Anthropology instructor digs fossils … get it?


By Ethan M. Rogers

Anthropology instructor Keely Baca is a bit of a rebel. Ignoring her parents’ wishes that she enter the medical field, Baca found her way to anthropology instead. She preferred being outdoors, digging in the mud and exploring the natural world around her. Her journey, from awkward kid in the South to anthropology instructor at Clackamas Community College, took many years and involved over a decade of part-time teaching and raising a family. Baca sat down with The Clackamas Print staff to discuss her journey, how she feels about being full time faculty at CCC, and her plans for the future.

The Clackamas Print: Why did you decide to study anthropology?

Keely Baca: I was in graduate school for fisheries biology and I took a random class. I either had to get a job or I had to stay in school. It was summer. So I stayed in school and took a 100-level class. It was just a random physical anthropology class and I absolutely loved it. It just resonated in my core. When something clicks, it’s like speed dating – you know if you found it. I just didn’t look back. I really like dealing with fossils and anatomy. Prior to that, I had rebelled against my parents who were focused on getting into medicine, and so I came out of undergraduate with that degree in biology and chemistry.

TCP: What brought you to the Pacific Northwest?

Baca: We lived in the Southwest, so we got a taste of that and we vacationed up here twice. We moved up here as soon as we could. I really liked the art of the Pacific Northwest and not just here in Oregon, but up the coast all the way in Canada – that Pacific coastal art. I remember standing at Washington Park, at that moment, I grabbed onto my husband’s hand, I was like, ‘We’ve got to move here, I found my people.’ There’s something about it. I liked the people, the weirdness of it all. 

TCP: You’re in your first year here at Clackamas. Are you enjoying the change?

Baca: I love it. I love all of my colleagues, they are so supportive and it just felt like a natural fit. Moving here was really nice. It just feels right socially. The students are great. I’m enjoying the campus. I’m enjoying having an office, quite frankly.

TCP: Did you not have an office before?

Baca: As part-time faculty I was just in a room that we all just kind of shared in one building. When I taught at another campus, we didn’t have an office.

TCP: What’s the difference between teaching part-time and your first full-time teaching job?

Baca: As a part-timer, I did make myself super involved because I love teaching and being in an educational environment. I was part of the diversity equity council and I was co-chair before I left. On that committee I did things like see other committee work and did some of the student clubs. I got myself really involved.

TCP: How many classes do you teach here and what classes are you teaching?

Baca: I teach 101, which is biological anthropology. I teach archeology, which is 102 and then I teach cultural, which is 103.

TCP: You’ve got all this support now. What are your goals? What do you envision doing here at Clackamas?

Baca: Well, I definitely want to see what I can do with field trips, field work, maybe. Also one thing that’s in the works,maybe broadening ethnic studies. There’s one person that is involved with the ethnic studies courses, and so broadening that Native American studies, which hasn’t been taught here in a really long time. That’s something that I used to teach. Right now I’m focused on getting my first year full-time faculty teaching legs. I think it would be fun to maybe invest my time and more like for students directly with the field work. 

TCP: Out of the classes that you offer, which would be the one you would want students to take because you think they would find it interesting?

Baca: Because in anthropology the disciplines are different and yet united, I think it would depend on the student. Are you interested more in cultures? Well, that would be cultural anthropology. Are you interested in old tools? That might be archeology. Are you interested in our fossil record? That would be for biological or physical anthropology. So I think it would depend on the student. And I think we’ve got something to offer.

Ethan M. Rogers