How does SIUE support your professional growth or activity as a Teacher-Scholar?
"SIUE is distinctive for its encouragement of integration of teaching and research at an undergraduate level. SIUE provides many types of resources to support faculty-initiated efforts towards both enhancing teaching and research. These include financial grants, such as those offered through Excellence in Undergraduate Education (EUE), as well as informational resources, such as workshops on pedagogy and research funding. I have taken advantage of many of these resources. In particular, I have been fortunate to be involved with the Rainforest Project at SIUE, in which students participate in travel study courses at Carara National Park in Costa Rica. This project has received support through EUE grants, to help fund student participation as well as equipment and supplies for course activities, including instruction in wildlife observation and ecology. As a result, I have been able to explore research opportunities related to this unique rainforest environment, as well as teach students about primates--and have them develop their own research questions—based on real-life, first-hand experiences."
What is a unique aspect of your professional life that enhances your service to the academic or greater community?
"My research has provided me with numerous opportunities to travel outside the U.S.—in working on projects I have visited developing megacities, rural villages, and remote rainforests and deserts. Observing different environments and experiencing diverse cultures has fundamentally impacted my world view. Visiting other parts of the world, and the process of traveling itself, encourages openness and curiosity; it stimulates the development of new perspectives; and it rewards creativity, problem-solving, and a ‘roll with the punches’ attitude. These experiences influence what and how I teach, my research interests and approaches, and my ability to interact with diverse types of people—whether in other parts of the world or at SIUE."
How has one mentor or event shaped your career decision to become a university professor?
"As a senior undergraduate student in anthropology, I participated in a three-week field school on primate behavior and ecology located at a rainforest site in Costa Rica. This was my first trip outside of the U.S. that was not just a standard tourist jaunt, and the first time I had ever visited a rainforest. The trip was life-changing for me—seeing monkeys in a natural habitat, as well as all the other spectacular wildlife, and briefly being a part of Costa Rican culture. This was the event that convinced me that I wanted to spend my life researching primates and learning about rainforest environments. And, ultimately, I think being a university professor is about the desire to spend one’s life engaged in learning, and sharing that love of learning and knowledge gained, with others."