Southeast Missouri State University

Public History Student Interns at Fort Wainwright in Alaska

College of Liberal Arts (Department of History)
Kelly Owens

Southeast Missouri State University student Kelly Owens is working as an architectural historian for the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML).

She is a civilian contractor for the U.S. Army at Fort Wainwright in Alaska and does architectural surveys for the Cultural Resources office within CEMML. She surveys buildings to determine the kinds of cultural resources in an area that might be affected by military projects. The State Historic Preservation Office is currently re-evaluating the eligibility of buildings in different districts, so she is also updating and organizing past surveys completed there.

“I really love my job. It is really an interesting experience getting to work as a contractor on an Army base and see the differences between how I am used to seeing things work and how things are here. The buildings are completely different than anything I am used to working with, so it has been a great learning experience and a nice challenge for me,” she said.

Last summer, Kelly interned with the North Dakota State Historical Society, where she did interpretive work at the house museum at the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site in Medora. She was responsible for giving tours, sometimes while dressed in period clothing, and doing first person interpretation. She also participated in oral history interviews.

“It was an interesting experience, and I’d recommend it,” she said.

At the University, Kelly works as a teaching assistant for the Department of History while earning her master’s degree in public history. She received her undergraduate degree at Southeast in historic preservation with a minor in anthropology. She said the people at Southeast, both faculty members and friends, have helped tremendously with her success.

“There are one or two professors who really did a lot to help get me through tough times, especially in my first year of graduate school, and I would have gone crazy many times over without the people I am proud to call my friends. I have met some wonderful people at Southeast and have had the opportunity to do some really cool things,” she said.

Kelly said her favorite times at the University are those spent reading on the terraces beside Academic Hall when flowers are in bloom and sitting at the River Campus after dark when the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is lit.

“I love spring and fall on campus. I pretty much like anything that will get me outside in nice weather,” she said.

Painting and cooking are other activities she enjoys in her spare time. On campus, she rock climbs with fellow members of the Rock Climbing Club, and she volunteers with the archeology lab.

Kelly was born in Tucson, Ariz., and spent the larger half of her life in Douglas, Ariz. While she was in middle school, her family moved to Perryville, Mo., where she finished high school.

She said she loves to travel any place with mountains. Since arriving in Alaska, Kelly has considered the south-central part of the state her favorite destination. She also enjoys visiting northwestern Arizona and Colorado.

“I like to do things outdoors, so anywhere I can find a great outdoor community and good climbing or paddling is a must for me,” she said.

She plans to travel to Machu Picchu one day. She said has always been fascinated by the Incas, and the fact that the location is set in the mountains adds to its allure.

Kelly advises future Southeast students, “First, it’s important to remember that the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination. Second, remember that most of the time, teachers are willing to work with you, and they appreciate when a student cares about how they do. Finally, you have to know that you can accomplish what you set out to do, and do not give up.”