For Kaylee Baxter, convocation is one step closer to exploring the Arctic

May 28, 2020 by Alexa Zulak - A&S News

Kaylee Baxter has always had an avid interest in history. 

The member of Victoria College says that being able to investigate the past in both a theoretical and hands-on way is what led to her honours bachelor of arts degree with majors in archaeology and anthropology — something she accomplished in just three years. 

“On an archaeological dig, you are quite literally uncovering and touching the past,” says Baxter. 

And while she’s held a keen interest in archaeology for many years, Baxter says it was her time at U of T that led to her fascination with Arctic archaeology.  

“The opportunity to contribute to our archaeological understanding of Arctic prehistory and history is an exciting one,” says Baxter. 

It’s something she’ll continue to investigate as she begins her graduate studies at the University of Calgary this fall.  

Arts & Science News spoke to Baxter about her research interests, her most memorable experiences at U of T and what advice she’d give her first-year self. 

You participated in the Institute for Field Research's field school last summer. What was that experience like? 

During my month-long stay in Igaliku (South Greenland), daily July temperatures were frequently three to five degrees above historical averages, with several days approaching 20 degrees Celsius or higher. Experiencing firsthand what archaeology in Arctic environments is like and how warming climates affect archaeological preservation was captivating and transformative. I returned from the field school with a heightened sense of urgency to investigate and help preserve Arctic history and my interest in Arctic archaeology grew exponentially. 

What have been some of your other memorable experiences at U of T? 

My most memorable experiences centre around the different opportunities I’ve had here. I took an internship course during my second year that allowed me to gain experience as an assistant curator at Casa Loma and as a head researcher of digital resources at the U of T Art Museum, where I learned and practiced museum curatorship and collections management and worked with very talented people.  

Working in different archaeology labs and an earth sciences lab on campus also allowed me to learn more about artefact analysis and even geoarchaeological analysis.  

In the spring of 2019, I participated in the Jackman Humanities Scholars-in-Residence program. Not only did I work alongside other students on a literary history project, I also learned about the other projects in the program, listened to seminars and met other students and professors from different programs. 

Another memorable experience happened just last semester, when I participated in a trip to New Mexico with my Archaeology of North America class, as part of an Arts & Science International/Indigenous Course Module. After learning about the archaeology of the American Southwest in the classroom, it was incredible to actually explore some of the phenomenal archaeological sites in person. 

What would you say to someone considering attending U of T and Victoria College? 

Do it! U of T is definitely a challenging environment, but it also has a host of opportunities for learning about what you’re interested in and for discovering things you might be passionate about.  

The college system is also great. Attending Victoria College has been integral to my achievements and successes at U of T. Most of my favourite memories at U of T took place at Vic, from the Vic One program in my first year, to the many memories I have from living in residence with amazing friends, being a residence don and even all the late nights and early mornings spent at Burwash Study Hall during midterms and exams. Victoria College really became a home for me on campus during my time at U of T.  

What advice would you give to your first-year self? 

My main piece of advice would be: don’t hesitate to get involved in as many things that interest you as you can, starting from day one. Not only will you learn things outside of the classroom and make great memories, you’ll also meet people from outside your programs, year and college.  

What’s next for you after U of T? 

I’ll be starting my masters of archaeology at the University of Calgary this fall, exploring the impact of climate change processes on the archaeological landscape of northwest Greenland and assessing the extent of this impact.  

I’m also planning to work with the Indigenous Inughuit community to build a prioritization framework for preserving vulnerable sites in the region of study. 

My ultimate goal is to become a professor of archaeology, where I can continue to research in Arctic environments while also imparting the effects of climate change and the importance of archaeological research to future students.

Congratulations to U of T's Class of 2020!

Celebrate Convocation 2020 with us and on social media by using the hashtag #UofTGrad20 and tagging @UofTArtSci in your posts.