Helping Future Leaders


Archeologist Eric Petersen, a field director with SWCA Environmental Consultants in Tucson, makes his living recording and excavating prehistoric and historical sites before construction projects take place. But Petersen, a Northern Arizona University alumnus, discovered a different path to fulfillment long ago: he is a volunteer organizer with the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program (HOBY), which seeks to inspire and develop a global community of youth and volunteers that are dedicated to a life of leadership, service, and innovation.

"I got to a point where I had settled into my job but felt like I needed to do more for other people," Petersen says. "So I got involved with the Red Cross disaster action team, which helps people who have suffered through a fire or other damages to their homes. We give them immediate assistance like a place to stay and food for the week. We supply their basic needs so they can move on."



But Petersen wanted to do more. He decided to reach out to future student leaders, like he had once been with HOBY. Petersen quickly moved up the ranks, serving as a facilitator, director of programs, and director of recruitment before being tapped in 2010 to hold the Leadership Summit Chair during the 2010 HOBY Arizona Summit at Northern Arizona University.

"Working with HOBY is an amazing experience," Petersen says. "HOBY makes sure people are getting something out of the program. Since being a student in their program I had always wanted to come back to be a part of it, so I volunteered. In 2010, when we came to Northern Arizona University, it turned out really well. We implemented a new national program and it turned out great."

Petersen currently serves on the HOBY Arizona Corporate Board as the Alumni Director, and recently stepped into the role of Regional Program Director at the national level of the organization, providing his expertise to other sites within his region.

As an undergraduate student, Petersen found the education and training he needed to succeed as an archeologist. An anthropology major on academic scholarship, Petersen participated in excavating Elden Pueblo and helped with Introduction to Archeology classes. Before he graduated, Petersen's advisor gave him a big career boost by directing the aspiring archaeologist to an expanding area of the field.

"The university’s program perfectly prepared me for my career," he says. "It is an excellent program with a focus on cultural resource management (CRM), which prepares students for roles like being a consultant or working as a project manager."

As he reflects back on his time in Flagstaff, Petersen advises current students to get involved in university life. The rewards, he says, are worth it.

"My advice to students would be to get out there and get involved. There's so much more to the university experience than just the education."