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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Mississippi

Eric Duff – Alumnus Spotlight

Eric DuffState Environmental Administrator, GA Dept of Transportation

Hometown: Pensacola, Fl
MA in Anthropology (1994)
LinkedIn Profile


Why did you select anthropology as your major? 
I always wanted to be an archaeologist for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to grade school. My mother was a collector of old bottles and she regularly took my siblings and I out on excursions. So the interest was always there for history; archaeology fueled that passion. Archaeology is a sub-discipline of anthropology, so my major selection was never in question, from my BA and MA in anthropology, always with an emphasis on archaeology.

What are some significant/favorite memories from your time at UM? 
At UM I went to school and worked on a co-op basis…1 semester full time student/part time employee, and next, 1 semester full time employee/part time student. The experience I was able to attain has been invaluable to my career development. My co-op was through the Department of Sociology and Anthropology working on the Demonstration Erosion Control project, a multi-year partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That co-op program allowed me to work  and do archaeology throughout northwest Mississippi and into the delta of the Yazoo Basin. During the project I lived and worked in Greenwood, Mississippi, and was exposed to delta culture, unlike anything I had experienced in Florida. Representing UM in a professional manner throughout the state and the personal exchanges with all types of Mississippians will always have a lasting impression on me….the co-op really provided the technical foundation for me as an archaeologist and the professionalism I needed during interactions with the public as a representative of UM. I had offers to attend a number of college programs for my graduate studies, but UM was the only school that offered both personal and professional opportunities that the others didn’t. Choosing UM always felt right, especially for a Florida native.

Now coming from a small school without a major sports program in Pensacola, Florida, just being on campus during sports weekends (primarily football) was an exciting time. I came to UM without a favorite college sports team and left a lifelong Ole Miss fan…hotty toddy!

Please describe your career trajectory since graduation from UM. 
I have worked for universities, private consultants, and governmental entities. I left UM with a MA in 1994 and started work as a staff archaeologist with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The skills I learned at UM made me a valuable commodity in the job market and I have never been unemployed since leaving the university. At GDOT, I have worked my way from staff Archaeologist, Archaeology Team Leader, Cultural Resources Section Chief, and Assistant State Environmental Administrator, to my current position as GDOT’s State Environmental Administrator.  In that position, I lead the Office of Environmental Services, an office with over 120 staff, that is responsible for delivering Georgia’s $1.5 billion environmental transportation work program. My colleagues include ecologists, historians, archaeologists, air/noise specialists, NEPA analysts and engineers. Sometimes it feels like a long way from being an archaeologist from UM, but the leadership skills I took from the university helped guide me towards a successful career in the environmental field (28 years and counting).

What is the value of studying anthropology in today’s world?
Anthropology provides opportunities to study every aspect of human existence and connects people from across the world that have different cultures. As an archaeologist, anthropology provides answers to questions about our past, “who we are today,” but on a broader scale. Anthropology  provides insight into ourselves in the present and awareness/preparedness for the future.