Leon Natker, who graduated with a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Eastern New Mexico University in 2017, is the executive director of Mesa Historical Museum.
The museum, located in Mesa, Arizona, is dedicated to exploring and preserving regional heritage. Leon's role includes being responsible for the planning and implementation of "everything [at the museum]. I supervise the staff, plan exhibits, marketing and fundraising. I am the public face of the museum."
His favorite part of the position is "interfacing with new people from many diverse backgrounds."
Leon recently gave a presentation with Ramson Lomatewama, a Hopi poet, at an Albuquerque Archaeological Society meeting in the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. The presentation focused on the origins of Katsinam culture.
"This is research that grew out my work at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology on the Katsina Doll collection," shares Leon, who organized the recent consultation with Hopi ritual practitioners to re-catalog the entire Dorothy Maxwell collection of Katsina tihu.
The Greyhound Grad is currently researching Cibola Whitewares, particularly Chupadero Black on white, to "characterize communities of practice. In other words, how people learn from each other."
During his time at ENMU, Leon worked as a graduate assistant at the Blackwater Draw Museum and was active in Mu Alpha Nu, the anthropology club.
"I received excellent instruction [at ENMU] in many aspects of archaeology and anthropology while acquiring a firm background in research, a very essential tool in all aspects of museum work," he explains. "The faculty is excellent and was very helpful in guiding me towards finishing my degree."
Leon advises students interested in his field of work to "be very determined, and be willing to read hundreds of pages of previous research. You also need to be patient. Research takes time and sometimes can be very frustrating."
Leon was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and has lived in many places around the country and in Europe. He received his bachelor's degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago, and a master's degree in museum studies with distinction from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
He chose to pursue a career in anthropology due to a lifelong interest in the field and visits to many archaeological sites around the world.
Before serving as the executive director of Mesa Historical Museum, Leon was the executive director of Lyric Opera San Diego and an archaeological technician for TRC Solutions in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
His career goal is to lead a museum that focuses on research in the southwest.
He has received several awards, including first place at ENMU's 42nd Annual Student Research Conference, the Steven Durand Scholarship in Anthropology, the Donald and Darlene Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Theater and Special Commendation from the San Diego City Council and the State of California Senate.