Melinda Nelson-Hurst’s research focus lies in the social history and archaeology of ancient Egypt, especially during the Middle Kingdom. At SoPA, Dr. Nelson-Hurst offers courses on the language and writing, religion, history, and archaeology of ancient Egypt. In addition, she leads research seminars in the Honors Program of Newcomb-Tulane College.
Dr. Nelson-Hurst received her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, with a specialization in Egyptology, from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests are in the social history and archaeology of ancient Egypt, especially during the Middle Kingdom. In particular, Dr. Nelson-Hurst's research has focused on families and their influence within the state administration, office acquisition, inheritance, and family members' obligations to deceased relatives.
Since starting a new research project on the Egyptian Collection at Tulane University, her interests have expanded into the areas of Theban burials of the Third Intermediate Period and the modern history of Anthropology, Egyptology, and Egyptian collections. She has published articles and presented papers at international conferences on the above topics of interest and is currently researching the administrative and economic roles of women in elite households during the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
“You can do anything you want, but not everything you want.” In other words, you need to prioritize what is truly most important to you and go deep on those very few things - if you try to do everything, you will end up hopping from one thing to another and not making progress in any one of them. This was a hard lesson for me to learn (and I’m still working on it!), but it has made a real impact in my life.
What's the first career you dreamed of having as a child?
Egyptologist! On the surface, this does not give you much new information about me, but the bigger story is this: even though I had a strong interest in Egyptology since about the age of four and wanted to be an Egyptologist as far back as I can remember, I did not get there on a straight path. For example, I did not go to college immediately after high school. Instead, I worked full-time and started my college journey by taking courses at night.
I realized through exposure to a variety of courses that I found most things interesting (see the advice above about doing anything!) and considered going in a completely different direction than I originally planned – I thought about becoming an administrator or an accountant (I do love details). However, once I found my way into courses on ancient languages and cultures, my path changed again. I returned to my childhood plan because I realized that, although I find a lot of things interesting and worthy of a career, nothing else inspires as much passion and dedication in me as the study of ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures.
What advice would you give to someone who's considering finishing their degree, or starting for the first time as an adult?
Explore, discover what you find fulfilling, and find the guidance to help you on your path. Fulfillment comes in many different packages for different people. It might come through becoming a master at something, by helping others through your work or volunteering, by working on something that you are passionate about, through supporting yourself and your family, or through something else entirely. You might even find something that has all of these facets.