Michael Stuckart

Dr. Michael Stuckart
Director, Human Relations Program, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Ph. D. Anthropology University of Pittsburgh
M.S. Education Temple University
A.B. History Franklin and Marshall College

After growing up on Long Island and starting his teaching career in a two-room school house in Lancaster County, PA, he joined Pitt-Bradford’s faculty in 1977.  He is also a core faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh’s, internationally renowned Center for Latin American Studies.  Over the years he has advised over 500 students, as well as Pitt-Bradford’s Anthropology Club, the International Club, the Minority Student Union, Phi Kappa Epsilon, and Pitt-Bradford’s baseball team.  Off campus, he works with the Seneca Nation of Indians in nearby Salamanca, New York.

He lived for almost two years in Colombia while conducting research on a traditional craft, and has traveled in Japan and China.  Since then he has turned his attention toward Ecuador, where he works with the Otavalo people, an indigenous group in the country’s Andean highlands.

Outside of school, he enjoys a variety of activities, most notable sailing.  He has sailed across the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean.  Most summers, he cruises the Great Lakes in his sailboat, a C&C 34+.

Dr. Stuckart is currently in Ecuador and you can follow his journey through his blog.

Why or how did you come to teach at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford?

I came here because I earned my Ph.D. in anthropology from Pitt, and knew what an outstanding reputation the University has internationally.

What do you think the purpose or benefit of a higher education is?

Most people think about a job right after graduation, but that’s only the beginning.  That’s the difference between a “degree” and an “education”.  An education empowers people, and enables them to adapt to whatever situation they find themselves in for the rest of their lives.  It enables them to work in different fields and in different places.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of working on a small campus?

The most obvious benefit of working (we ALL work on a small campus – students, faculty, staff) on a small campus is the opportunity to know the people with whom we work.  I know all of my students by name, and much more about my advisees.  That enables me to personalize the advice that I give to each and every one of them.

What are the benefits, in your opinion, for students studying on a small campus setting rather than on a large/urban campus setting?

It’s the same.  Regardless of one’s ability, it’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond.  The opportunities here are limitless.  Every student can go as far as she or he wants.

How would you describe your approach to teaching?

Interactive!  I would describe my classes as a running dialogue between my students and me.  I challenge, I push; we laugh.  We learn how to apply what we have learned in the past (in class and out) to what we need to do in the present.  Thinking creatively and logically; and communicating clearly and effectively are what we are after.

What do you think students like best about your classes?

The level of engagement!  The humor too.  Because Anthropologists have focused mostly on other societies, what we talk about in class is liberating.  We question why we have to do what we do in the United States.  A lot of students later tell me that they learn more in my classes than in most other classes.

With a word or two, how do you think a student would most likely describe you as a professor?

Challenging!  Hard!  Worth it!

Within your field of teaching and research; what specific directions do you tend to channel your energy and why?

Art and Latin America.  For over 30 years, I’ve studied the arts of the World.  More than aesthetics, the arts are a reflection of the societies and cultures of which they are a part.  In that sense, they are an entrée into the politics, economics, social structure and religion of a society.  And they reflect the changes that societies go through.  We can see all that through art.  Although I’ve been to China and Japan, I’ve specialized in Latin America.  I lived in Colombia for almost two years and will be making my third extended trip to study in Ecuador soon.  Latin America is critically important to us now.

How would you say your field of teaching is incorporated into your life outside of the university and vice-versa?

I don’t think that it’s possible to compartmentalize knowledge.  Even if it were, what would be the point of not taking everything that we know in or out of the University to help us in the other?

What is an interest or hobby of yours that is an extension of the teachings of your academic field?

Well, the most obvious example of my interest in anthropology, believe it or not, is sailing.  I love to sail.  Sailboats are dynamic sculptures that conform to evolving aesthetic, technological, and social systems.  A boat can transport to other places with other cultures.  Wow.

What is an interest or hobby of yours that really doesn’t have anything to do with the teachings of your academic field?

Nothing!  Everything that we do is cultural.

How might you respond to a student who enjoys the subject matter of your classes but isn’t necessarily strong in that field of study?

Not everyone is brilliant in everything.  Grades are only one criterion of success in college.  I’ve had lots of students over the years who have not earned an A or a B, and yet been really satisfied with what they have learned about themselves and other people.  Grades don’t always measure how much we have learned.

What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching at Pitt-Bradford?

The success of students!! Regardless of their intellectual ability, when students come to us as freshmen, they’re green.  They usually don’t know a whole about a lot of things, and they don’t have the intellectual skills to perform at a really high level.  When they graduate in four years, the change is amazing.  Enabling them to make that change and to become really successful is the real payoff of being a university professor.

Are you currently working on any research, publication, or project?  What does it consist of?

As a matter of fact, I just received a grant to take two of our students to Ecuador for part of the summer to help me conduct research on a group of indigenous people who are world famous as textile weavers.  We will be studying the socio-economic organization of their craft.

Do you blog?

Since I expect to be spending a lot of time on a computer while I am in Ecuador, I have been persuaded to become a blogger.  If you're interested, you can read more about my trip in my blog.

What are you a "natural" at doing?

I don’t think anything is natural, but I’m pretty good at driving a sailboat (You have to do it to realize how unnatural it is).

What's something you should throw away but can't?

I have a hard time throwing away things that might eventually become useful.  Hey, you never know!

What kind of movies do you most enjoy?

I like historically-based movies, adventure movies, and good mysteries.  I’m not much on musicals and chainsaw massacre flicks.  Did I mention sailing movies?

What kind of music do you most enjoy?

All kinds.  Not necessarily in order of preference: classical, jazz, R&B, ethnic.  Never did like the Beatles much, and will quickly tune out heavy metal.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book?

I’m currently reading Halsey’s Typhoon. It about a costly decision that Admiral Halsey made toward the end of WW II that cost 800 sailors their lives.  It’s not great literature.  Before that I read Huasipungo, about indigenous people in Ecuador.

What do you think about today’s pop music?

Honestly, I spend most of my time listening to National Public Radio because I’m more interested in its programming.  We have good stations around here (dare I say Penn State?) that carry news, interviews, classical, jazz and folk.

Who do you admire?

I admire people who have the principles and courage to stand up for what is right, even if it is unpopular or dangerous.  I have a lot of respect for people like Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I probably won’t do it, but I’d like to sail around the world.

As a former undergraduate student, was there a certain professor that stands out in mind as a favorite, someone who you really respected, or someone who really inspired you?

Charles Holzinger.  He was my anthropology instructor at Franklin and Marshall College.  I became a history major as an undergraduate.  But he’s the reason why I became an anthropologist.  And I earned a C in his class.  That’s why the grades don’t always matter.