By Samantha Gifford, Staff Writer
From humble beginnings in Akron, Ohio to the Republic of Macedonia, and from Brazil to the foothills of Maine, Dr. Gaelyn Aguilar has explored more places than one could imagine. As an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), Dr. Aguilar shares her cultural expertise with the UMF community. Once an educator at the University of Akron and Goddard University, Dr. Aguilar recently joined the UMF faculty in the fall of 2010. Most recently living in Akron, Ohio, she has also lived and worked in South Korea, Macedonia, California, and Mexico. Aguilar has also traveled to Brazil, Poland, France, India, Canada, and many other countries. She also claims to have visited “All of the states on the lower 48.”
Upon entering Dr. Aguilar’s dimly lit office in the Roberts Learning Center, I was politely greeted and offered an orange, or perhaps a clementine? As she sat down and began to peel her citrus fruit, the room filled with a mouthwatering aroma, and the conversation began.
With her legs crossed, Dr. Aguilar looked prepared to answer any question thrown her way. After learning of her previous life experiences, the conversation turned to her current position at UMF. It is clear that she has a passion for what she does. When asked what she enjoys most about her job, she sighed, looking introspective, and replied, “I’ve carried with me this idea since I started teaching at the college level in 2007 that…education is an act of some kind of hope or some sort of gesture toward social justice. So what I like most about my job is being in a position where I can be involved in the process of education for critical consciousness.”
Shelves full of books and DVD’s fill Dr. Aguilar’s office along with pictures which are pinned to a bulletin board beside what appears to be an organized desk. In response to what she likes most about her job, she jokingly said, “You thought it was the office right? Like, I love my job because of my office.”
“I teach Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Culture of Capitalism, I taught Ethnography this past spring, I teach Performance Culture Meaning and Society, I teach Food and Culture, I teach a Visualizing Culture through Film, I teach Popular Culture and Mass Media, I’ve taught a special topics course on borderlands,” and next semester Dr. Aguilar said “co-teaching along with three other faculty a course on rethinking Paul Bunyan”.
Shane Cushing, a Junior studying Psychology at UMF is a student in Dr. Aguilar’s Popular Culture and Mass Media course. Cushing, reflected on his semester with Dr. Aguilar when he stated, “I would say [having class with Dr. Aguilar] was a great experience. Gaelyn definitely enhances the classroom experience by encouraging participation and collaboration.” Cushing continued stating that Dr. Aguilar is, “Brilliant, but very modest,” and that, he claims, makes her a “wonderful educator.” He also expressed that he would enjoy taking another course with her before he graduates.
Students aren’t the only ones singing the praises of Dr. Aguilar
. “It is great having Gaelyn as a colleague. Both being rather new to UMF we have had to work together closely on revamping and assessing the program and I feel like we work very well together working through issues and solving any problems that arise” said Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Nicole Kellett, a colleague of Dr. Aguilar’s.
“I would describe Gaelyn’s personality as calming, mysterious and when provoked (perhaps self-provoked) goofy,” said Kellett. Cushing also commented on her personality, saying that Dr Aguilar is, “A little quirky, but in the best way.”
On what Dr. Aguilar brings to the Anthropology Department, Dr. Kellett pointed to Dr. Aguilar’s “experience with performativity, sensorial ethnography, and film making ability.” She also claimed that Dr. Aguilar has built bridges between the Anthropology department and many other departments across campus. Kellett concluded with, “From what I hear from students she is able to guide them in diving deeply into subjects altering their entire conceptions of reality, which is I think what all professors strive to do and Gaelyn does it!”