Professor relates experiences to class
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 20:12
The plane begins to descend into Fais, a small island belonging to the Federated States of Micronesia, in the Western Pacific.
Instead of typical emergency instructions, prayer tracks can be found in the backs of passengers’ seats.
What many would call the adventure of a lifetime is a typical field study for Mississippi State University world geography professor Joan Mylroie.
“In the back pocket, (of the seats) instead of a safety guide featuring in case of fire, etc., there was a prayer track explaining ‘pray this way.’ It was a little bit different,” Mylroie said, laughing.
Mylroie, a first-generation American from a Norwegian family, was brought up in a multi-cultural New Jersey town with many first generation Americans. Mylroie said she was frequently around bilingual families. The melting pot environment Mylroie said first brought to her attention the plethora of cultures to be discovered.
Mylroie studied biology and science education at Syracuse University in New York. There she met her husband John Mylroie, a fellow MSU professor of geology. The pair tackle their field work as a duo, and Mylroie said they have been to at least 30 countries and just as many islands.
Mylroie said many of her most memorable experiences took place during her travels to Fais Island. On one such trip Mylroie said she was greeted at the landing with wheelbarrows because there were no cars on the island and very few bicycles. Mylroie said it was one of the most amazing places.
The community lives off of subsistence agriculture, and Mylroie said dinner was always a surprise.
“They would serve us dinner, and I would think I have seen that swimming in the ocean, but I never realized anyone would ever eat that fish. And some days we would get vegetables, and I would look and it would look like a genuine tree branch,” Mylroie said.
Mylroie said her experience gives her a distinct appreciation for being an American citizen.
“It just makes you realize how lucky we are in the United States, even in the poorer states. Our standard of living is just so amazingly good compared to other parts of the world. Our freedom, our democracy, our system,” Mylroie said.
John Mylroie said their field work is an aspect of their profession, but it also happens to correlate well with the topics Mylroie teaches in her world geography class.
“It’s clear how she uses costumes and displays and plays music that she is highly committed to successful instruction,” Mylroie said.
To paint a picture of his wife’s personality, John Mylroie explains how she obtained the outfit she wore during the interview.
“We were at a Geological Society of America meeting, and we were at the part of the meeting that is a poster session. There was an African man from Burkina Faso. She was talking to him, and then I see cash exchanging hands. About six weeks later in the mail arrived that costume,” John Mylroie said.
John Mylroie said it is this intellectual awareness that keeps his wife intentionally thinking how to better enable her students’ understanding.
Joan Mylroie has been teaching at MSU since 1996 and said she is planning to retire in August.
She took a moment to reflect on past field studies incorporating students.
“A lot of the students I’ve done research with over the years are like a part of my family,” Joan Mylroie said.
John Mylroie doubted if his wife had acknowledged she was honored at MSU as the 2003-2004 most outstanding female faculty member.
“No, she wouldn’t tell you. She is a proven, serious, capable intellectual. She’s a classic,” John Mylroie said.