Germantown, N.Y. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) student Scott Durish hasn’t technically begun his first year of college, but he has already explored his future educational and career goals. This summer, Durish studied at Bard College’s Archaeology Field School, where he had a first-hand experience in unearthing artifacts at an active historical site.
“I loved every bit of the experience,” Durish said, who took classes at Mercer during his high school years for college credit. “This was my first time recovering items on a dig, but so many of my peers were knowledgeable. I always had someone to turn to or ask questions.”
The four-week seminar offered by Bard College is a hands-on summer learning program that enables students to do field research for college credit. Durish found out about the program while searching for archaeological opportunities in the area and was urged to attend by MCCC Professor Justin Laney.
“I had the pleasure of teaching Scott in two of my history courses,” Laney said. “His ability to use critical analysis and logical reasoning is remarkable. Studying at Bard College was a great way for him to foster those skills in a realistic work environment.”
Attending the field school was a natural progression of a lifelong fondness for history. Durish’s father served in the U.S. Army, which tuned him towards studying military history.
“My favorite periods would have to be Ancient Greece, Rome, the American Revolution and World War II,” he said.
Durish’s mother is also fascinated by historical studies, albeit with a focus on genealogy. “My grandmother was always reading about ancient history, so I’ve been exposed to the field all my life,” Durish said.
Outside of his family, Durish followed his passion through historical education. He performs in a Pennsylvania-based reenactment group that uses authentic artifacts and items to portray the Revolutionary War and World War II.
“We’ll also created displays and take questions from viewers to create discussions about what life was really like at that time,” Durish said, noting that his favorite memento is a battle-worn World War II helmet.
At Bard’s Archaeology Field School however, Durish’s work concentrated on the Colonial era of American settling.
“We were excavating a trench that had pottery and ceramic sherds from Dutch, German and American origins,” Durish said. “We also found nails and bricks, which indicated that a colonial era parsonage sat on that spot. The uneven dirt layers suggest that the people who lived on that land did some construction of their own.”
Beyond recovering remnants of yesteryear, Durish’s also spent time reviewing primary documents from the site, and did lab work logging the group’s findings.
“We found we were at a German refugee camp, which was corroborated by cross-referencing letters and other primary documents to cemetery records,” Durish said.
Though his summertime expedition at Bard has ended, Durish is excited to get back to school. This fall he’ll attend MCCC as a freshman with his sights set on continuing to a four-year anthropology program.
“Professor Laney and Mercer as a whole have been incredibly helpful in reaching my educational goals,” Durish said. “This has been one of the most positive experiences I’ve had.”