Meet Melissa Ludke: Classical Archeologist

Melissa Ludke is a second-year Ph.D. student here at FSU. She has taught (and still teaches) several different classics courses, including Debates About the Past: Greek Civilization which I took the Spring semester of 2017. In her class, I learned much more than just how to present an argument. I learned what it is like to learn from someone who is completely filled with fervor and inspiration for her specialization. The passion-filled stories of her experience at the Smithsonian and on archeological digs abroad inspired me to find mine, making her the perfect topic for my first profile for Her Campus!

Name: Melissa Ludke

Year: Second Year Ph.D. student

Degree: Classics with a specialization in Classical Archeology. Specifically, Etruscan and Roman Archeology

Hometown: Novi, Michigan

Melissa’s love for history and archeology started as early as childhood. When she was a kid she developed an interest in dinosaurs, and through this interest, she discovered that although biology wasn’t her thing, the history and archeological side of learning about our extinct friends was definitely her niche.

During her freshman year of college, Melissa experienced first-hand what it would be like to participate in an actual archeological dig. She was so dedicated to this experience that she spent her summer driving two hours (starting at five A.M.) every Friday morning to participate in a volunteer opportunity presented to her by her Intro to Archeology professor.

This led her to search abroad (through the Archeological Institute of America) for a classical archeological dig, which she found in Poggio Civitate in Italy. Melissa participated in this dig for six years, and it has been her “most memorable” one because it is where she made the friends that became her “excavation family”.

Currently, she participates in a dig in Rome called Cosa as a staff member. “The goal of our project is to find the extent of the bath complex, understand how it fits into the Cosa narrative, explore the building in this area during the Hadrianic period, which is a time previously thought to have been past when Cosa was still very active, and, with recent evidence coming to light, understanding much later reuse of the bath complex’s structure and materials.”

She decided to continue her studies through the Post-Baccalaureate program at Georgetown University in DC to improve her Greek and Latin. This decision enabled her to land an internship at the Smithsonian. “Funny story, a friend from my undergrad program(s), who became pretty close our senior year, had been pursuing an MA (Master of Arts) in Museum Studies at George Washington University and when I told her I was looking into Georgetown, she told me she was also interning at the Smithsonian and could get me an intern position there too. Pretty much in the same day, she had me on a conference call with her supervisor who said if I came to D.C. I would have an internship in the Numismatics department (NNC-National Numismatic Collection) at the National Museum of American History. Although I knew nothing about numismatics, I was excited to intern at the Smithsonian.”

After working as an intern, she was hired for a project in the department under Picturae, a contracted digitization company. “We ended up winning the prestigious Secretary’s Award for Digital Archeology and NMAH’s internal Peer Award for Risk-Taking for the project, which I have a certificate for.” She got to experience creating an entire exhibit (which opened in 2015), as well as writing the script for one of the drawers on the Juno Moneta coin. “I loved this experience and it reaffirmed my passion to one day be either a Collections Manager, Head Curator, or Curator of a specialized area, such as Classical studies.”

Melissa’s ultimate career goal is to be a curator at a predominantly Classical Archeological section of an institution, and with her colleagues’ assurance, she has a place at the Smithsonian when she is ready. This type of commitment from such an institution further proves that her dedication, perseverance, and passion, have all paid off (and will continue to do so), as she shapes herself into an exceptional Classical Archeologist.

These experiences and opportunities contribute to not only her skills as a student of Classical Archeology, but also to her ability to go above and beyond in the classroom, inspire her students, and encourage them to pursue their dreams and passions. She teaches with such passion and understanding, that you can’t help but want to learn from her. Melissa is one of those people who inspire without necessarily knowing that she is an inspiration.