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Dr. Marlene Arnold shares her inspiration on pursuing anthropology

Dr. Arnold is a professor of anthropology at Millersville University. She is a cultural anthropologist who also has an interest in medical anthropology. Nina Plaksin/Snapper.

Simren Shah
Associate Features Editor

Dr. Marlene Arnold, Professor of Anthropology at Millersville University, has begun her 40th academic year with the university. 

“I like to tell people I started at age five, but clearly that is not true,” Arnold said.

Arnold says she loves students of Millersvlle. She was inspired to teach anthropology by her field work in Crete, Greece. A dedicated advocate for studying abroad, she actually helped to start study abroad programs at the university in the early 80’s. 

Arnold defines anthropology as “the study of people. It is any aspect of people you are interested in.” She specializes in Cultural Anthropology, however, she also shared a lot about Medical Anthropology.

When she was an undergraduate at Macalester College in Minnesota, Arnold studied pre-med before switching to anthropology 

“My first semester freshman year, I was placed in a Cultural Anthropology course. I loved the professor and I loved the course. I had never heard of anthropology in high school,” said Arnold.

Arnold continued to take Anthropology courses throughout college and went on to study abroad in the early stages of her college career. She says experiencing different cultures inspired her to learn more about anthropology.

“I love immersing myself in a culture, learning languages, and interacting with people,” said Arnold.

Arnold attended graduate school at The University of Pennsylvania where her specialty within cultural anthropology became medical anthropology. 

“I got to combine my interest in health and healing with cultural anthropology,” said Arnold. 

Next spring, she is teaching a seminar on medical anthropology. Medical anthropology through the lense of cultural anthropology is concerned with ideas that people have about health and illness.

In her medical anthropology course, she says she will be examining indigienous Native American healing. This includes spirituality, witchcraft, and magic. 

“You could look at anything in the world that has to do with health and sickness in medical anthropology,” said Arnold. 

Arnold said a lot of students enroll in her course because it is a general education course. The course has sparked the interest of students who then decide to enroll in more specialized anthropology courses throughout their college career. 

She mentioned a Culture Through Film course that many sophomore students take. 

“We even get majors transferring in from that class,” said Arnold.

“A lot of students get assigned to cultural anthropology and just like me when I was a freshman many years ago they think ‘wow, this is really neat,” said Arnold.

Arnold said that many students who took Culture Through Film previously, also enroll in a general education course with her for cultural anthropology. This gives her the opportunity to get to know specific students better.

Arnold is currently teaching a course titled North American Indian. A prerequisite for this course is Cultural Anthropology. Arnold says that 15 of her students who took a Cultural Anthropology course with her last spring enrolled in her North American Indian course for this fall. 

“I know who they are and things about their background and interests. I also know what, presumably, they know about anthropology… It is just great fun.” said Arnold.

Arnold said that her classes are going well so far this year and the groups of students that she has are mixing well together. While some students hold the assumption that professors come to class solely because it is their job, Arnold offers a different perspective.

“It’s superb. I have a great time and I always look forward to coming every day,” said Arnold.

Students are a group but they are a group of individuals.  Arnold notes that “each class has its own personality.”

Arnold said she hopes that students feel that this semester is off to a good start.

Arnold said it is important to encourage students to follow their dreams. She commented on the perceived unattainability of dreams.

“Don’t assume that you cannot do what you are really interested in because you think it is not practical,” said Arnold.

Arnold shared this quote by a mythology scholar named Joseph Campbell: 

“Follow your bliss. When you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that you cannot imagine.”

She encourages students to take Campell’s advice and follow their bliss.