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May 12, 2020

Dr. Theresa Vaughan with students and familyTheresa Vaughan is the assistant dean and a professor of humanities in the UCO College of Liberal Arts.

Where are you from?

I was born in Detroit, MI. My grandparents were immigrants from Ireland who came to work in the auto factories. About half of my male relatives and a few female relatives over the years have worked for the auto industry in jobs ranging from workers on the line to draftsmen and engineers, as well as in financing and office management. I spent most of my school years living in nearby Ann Arbor.

Describe yourself in three words

Caring, Loyal, Introverted (and occasionally grumpy)

What are some of the responsibilities you’ll be taking on as Assistant Dean?

I will be assisting departments with their SSCIs and coordinating online course applications for the college. In addition, I am very fortunate to be working with Jerod Kersey, the college grant writer, and we hope to increase the number of grant applications coming from Liberal Arts faculty. I have some other duties, and I enjoy being of assistance so I am happy to help in any capacity I can.

Name one of your proudest achievements – personal or professional.

I have had a variety of achievements I am proud of—I have been very lucky in my personal life and career. My proudest achievement, however, is to have made a lasting impact on the lives of some of my students. After 20 years at UCO, there are quite a few with whom I keep in touch on a regular basis, and I feel privileged that they have wanted me to continue to be part of their lives. I’m proud of that, and it is also my most satisfying achievement.

As an expert on Folklore and Anthropology, how do you think learning about past civilizations is relevant to students today?

My interest in folklore and anthropology dates from my childhood—I spent most of my school years in Ann Arbor, MI. It’s a university town with a high population of international students, especially in graduate programs. I lived near married student housing for the University of Michigan, and so I went to school with children from all over the world. I was exposed to different cultures, languages, cuisines, and religions and I loved it. I learned to eat with chopsticks at the age of seven because it was either that or not eat at the homes of friends from China or Korea. I am fortunate because both of my fields of expertise cover contemporary and past cultures. By learning something about other cultures and their creative expressions, you hopefully become aware that there are many ways of being in the world, and all of them make sense. This is true whether you learn about current or past cultures.

Being curious about other ways of life expands your view of humanity, and allows you to be open to others, rather than fearful of what is different.

What’s your favorite thing about the College of Liberal Arts?

I have been a CLA faculty member for the past 20 years. I have always been impressed by the quality and diversity of students and the collegiality of the faculty. For me, the most important thing about my work environment is the people. Yes, I enjoy the subject I teach, the process of teaching, research, and the various service work I have done over the years. That work is satisfying. What makes it a great place to work, however, are the people I come in contact with every day. I have benefitted from the generosity, kindness, and expertise of my colleagues from both staff and faculty (special shout-out to my colleagues in the Department of Humanities and Philosophy), and have made connections with many students which continue to this day. Our college is exceptional in this regard.