Moving on: Phyllis Passariello

Posted by Centre News in Anthro/Soc, News 15 Jun 2017

PhyllisThe faculty are the core of Centre College. Of all the College’s constituencies, they are the ones who are here the longest. It is they who nurture the culture of the place—the sense of common purpose, the collegiality and the passion and energy—and that they share so enthusiastically with their students. This spring, seven of our most venerable professors retired. Before moving on to new adventures, they took time to answer a few questions for our summer issue of Centrepiece.

Through serendipity and simple good luck (karma?), I stumbled upon the path that I was meant to follow to best use my gifts. As a child, I used to bury fake artifacts to dig up later. I also thought anthropology was about ancient Egypt—before I realized anthropology is about everything! Nearly every Halloween, I dressed up as a “gypsy.” Later, I used to sneak into the stacks of the Yale University library when I was 15 and 16 and sit on the floor reading giant Victorian tomes such as The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society.

In 1988, while living in the woods in Maine, I read the ad for the job at Centre to start the anthropology/sociology program. I knew it was meant for me.

My favorite class to teach is introductory cultural anthropology, a gateway class that often amazes students. Having the opportunity to lead senior seminar in the spring semester for graduating seniors has been meaningful to me, and, I hope, inspiring to them to see the relevance of their major to the rest of their lives. (Several of my students and I will always remember their senior seminar and the firewalking episode.)

I hope students take away from my classes honesty, open-mindedness, and an awareness of our own ethnocentricism.

What’s next? More of everything I usually do except for classroom teaching and bureaucratic make-work. I am continuing to write my memoirs, with the working title Too Much Meaning. My daily goal and challenge remains: Always be mindful and kind.

by Phyllis Passariello

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