Lori Stanley '80

Professor of anthropology and associate dean

Associate dean of the college

First year teaching at Luther: 1984--first as a Spanish teacher.

Recent distinction: Awarded the Dennis M. Jones Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities for 2006-07.

Field experience: Founded Highland Cultural Research Center (now known as Bear Creek Archaeology) with her husband, David Stanley '77.

Study-abroad destinations: Honduras, Mexico, Nepal, Tanzania, and Guatemala.

Hometown: Rake, Iowa.

As odd as it may seem for a decorated academic, Lori is known for ducking notoriety. In fact, if you drop by her narrow wedge of an office in Koren (she sometimes calls it "the cave"), you'll likely find her working in the dark--to take advantage of the natural light filtering through her vine-covered window.

Assimilating her environs, rather than asserting distinction, has always been central to Lori's work as a cultural and linguistic anthropologist. To complete her dissertation--an ethnography of native speakers of Chiweri, the heritage language of the Iowa and Otoe-Missouria tribes--she spent years photographing, recording, interviewing, and listening to two primary subjects.

"One was 'Grandpa Truman [Dailey],' and the other was 'Uncle Art [Lightfoot],'" she says, explaining that by the time she and her research partner finished their work, the two had earned the honorary titles and relationship dynamics of being granddaughter and niece. Photos of both elders still occupy prime real estate in her office, and the dissertation is now part of an archive at Luther that serves as a resource for students and members of the tribes.

Cultural sensitivity also made it easy for Lori to begin teaching Luther students abroad, first in the mountains of Nepal (five trips, before the Maoist uprising), then in Guatemala (one Paideia course), and most recently among the Maasai people of northern Tanzania (six trips and counting).

"Having students engage in academic study in other cultural settings is very important," she says, citing the impact of her own undergrad archaeology experience in Honduras and Mexico, in addition to the Navajo reservations of the American Southwest. "There are things you just can't understand about a culture until you live in it."

Naturally, Lori used the Jones Professorship to encourage cultural awareness and respect. Initiatives included bringing a Tanzanian Maasai couple to Luther to perform traditional song and dance, and discuss issues of education. She also hopes to help young faculty develop courses overseas and shake up discussion on campus by exploring the culture shock some Luther students experience when they return from studying abroad.

Still at home in Iowa (she has a scale model of her dad's first John Deere tractor on her office windowsill), Lori credits her agricultural upbringing with her success in unfamiliar territory. "I never thought about how comfortable I was being outside and around animals," for example, "until a student on one trip confided that she was terrified of the domestic cattle and other livestock valuable to the societies we were studying in Africa," Lori says. "It's just second nature to me."