PASSAGE USA Student Interns with USA Archaeology Museum and GulfQuest
Posted on January 5, 2024 by Acacia Stanley
Ian Lundy came to the University of South Alabama from Elberta, Alabama, in fall 2022 with a passion for learning archaeology.
PASSAGE USA, which stands for Preparing All Students Socially and Academically for Gainful Employment, is a postsecondary, non-degree, certificate program offered by the University that aids students with disabilities in their transition from education to the professional world. As a student in the program, Lundy is gaining invaluable life and employment skills.
Lundy has worked at the University’s Archaeology Museum, served as president of the Flint Knapping Club, assisted with exhibits at the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum and presented at a national conference in October 2023 hosted by ThinkCollege called State of the Art Conference on Inclusive Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disability.
At the Archaeology Museum, Lundy is in his element. He casually pulls out different flint rock samples that he’s created for flint knapping demonstrations. Museum visitors enjoy Lundy’s enthusiasm as he explains how he made them.
“The process of flint knapping starts with finding the right kind of rock,” Lundy said. “The best kinds are obsidian, chert or agate. They are really good, and the most common types that we use are solidified sandstone or anything that is waxy, smooth and hard-like glass. What I do is take a river rock that's round, thick, and hard, and I find a good edge to break it to a point that it’s a flake, which is what you want to use. Then you keep breaking it with a hammer, which can be made with bone or antler, until it becomes the shape that you want.”
It hasn’t always been this easy for Ian. When he first came to South, there was a lot to learn, and he had to get used to being away from home. Despite the challenges of being a new student with disabilities, Lundy quickly found a friend — Jen Knutson, who serves as the assistant director of the Archaeology Museum.
“The Archaeology Museum benefits from hosting PASSAGE USA interns every semester as they provide new ways of making the museum a space for everyone,” Knutson said. “To have the opportunity to mentor Ian and see him mature into a self-reliant, confident adult who can work with the public in a museum setting has been pure joy. The PASSAGE USA program is vital and life changing for all of South's community, not only because of what the students learn from us, but because they enrich all of our lives with new ideas and ways of seeing too.”
Lundy also started an internship at the GulfQuest Museum in downtown Mobile, where he assists with the development of exhibits. Most recently, he helped put together the exhibit known as “Science on the Sphere” by creating a presentation on Earth maps with information from 300 million years ago to today.
All of Lundy’s work at GulfQuest is done under the direction of Stewart Hood, who serves as the senior preparator for the museum.
“Ian is a bright young man whose passion for knowledge and understanding has been a complement to our museum,” Hood said. “He has excelled in his tasks for the daily operations of the facility, and has been a benefit to both the exhibits and education teams.”
During his time between the two jobs and school, Lundy was able to attend and give a talk over Zoom for the ThinkCollege conference. His presentation covered skills to help individuals live independently in college; tips on how to stay focused, happy, healthy; and what to do if you get lonely.
“Ian was very confident the entire time that he was giving his presentation,” said Dannielle Miller, who is one of Lundy’s teachers in PASSAGE USA. “He prepared for about a week, and we were very proud that he had the opportunity to speak about his experiences in college.”
PASSAGE USA students learn skills necessary for transitioning into independent life after college, and the program aims to also help parents, especially those with students focused on transitioning from school to adulthood and independent living.
“We have witnessed Ian’s personal growth and professional communication skills expand since he came to South,” said Michael and Charity Hudson, Lundy’s parents. “He has met all the challenges of college life with determination, focus and skills fostered by the wonderful and amazingly supportive PASSAGE USA program teachers and staff. We are so thankful for the diverse employment opportunities and public speaking invitations that he has been presented with during his time at South, and we are so very very proud of Ian’s success and his accomplishments.”
Part of the program's curriculum is a dedicated employment class, which focuses on not only getting but also keeping a job. Students work several hours a week to develop work-based skills. Upon graduation, students are more confident in finding their own employment and working in successful careers.
After leaving South, Lundy hopes to continue working at a museum, and even possibly, GulfQuest.
“I love that I found a job in my personal area of interest, which is learning and teaching about the past,” Lundy said. “Through my internship at the USA Archaeology Museum, I enjoyed leading flint knapping, and not only demonstrating, but teaching students about this art of ancient tool making. Without PASSAGE USA, I would not be working in the field I love and learning to live as independently as I possibly can.”