Students switching majors


East Texas student finds Western American studies contagious
Rita Bolton, a second-year CWC student, has "switched."

The young woman from Jacksonville, Texas came to CWC to pursue an Environmental Science and Leadership degree, but after enrolling in Todd Guenther's Introduction to Archeology class, she found her true niche. Now she is majoring in CWC's growing program in Western American Studies and intends to pursue a career as an archeologist.

"Todd is infectious," Rita said of her first class with Guenther. After taking his course and talking about the opportunities in archeology she has become hooked. "You can make a living digging in the dirt," she exclaimed.

Bolton was one of the nine students who participated in Guenther's field studies course. For three weeks the students and their instructors, Guenther and Jim Stewart, battled the elements, sleeping in tents in a rain-soaked area of the middle Sweetwater River to map undocumented sections of the Oregon Trail.

"It could have been considered miserable, but it was a lot of fun," Rita said of her summer experience. "I expected a lot out of the course and that's what I got."

Despite torrential downpours, mud and wind that would completely destroy their camp, the students were mesmerized by the experience.

"Wyoming has a very interesting history, for sure, but Todd definitely instilled that," the East Texas native said. Guenther, a former curator at South Pass Historic Site and the Pioneer Museum in Lander, told stories around the campfires each evening that brought history to life for Rita.

"Todd would enlighten us …talking about South Pass and the women and children on the trail and the oxen pulling the wagons," she said. "He really brought history to life."

Now Rita is helping Guenther and Stewart to catalog the artifacts and build exhibits, which include the remains of a 500-year-old buffalo found in the river by the students who returned to the site this fall.

"There's no way you can learn this stuff from a book," she said of her field study experience. "Hands-on learning is way better." And while the cataloging and shelving of materials found this summer and fall would seem boring to some, Rita finds the work invigorating especially when she comes upon artifacts that she herself found.
"It's all a part of archeology and I actually enjoy it for some reason," she said.

Rita is one of the students who will travel with Guenther to Washington, D.C. in November to conduct further research at the national archives. The field study was made possible by a grant from the National Park Service.

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