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Spotlight on Alumni: Unearthing a career and a calling

Nov. 27, 2019 -- While still a student at Marcellus High School, Jordi Naczi wasn’t particularly interested in going to college.

But her mother, Driver Middle School science teacher Hannah Naczi, had other ideas.
graphic image of a spotlight

“My mom forced me to,” Jordi said.

“How about ‘encouraged’?” Mrs. Naczi said with a chuckle.

Regardless of the verb, the result was the same. The 2013 alumna found not only a lifelong passion at SUNY Cortland, but also the key to unlocking a puzzle.

While Jordi major-hopped her way through the sciences at Cortland – sociology, biology, anthropology – one of her professors noticed a discrepancy between her understanding of the topic and her test grades. In her sophomore year, they were able to identify the problem as a form of dyslexia and address it.

In retrospect, Jordi believes the undiagnosed condition likely explains her lack of enthusiasm for academics in high school. Although she probably unknowingly compensated, the extra effort was taxing and made school all work and no fun. But she made up for lost time in college, especially after she heard about the archaeology department.

“I ended up finding what I loved at Cortland, which was lucky,” Jordi said.

Archaeology combined her interest in science with a desire to learn about different cultures. As an undergrad, she participated in the excavation of a friary in Ireland, at Trim Castle in County Meath, where scenes from the movie “Braveheart” were filmed.

She went on to pursue a master’s degree in funerary archeology – which combines the analysis of human remains and the graves where they’re discovered – at York University in England. At York, Jordi worked with professors focused on preserving sites in Turkey and Syria. She also took part in a Paleolithic dig in Alaska that turned up mammoth ivory and stone tools. For her thesis, she completed an analysis of adornments found at gravesites. She also forged lasting friendships with students from around the world. 

She returned to Marcellus in September and will receive her degree in January. In October, she visited DMS to give a presentation on fossils to eighth-grade science classes, including her mom’s.

While still adjusting to life back in the states, Jordi said she’s already looking ahead by trying to find a federal research job that will allow her to “get back out there and get dirty.”

photo of woman standing at front of classroom
Jordi Naczi delivers a presentation on archeaology and fossils to one of her mother's
eighth-grade science classes.
photo of a woman standing in front of classroom giving presentation

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