Jay Fancher, PhD found the meaning of life in teaching. When he found he could share his love for cultural anthropology, diversity and archaeology to students, his passion grew even stronger.
Fancher’s journey started with ten years in graduate school, tackling a research analysis and ultimately, a grueling 593 page analysis. Not only does he pull out an overhead projector and encourage students to speak up, but he also shares his passion through interactive experiences like bringing in the skulls of animals to observe and crickets for his students to eat. Fancher takes time to make sure his students get a full perspective on life in varying cultures, and what better way than letting them be interactive and a part of what is going on around them.
Fancher uses resources like TED Talks, NOVA and National Geographic documentaries to host class discussions. Hearing the opinions and ideas of others is part of what Fancher values about his job. Fancher inspires students to host an open mind, sparking curiousity of exploring cultures.
One of Fancher’s most resonating experiences came from his time spent in the Central African Republic. As part of his doctoral field research, he spent time with the Aka and Bofi forest foragers (historically known as Pygmies). They are a traditional hunter-gatherer society who hunt, butcher, and share rainforest species to eat. While lately they are starting to take up the practice of planting small seasonal crops, most of their crops come from trade with neighboring villages. The Aka trade and associate with 15 different tribes. The Aka people consist of about 30,000 individuals and relationships are valuable. It is often the husband helping out a wife with caring for infants.
Fancher was challenged by the Aka lifestyle that includes walking five to twenty kilometers a day in a hot, humid climate. Aka tribe members barely sweat but Fancher was drenched. The Akas were also more agile and Fancher more clumsy. Fancher reports that the Akas were very kind and welcoming hosts. Fancher loves teaching his students about the Aka culture since he had the privilege to experience it himself for months.
Fancher grabs student’s attention with exciting stories about snakes, parasites, diseases and insects, before launching into a lecture. “We are fundamentally similar, only the specific cultural expressions differ,” Fancher says. This is the foundation of what Fancher teaches in his classroom.
Fancher educates students about other cultures while teaching similarities. He also shares how weird our customs are from other perspectives. Fancher uses a variety of methods to blend cultures and broadly influence people to be more accepting. “My hope is if students can relate to distant peoples of the world, they will be better able to embrace the diversity within our own society,” he said, adding that making people more relatable to each other creates a more harmonious environment outside of the classroom.
Fancher credits Carl Sagan as a key influencer in science. Fancher says Sagan inspired him to become a teacher. Over the years, Fancher has also met other noteable people including Lewis Binford, Jane Goodall, and Jared Diamond. Fancher says each of these people shaped him personally and as an professor.
Ultimately, if you want to learn about other cultures, archaeology, diversity, acceptance, racism and what is going on in the world around you, sign up for Jay Fancher’s Cultural Anthropology course or Archaeology course taught throughout the year at Clark College.