Doing Something That Matters

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UWA anthropology student teaching a family the importance of archaeology. (Photo: UWA student S. Browder)

A couple years ago the University of West Alabama, my place of employment, began a new marketing campaign.  Moving away from the old tag line “There is something about this place” to “Do something that matters”.  This a great line for both a university and an interpreter.  Our school’s profile is raised when students, staff and professors make a difference in their field, the local community or country.  With interpreters, our supervisors/stakeholders love it when our program brings in new people/revenue to our site.  Turning those red numbers into black and getting some great press around the event.  For a university, the increased attention helps to increase enrollment, making the institution for financially sound.  All of these reasons are great, but interpreters are wired for more than just the bottom line.

As interpreters, we are looking for more for than just increased revenue or a positive publication.  Every one of us wants to make a difference in the world.  It is one of the many reasons we choose this career.  How do we decide what makes a difference though?  Is it an internal dialogue or feeling?  Based on the reaction of others?  Better yet, when the manager or president says excellent job.  All of the above sounds good, but which is the answer?  My argument is for an internal feeling.  Over the past few weeks our museum has been busy making a difference in the local and regional community.  An 18th century fort site about 10 minutes away that we own had brand new grant funded interpretive signs installed by us with help from UWA students participating in an archaeological field school.  On April 22, the fruits of labor were harvested when the site was open to the community to come visit were the site director, museum director and students gave tours of the area.  More people came to the fort in that one day than had come in the 3 previous open houses combined.  The next week museum staff and students/professors of the biology honor society spent 3 days working to clean up the duck pond located in the middle of campus.  The water was clogged with algae and has trash scattered in it.  Manual labor was used to remove a portion of the algae, along with the trash in order to make campus cleaner. Those same biology students have now become invested in the project to rehabilitate the pond to making a direct impact on campus. In both of these projects students and staff say immediate returns on their investment of time and effort.  A great feeling for everyone involved in both projects.

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UWA NSM students & professors plus Museum staff work together to manually remove algae.  (Photo: UWA TriBeta student)

No extra money was earned for the university, students were not paid to help out, but a lot of positives came out of both of these projects.  People can now tour an 18th century fort site and learn about the past like never before in the area.  The duck pond will educated numerous college and grade school students about the life cycle of frogs, dragonflies, etc. along with how to combat pollution without using chemicals.  Each day at the work the interpreter inside me was happy with the hard done by everyone, because of how it will benefit so many people in the end.  It can safely be said that we all did something that matters to everyone.  Let’s go out and make a difference today, together.

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