Alumni Update: A Taste For Maine
Posted on March 10, 2012
What’s the recipe for a life that combines fine food, a passion for the study of cultural identity, and a love for the landscape of Northern Maine? Donna Kerner catches up with Marie Curcio Yarborough ’93.
The American and New England Studies program (ANES) provides an interdisciplinary course of study examining questions of New England and American identity. Central to the program is its dual focus on both regional and national experiences and perspectives—what is it that makes one a “New Englander” versus a “Southerner”, how has our cultural/national identity as “Americans” been constructed, how does it change—and where do regional and national identities meet, overlap, and in some cases, clash? As an Anthropology major at Wheaton, I was drawn to and pursued these same questions of identity, but with a focus on race and ethnicity, and mostly on regions outside of the United States. I pursued the ANES program because I saw it as the perfect course of study to integrate my skills and perspective as an Anthropologist, with a focus on my home- New England and America. I was also intrigued by the freedom to pull from multiple disciplines. I think in many ways, people who are drawn to Anthropology all start with similar questions—“where do I belong, and why?” and “where do you belong, and why?”
How did your Anthropology degree and work experience during your time at Wheaton prepare you for the career you have today?
I worked at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant in Acadia National Park each summer throughout college and graduate school—the money I earned there allowed me to continue my studies each year. It was an awful lot of fun to be living and working in a National Park. Feeling like I should be doing “something” toward advancing my career, I volunteered on my day off at a little trailside museum called the Abbe, dedicated to the culture, history and archaeology of Maine Native Americans. There, I worked to develop and deliver culturally appropriate educational programs about Native people. In graduate school, I worked in the Osher Map Library creating exhibits and educational curriculum, and running tours for school children about cartography in New England. When I moved back to Bar Harbor after graduate school, I wondered if I would ever find a job that would combine my love of and experience in museums, anthropology, New England, and education, right here on Mount Desert Island. When the Abbe Museum expanded to a larger, downtown building and sought an experienced museum educator with a background in New England history and anthropology, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I worked there for 5 years, building the education program from the ground up. One of my final projects at the Abbe was to design and build a hands-on traveling teaching kit on Passamaquoddy history, in partnership with Acadia National Park’s division of Interpretation. With that successful project under my belt, I was able to secure a position at Acadia National Park researching and writing about New England and Native American cultural history. In my current position as a Writer/Editor I also developed and oversee a Cultural Demonstration program at Acadia—I invite Wabakai tribal members to Acadia to present 4 hour demonstrations for visitors. Programs range from drumming and singing, to birchbark canoe demonstrations. I feel very fortunate to have the best of many worlds—my position combines my training in Anthropology, my love of New England history, and my experience as a museum educator—and my “office” is beautiful Acadia National Park!
What would you advise for our anthropology majors who might want to work for the National Parks Service? Is this a good career track? What kinds of coursework or internship experience would help a candidate for a position in this field?
The National Park Service is an amazing career track—I wish I had pursued it sooner. There are so many great opportunities for Anthropology majors at the Park service—field archeologists, lab and museum technicians, ethnologists, Cultural Resource managers, and opportunities to work directly with Federal Indian Tribes to name a few. It is very competitive, however, and the application process is cumbersome and complicated. My advice to any student considering a career in the Park Service is to visit usajobs.gov and become familiar with the work experience and academic background you need to competitively compete for a job that interests you—minimum qualifications can be different by park, division, and position. For students, there are sometimes special rules that allow parks to hire qualified youth up to age 25 into temporary positions with less “red tape.” College students can secure seasonal, summer work that then gives them the experience they need to competitively compete for career positions once they graduate.
In addition to your job with the National Park Service you also work with your husband Kyle running the Bar Harbour French Mache Bistro, and parenting your daughters Elle (5) and Bree (3). Is it true that women today can have it all? Any tips on work/life balance?
When it comes to our girls, Kyle and I both think it’s important to lead by example-- “choose a job that makes you happy.” We have both had jobs that paid us more money, proved to be less stressful and required fewer hours, but they did not make us happy for those 8 hours each day. Life is too short to spend most of your day miserable. I think women today have so many options, and I respect other women who choose different paths. But for me, I have always wanted a career, outside of the home, that I am passionate about. I strive to set an example for Elle and Bree to choose a career where they can do something to make the world a better place-and that’s where they will find their ideal career. As for finding balance, you’ll see our children at the restaurant every night in their pajamas, saying good night to Kyle, before they head off to bed. Additionally, living in a seasonal place like Bar Harbor forces us to have big chunks of “down-time.” When tourist season is over, we close the restaurant in the late fall and late winter for 8 weeks to spend more time with our children, travel, and enjoy the quietness of Mount Desert Island. At the park, I am lucky to have flexible work hours and a lot of independence at the office, which makes it easier to deal with the daily issues that come up—sick children, change of plans for afterschool activities, or having to help out at the restaurant on a very busy night. Finally, although we are far from family, we have a wonderful support system within our tiny community and network of friends. Parents stick together here, and we all look out for each other, and our children, collectively. It sounds corny, but, it truly takes a village. We’re lucky to have found our “village”—and even luckier that it is where the mountains meet the sea, in gorgeous Acadia National Park.