Student concludes ambitious, yearlong archeology project at Priest Point Park

Harding surveyed the Mission Creek Beach.

As if earning your Bachelor’s degree was not reason enough to celebrate, when Sierra Harding graduated from Evergreen earlier this summer, she had another major reason to rejoice. For her, graduating meant that she had concluded the yearlong archeological project that she had dedicated her entire senior year toward completing.

The project—which Harding named the Mission Creek Beach Survey (MCBS)—involved examining and analyzing the remains of a 20th century pier located at Priest Point Park in Olympia. As she amassed evidence, Harding developed what she referred to as the “two-pier theory,” which argued that the remains of the pier at Priest Point Park today are not from the original structure.

Arriving at that conclusion was far from an easy task and one that involved countless hours of labor. After dividing her project into various phases, Harding spent a year engaging in thorough historical and geographical analysis, site mapping, data collection, and much more.

“I definitely was challenged to maintain focus and quality throughout all phases of the project,” said Harding.

Harding’s project was supported by an Evergreen Foundation Activities Grant, which allowed her to purchase supplies, and was supervised by faculty member and archeology professor Ulrike Krotscheck.

“Sierra was an independent and competent scholar in all phases of this project,” said Krotscheck. “In a professional setting, many different experts would have collaborated on a project of this scope. [She] designed and carried out this project alone, learning along the way.”

Throughout the course of her project, Harding enlisted the help of several professional archeologists, and even trained a fellow student to help her record data. Nevertheless, Krotscheck was blown away by Harding’s ability to work independently.

“This work demonstrates that she is able to complete any part of such a project in accordance with the highest professional standards of the field, from research question design to final publications” boasted Krotscheck.

One of the most impressive aspects of Harding’s MCBS was how incredibly extensive the project was. By the time it concluded, Harding had compiled an impressive 72-page cultural resources report, a 36-page thesis-driven essay, and an extensive data archive.

“She was basically practicing what it is like to write a dissertation,” said Krotscheck. “It's one of the greatest benefits of Evergreen, I think, that advanced students can complete projects like this that mimic what they might have to do in a professional setting or for an advanced degree.” 

Never one to shy away from a busy schedule, Harding is spending the summer working as a divemaster at a scuba diving camp in Edmonds, diving for an environmental firm, and beginning a six-week internship with the Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. She plans to enter the Master of Arts in Maritime Civilizations program at the University of Haifa’s International School this fall.

“My academic and professional journey has certainly been long and winding,” admitted Harding. “But now I feel like all my varied experiences have made me the academic, and human, that I am today . . .  going back to school at 35 and taking the leap of faith to finish my degree was the best decision I have ever made."