Faculty Spotlight: Alexander Bolyanatz
Alex Bolyanatz had never heard of anthropology until he took a class in cultural anthropology during his freshman year in college.
"After a few class sessions, I thought, 'So people actually think about these things and do this kind of work for a living? Cool!' Although I never expected to become an anthropologist, I figured it would be an interesting major," he said. "I found that I could never really get away from doing something related to anthropology."
Bolyanatz first worked as a consultant for a mission/research organization. But then he turned to education and has taught at the University of California-San Diego, Wheaton College and Benedictine University before coming to College of DuPage in 2004.
His research has also taken him to New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, where he has studied the Sursurunga people for more than 20 years.
"Life is hard there, but they still use a remarkable combination of ingenuity, faith, emotional resilience and commitment to others to flourish," he said. "Rarely does a day go by when I'm in the United States that I don't think, 'I wonder what the folks on New Ireland would make of this?' That helps me keep things in perspective."
It's this type of experience that Bolyanatz shares to his anthropology students.
"I joke with friends that teaching is the best job in the world because they pay you to do what you would do anyway: think about and talk about things that are really interesting to you," he said. "While there is certainly a grain of truth to that, my interest in teaching goes beyond that. It may sound corny, but I really like students.
"When I step back and reflect, it is profoundly satisfying to have a sense that I am putting more into the lives of students than I am taking away. If students have a better grasp of why they do what they do, and of why others do what they do, then I am satisfied in terms of what students take away from my classes."