Shari Jacobson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Early in my career, I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I taught math in a math-physics school in Zaire and taught English in China. I also studied in Paris and traveled around Africa. What attracted me to anthropology wasn’t so much my experience living in different cultures, but rather the critical approach anthropologists take to understanding culture.
Similarly, critical thinking is often what draws Susquehanna students to anthropology. They like to question things they see around them and think about whether that is really the only way it can be.
My students read mostly primary texts. It’s important for them to come to terms with what authors argue, to identify the assumptions embedded in the arguments they want to question.
In my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course, students conduct primary research and write their own ethnographies. They also read ethnographies of people from around the world. Through comparative analysis they become familiar with the nuts and bolts of how people in different cultures live. Students also learn to appreciate why. Becoming a citizen of the world means not just recognizing difference but understanding it. For example, some people eat dogs and others eat cows. The question is why a dog looks like food to “them” but a best friend to “us.”
Students learn to rid themselves of their assumptions and recognize that nobody has a monopoly on the good life. We send our graduates out with the ability to think critically. They also develop a firm appreciation of what human diversity is.
Through Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities (GO) program, students are experiencing different cultures firsthand. I led a trip to Macau where students took classes at the University of Macau, were hosted in Chinese homes, and made really good Chinese friends. The experiential learning and networking that have begun through the GO program will benefit students for years to come.
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