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Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Robert J. Mucci

Herman Frederic Lieber Memorial Award -- Founders Day 2007

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Indiana University Northwest
Appointed to IU Faculty, 1990
B.A., University of Illinois at Chicago, 1973
M.A., University of Illinois at Chicago, 1982
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine, 1993

Anthropology professor Bob Mucci isn't above a little monkey business in the classroom.

In fact, he'll do whatever it takes to bring a concept home for his students. When explaining the anatomical differences between monkeys of the New World and the Old, Mucci has been known to squat in various postures on his desk and even stick pencils up his nostrils to demonstrate the nasal differences.

Teaching isn't just a career for Mucci—it is vital to his very survival. "Classroom teaching is my great love; I consider it my personal antidote to the inevitability of death," says Mucci, a virtual encyclopedia of anthropological knowledge. This man, who usually lectures without notes, teaches courses in all four fields of anthropology: biological (including primatology), cultural, linguistic, and archaeological.

As anthropology program coordinator, Mucci built the program into what it is today—a thriving four-year curriculum from which students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology with a concentration in anthropology. When he first began teaching as an adjunct instructor in 1982, there were just two anthropology courses offered and no minors or degrees. Today, students can choose from a catalog of more than 30 courses, and Mucci has personally taught 20 of those.

"Professor Mucci is thoroughly devoted to his classes and to his students," writes Charles P. Gallmeier, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, in his nominating letter. "He does more than teach, he inspires his students."

Mucci's research agenda focuses on the scholarship of teaching. He uses the comparative method to investigate the relationships, interconnectedness, and similarities or differences in the various paradigms in anthropology.

In the course of his career, Mucci has received numerous teaching awards including three Teaching Excellence Recognition Awards (TERA), three Trustees' Awards for Excellence in Teaching, and IU Northwest's Teacher of the Year Founders Day Teaching Award. Clearly, his students have been captivated by him and are thoroughly embracing the "anthropological imagination."

Writes Jeannette Lynne Matuska, a former student who went on to graduate school in the social sciences at the University of Chicago, "I regard anthropology as my true passion because Dr. Mucci made it so. When Dr. Mucci rolls up his sleeves and paces across a classroom, even the most uninterested, overworked, and lethargic student cannot help but take notice of his charisma. In this process, the student is then forced to pay attention after which he begins to realize that what Dr. Mucci is saying is actually quite interesting. And all of a sudden a student who could not care less about Neanderthals finds himself joyfully engaging in class debate about topics, people, and places that were dead to him before Dr. Mucci brought them to life."

Mucci's rapport with students extends outside the classroom. In his role as advisor to IU Northwest's Anthropology Club, one of the most active and visible clubs on campus, Mucci works with students to sponsor a semiannual book sale and organize colloquia and forums with distinguished scholars and speakers throughout the academic year. The club's annual Darwin Day events are always popular—last year, more than 300 people attended a public debate on intelligent design.

Students give Mucci high marks as club advisor. "I have never participated in an academic organization that provided as many learning opportunities and experiences as this club," says former student Jennifer St. Germain. "Each semester we attract new members who have been 'won over' to anthropology primarily due to Dr. Mucci's enthusiasm and encouragement."

Professor, advisor, mentor, occasional primate impersonator: Bob Mucci embodies everything that a great teacher should be. As one student wrote on a course evaluation, "This class was the epitome of what education should be: challenging, stimulating, purposeful, unique, fun, all-encompassing, and an overall pleasure and benefit to any human being of any age."