Friday, February 22, 2008

Just an Anthropologist

Gordon RakitaGordon Rakita
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Hello! My name is Gordon Rakita. I’m an Assistant Professor of Anthropology here at UNF. While I like to think of myself as a scientist like Adam, as an Anthropologists, I’m also aware of multiple ways of understanding a given phenomena. As I tell my students, one of the wonderful things about the discipline of Anthropology is that we can use a range of epistemological standards including the sciences (both the ahistorical and historical ones), social sciences, and the humanities. Anthropologists study human culture and biology in all its global diversity. That seems like a pretty tall order, and it is. I joke with colleagues that Anthropology is the real central discipline in the College of Arts and Sciences and that all other disciplines are just derivative. (We know this isn’t true, but it does make us feel good.)

I was trained as an Anthropologist. I spent nearly a dozen years as an undergraduate and graduate student learning the empirical, methodological, and theoretical aspects of the discipline. But in all that time, not once did I take a course in education. I was never encouraged to consider what being an academic at a primarily teaching institution would be like. I wasn’t encouraged to do anything to prepare myself for teaching courses. Sure I taught some courses as a graduate student; but in my program these opportunities amounted to being thrown to the wolves.

So when I first came to UNF, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the best ways to teach. Luckily, UNF has a wonderful venue for faculty to explore this aspect of their careers…the Office of Faculty Enhancement. (The OFE does much more than just help faculty with teaching, but we’ll save that for another post.) In the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with the OFE in a variety of ways; as a faculty seeking advice and consultation on teaching and learning, as an OFE Faculty Fellow, receiving a Transformational Learning grant, presenting and participating in OFE workshops, and most recently as the chair of the Faculty Enhancement Committee.

Through my involvement in OFE, I’ve learned a small bit about good teaching practices. But I really feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. And I’m still struggling a great deal with my role as both a scholar and a teacher. Here at UNF, faculty are expected to be excellent in both endeavors. This is a tall order. But I believe there is the potential for synergy between the two. That good teaching can enhance your research and top quality research can positively impact your teaching.

Anyway, I very much look forward to reading the posts of the other bloggers and your comments on our posts.



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