(’18) found herself at Northern Kentucky University by way of an untraditional path—a theme that has remained common throughout her post-graduate life. After serving in the military following 9/11, Shiverdecker wasn’t sure what to do next. She spent years trying different jobs and paths until she found herself back on campus for not one, but two degrees.
Since graduating from NKU with a master’s in public history
, Shiverdecker has once again taken an untraditional path—this time taking on a multitude of roles and experiences while pursuing a doctorate degree in anthropology with an emphasis on archeology at the University of Montana.
She’s currently working on several projects tied to her academic work through connections she made while in her Ph.D. program. Among these projects is her doctorate dissertation, for which she is working on an archeology and curation project surrounding the Garnet Ghost Town, an abandoned mining town from the 1800s.
In addition to the curatorial aspects of her dissertation, Shiverdecker seeks to solve greater issues within anthropology. Due to different pieces of legislation, remains found during archeological digs have become overcrowded in storage facilities, leading to the mishandling of artifacts.
“We're getting into the point where we start to talk about the issues that we're seeing nationally coming out about collections having indigenous remains, and how do we deal with them now in our current context,” she explains. “That is what my dissertation is focusing on—creating new innovative methods known as an In Situ Curation Repository, to be able to create new storage methods and so forth, to help alleviate and fix a lot of these issues.”
Shiverdecker’s work does not end with her dissertation. Outside of her academic commitments, she is working on two additional collections and serves as the Montana State Archeological Fellow. One of these collections led her to British Columbia, Canada during the summer of 2022, where she worked under Dr. Anna Prentiss, a leading expert in the field of archeology. After spending six weeks in Canada excavating alongside Dr. Prentiss and the Bridge River Indian Band of Lillooet, Shiverdecker was hired on to assist in the curation of the collection.
When reflecting on these successes, Shiverdecker credits the faculty and staff at NKU who supported her along the way.
“I cannot tell you how much my heart just loves every single one of [the professors at NKU]” she shares. “They have done more for me by just being supportive than they'll ever realize. I think students need to realize how wonderful these people truly are, because if you if you stop fighting it and let them in it can change your life.”
As she takes on bigger and more complex roles, Shiverdecker has learned to enjoy the journey, even when it takes her away from the role she once considered her dream job. After working as a park ranger before and during the ongoing pandemic, Shiverdecker made the difficult decision to step down to prevent a conflict of interest while working on different archeological projects. For her, taking off the Ranger’s hat—an iconic symbol of the position—was bittersweet.
“I had a ranger give me the best advice when I didn't want to leave Yellowstone. Dr. Beth Horton at Yellowstone said, ‘Andrea, sometimes you need to leave the hat so that you can come back and wear it better. And I just always remember that. So every time I get homesick every time I feel any of those types of things, I just remember that I'm doing this so that I can wear the hat better.”
Eventually, Shiverdecker hopes to return to academia as a professor. For now, she is focusing on her work and where she is right now.
“I've been really trying to show, my passion for my field, developing great research projects, getting students out there, educating people,” she says. “And, you know, I love it. I love what I do. I love going out there and sharing the nerdiest things in the whole world with people.”