By Jaimie Woodard, ’02
Nick Laracuente has always been interested in the past. A self-described military brat who grew-up in Germany, he was immersed in history as a child. His family spent their weekends exploring German castles and historic ruins. This early exposure to history evolved into a passion for archaeology soon after Laracuente began his undergraduate studies at Tulane University. Earning his bachelor’s degree from Tulane, Laracuente then enrolled in the University of West Florida’s nationally-recognized Archaeology Program.
“I chose UWF because its archaeology program is not only innovative, it is the best in public archaeology as well,” said Laracuente. “UWF also has one of three underwater archaeology programs in the country. We also do all of our own conservation of artifacts recovered from our excavations. Most archaeology institutions will send artifacts somewhere else for conservation, but we have the facilities and the know how to conserve artifacts right here at UWF.”
Currently a third-year archaeology graduate student at UWF, Laracuente has gained valuable hands-on experience through the university’s archaeology field schools. This summer, he served as the director of the terrestrial archaeology summer field schools, which involved excavations in downtown Pensacola and Georgia. His duties included managing the archaeological sites, supervising crew members and ensuring the project’s success from beginning to end.
According to Laracuente, archaeology is important because it provides a tangible link to the past that is accessible to everyone. He believes excavated artifacts provide insights into the people and cultures associated with an entire span of time, where as historical documents only provide glimpses into specific moments in time.
“Archaeology provides access to a continuum of history,” said Laracuente. “Anyone can hold an artifact and understand the link to the past that the artifact represents.”
Contagious that’s the only way to describe Laracuente’s enthusiasm for his chosen field of study. But, without the support of private giving, he might never have been able to pursue his dream of becoming an archaeologist. With the financial support he receives in the form of assistantships, Laracuente is able to obtain valuable hands-on experience in archaeological research, excavation and laboratory work without needing to get a part-time job on the side.
“I don’t want to complete my studies and emerge to face a monumental amount of loans,” said Laracuente. “I am the first person in my family to go to college, and my parents don’t have the funds to assist me with paying for my studies. I’ve been in school for almost seven years now and every one of those years has been made possible by financial aid.”
On the verge of realizing a great future, Laracuente will graduate with his master’s degree from UWF in 2008. He then plans to continue his education by earning his doctorate in anthropology. He ultimately hopes to establish a career studying archaeology in the Southeastern United States.