Susan Orpett Long, professor in the department of sociology and criminology, recently received the 2015 Distinguished Faculty award.
In high school, Long spent her junior year in Japan through the American Field Service exchange program, also known as AFS.
“Japan has a 200-year history and the depth of the history and that experience were really fascinating. And I loved learning about that and how people lived traditionally,” said Long. “The other thing that fascinated me was the way that old cultures and new cultures came together in people’s lives.”
Long explained how she became interested in anthropology. As a freshman at the University of Michigan, she intended on signing up for International Politics 101 and majoring in political science. However, that class was full at her registration time. Instead, she took an anthropology course and fell in love with the subject matter. Long went on to study anthropology as an undergraduate, and she focused on medical and cultural anthropology in graduate school.
“Anthropology provided me with a framework to think about the kind of experiences and observations that I had in Japan,” she said.
When she was hired at JCU in 1987, Long began to expand the University’s East Asian Studies program. She now teaches several classes in this field, including Introduction to East Asia, Japanese Society, and Health and Healing in East Asia. Even though JCU does not have an anthropology department, Long teaches a few classes in the subject matter, including Introduction to Anthropology, Medicine and Culture, and Medical and Cultural Anthropology.
Long also teaches her students outside of the classroom. She and two other professors take students on a biennial trip to Japan. The students plan the trip and usually visit a mix of historical landmarks and areas filled with popular culture. The trip includes visits to animation studios, tea ceremonies, silk factories, baseball games and sumo wrestling competitions.
“The students have visited some historical sites, but the focus is really on popular culture. Pop culture can include things like tourism and travel,” Long explained.
Long has done extensive work with anthropology and East Asian studies in addition to teaching. Earlier in her career, she ran a program to teach American language teachers about how to teach Japanese in their schools. In addition, she has studied Japanese families and elder care.
“The work that I am most proud of is research on how culture affects end of life decision making,” said Long. “You can’t understand these decisions unless you’re looking at how relationships are understood and how they’re developed over a lifetime.” She continued, “This could be seen as a combination of medical ethics and anthropology.”
Phyllis Braudy Harris, chair of the department of sociology and criminology, nominated Long for the Distinguished Faculty Award. Harris included many letters of recommendation for Long from former and current students, colleagues and other experts in the field of anthropology. A committee, including previous winners of this award, reviewed all nominees and chose the most worthy recipient for 2015’s Distinguished Faculty Award.
Long said her favorite thing about the department of sociology and criminology is her coworkers. She went on to say that her fellow professors are dedicated to helping their students succeed and care about their well-being.