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Utah State University Carnegie Professors


2001 - David F. Lancy


David F. Lancy teaches a number of anthropology classes, including ethnography of childhood, the origins of writing and literacy and archaeology of ancient civilization. He also teaches civilization/humanities, one of the general education core classes at Utah State. But even Lancy's "routine" classes are anything but routine.

David F. Lancy

In the Honors section of his civilization/humanities class, an assignment features students working in groups to create short, humorous plays that capture the essential aspects of family life in an early civilization such as China or Rome. The students then perform the plays for the class at a dinner theater.

Lancy offers a distance education version of the class, offered every semester, that is 100 percent on line. He has team-taught another section of the class at a local high school. The class is replete with materials that Lancy and his team have produced, including a textbook/mystery novel/adventure game on CD-ROM. Each of his recorded lectures is illustrated with dozens of slides he's taken at archaeological sites around the globe.

One of his nomination letters said he is an outstanding teacher for the same reasons he is an outstanding researcher: he has immense curiosity about everything and "he brings the same intensity and rigor of inquiry to his classes that he brings to his research."

Lancy, who now serves as director of the Honors Program, said he continually re-invents his teaching model to take advantage of new technology, new techniques and new material. "Teaching is an intellectual challenge. It is a complex process that can be improved and improved and improved."

"I always try to challenge complacency in my students; I do not want them to think 'standard' is OK, so I certainly don't want to ever be complacent or feel 'standard' myself," he said.

"If I had been handed a book on day one of teaching that outlined the perfect teaching method - the bible of teaching - that would have been nice," he added. "But I probably would have been changing it by day two. It is this discovery process that keeps teaching interesting, for both my students and me. I think I continue to enjoy teaching because it allows me to reinvent myself."

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