologist, I had to rely on material culture to divulge those patterns of behavior and choices. But in anthropology, and ethnography, you’re able to do that, of course, living populations can really learn very directly, I still use those observational skills, as I engage with my clients across many kinds of fields, the other skill set that I use, and I really recommend sharpening every tool that you have in the toolkit to make sure that the skill set is solidly on board for you. That is writing, being able to write the technical pieces, the more publicly accessible pieces, everything from tweets to grants, learning how to craft a press release for a global audience. Those are skills that really help communicate your research your work, your client’s work, your partner’s work into the larger field of ideas. And so having the onboard ability to observe, and then to translate that into solid, memorable resonant messages through your writing, are the two skill sets that I would say are my strongest, and that I would highly recommend anthropologists of the future, being able to really develop.
What types of industry challenges and problems do you get to help solve with this anthropological lens?
Suanna Selby Crowley 4:05
In terms of the problems that I like to solve, I have to say, I like solving the really big complex problems. I like the ones that that take some thought take some time, and really push me to innovate and think about what my partners, what my collaborators, what my clients might need. In one case, I was the embedded lead for a science communication project. This was a global project outside of my comfort zone of anthropology. It was in the hard sciences, astrophysics. And the task was really to figure out how to communicate a discovery across a global audience. How do I make a complex piece of Einstein’s theory resonant and relevant to billions of people? And with the team that I was able to work with And with the skill set that I could bring to the table as an anthropologist, those good observation skills, those good writing skills, I was able to help shape both the social media plan and the traditional media plan for this global discovery, which eventually we believe based on metrics, were was able to reach four and a half billion people across the planet. So bringing an anthropological skill set to a large and complex problem like how you describe and message, a very complex scientific discovery across language barriers, socio-economic barriers, interest barriers, how do you make that discovery, resonate and be memorable for millions and millions of people? That was a great challenge. And I think that that’s what makes those big complex problems, my favorite.
How has the anthropological perspective or training enhanced your contribution to your workplace?
Suanna Selby Crowley 6:10
It has to say that the anthropological training or perspective that I’ve been able to bring, in the early part of my career to the archaeological projects that I was working on, and now as a consultant, across many different kinds of sectors and industries, I’d have to say that that multi dimensional perspective has really been the most valuable, I noticed that my clients will tend to get stuck, they’ll tend to get caught on one idea or one perspective, or one way of doing something. But the anthropological perspective that I’ve been able to bring and contribute, helps to break down those silos and break open the molds toward innovation toward new ideas toward taking chances that have benefits down the line. And this perspective, really helps sometimes coach the clients through these transitions. Sometimes it also sets up interesting goals and targets and the return on investment that many of the clients that I’m looking for, particularly when you’re dealing with communication, science, communications, public relations, where it’s a little bit edgy, it’s a little bit out in the front of the public eye. You want to be able to feel grounded in that multi dimensional perspective and be able to offer your clients and collaborators and partners a really interesting and detailed and solid perspective on the task at hand.
What advice would you like to pass on to future anthropologist seeking roles in professional fields?
Suanna Selby Crowley 7:58
If I had to pass on one piece of advice to future anthropologists, based on my experience in my career, I would have to say, the first piece is “Be curious”, just get curious, get interested in all aspects of, of human behavioral systems, and the kinds of histories and rich detailed pieces of of our cultural landscape that you can become interested in art, music, language, soak up as much of it as you possibly can. And when the time comes, if there’s an opportunity, my second piece of advice is to go, go where they will allow you to put yourself in the path of these rich experiences, and to be able to watch and listen and observe and research on the ground, wherever that may be. Take the chance, take the opportunity whenever it’s presented to you, and you will never maybe in the moment, be sure about where that information will be useful to you. But I assure you taking those moments taking those opportunities will become useful to you in the long term, and enrich your insight and experience as an anthropologist
Thank you. Suanna Crowley for sharing your experience as a practicing anthropologist for more snapshots find us here: PracticingAnthropology.org Meta, LinkedIn and Twitter
Transcribed by https://otter.ai