Anthropology graduate student Macie Orrand has always loved playing in the dirt.
“At a young age, I was always interested in history and loved going on field trips and being outdoors,” said Orrand, who graduates this week with a master’s in anthropology with a concentration in physical and biological anthropology.
“I became obsessed with Egypt and I just knew I was going to become an archaeologist and find the next massive tomb.”
Orrand, who wanted to be an archeologist, enrolled at Middle Tennessee State for her undergraduate degree at 17. But soon after, Orrand was pregnant with her daughter. It took nearly six years for her to finish her bachelor’s in 2018.
Orrand said she finished her undergraduate degree for her daughter, to show her that despite the odds, you can achieve whatever you want with the help of family.
But Orrand said her master’s degree is for herself.
When she asked her undergraduate mentors to recommend the best place to learn more about stable isotopes, which can help researchers determine more about fossils, they suggested Georgia State. A campus visit convinced her it was the right fit.
“It was great because I have a 7-year-old and I wanted to be at a place that would be understanding if I had to bring my daughter with me,” Orrand said. “I just loved the professors and connected with them on a personal level.”
That personal connection also helped her during a trying time in her life, when her mother was severely burned in a freak backyard accident that happened as Orrand was preparing to start her graduate studies.
“She tripped and when she landed she was swallowed by the fire,” Orrand said. “She spent a couple of days in the burn unit and damaged her lungs due to the smoke inhalation. I didn’t know if I should leave the program and take care of her.”
Orrand decided to move her mother to Atlanta to take care of her, along with being a wife, mother, full-time student and teacher.
Orrand, who has taught introduction to Biological Anthropology, is also a graduate research assistant in the department’s Bioarcheology Lab. She received the 2020 Graduate Teaching Assistant Pedagogy Award, which goes to the graduate student who exhibits exceptional work in the classroom and a dedication to improving his or her craft.
“I’ve been so fortunate to come into contact with some amazing students,” she said. “I want to continue to mentor them and give them advice because it’s important to me to give back what I received.”
Orrand said she is looking for a job teaching human osteology and plans to apply to PhD programs to continue her studies.
“Grad school was for me and it was something I wanted to prove to myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” Orrand said.
“Sometimes things can feel overwhelming, but you can do it. I’m excited and looking forward to the next step.”
— Story by Horace Holloman. Video by Melanie Fan. Photo courtesy of Macie Orrand.