|Nancy Fairley Receives the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award
October 28, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
Professor of Anthropology Nancy J. Fairley received the Thomas Jefferson Award, which recognizes outstanding personal influence on the college community, and teaching, writing, and scholarship that go beyond the call of duty.
Fairley was hailed for leading the college in a careful and deliberative process to develop an academic concentration in ethnic studies, and for continuing to serve as director of that program.
She was also cited for her positive impact on students, and personal commitment to their success through the college’s Second Family and pre-orientation Stride programs. “She is the confidant of so many, from so many different backgrounds, with so many different issues,” her citation read. “They come to her both for her listening and her counseling skills.”
The citation concluded, “If there is a common thread to this labor and record of love and service, it is community building. No one stands taller in helping build a true and caring Davidson community, one that encompasses all students, minority and majority in all ways: race, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin.”
Fairley received her Ph.D. from SUNY-Stony Brook, and taught at Lake Forest College, University of Cincinnati, Lincoln University, and Lehman College before joining the Davidson faculty in 1993.
She teaches courses about ethnic relations in America, art, African civilizations, and “Africanisms in American Culture.” She has developed and taught a course during the past few years on “Visual Culture” that requires students to produce an ethnographic film on Carolina culture. As a result of the course, in the last four years two anthropology majors were admitted to the graduate program in film studies at the University of Southern California, one of the nation’s most prestigious film programs. Her own research interests are social anthropology, religion, Africa, and African Americans.
Since 1996 she has directed Davidson’s summer academic program in the West African nation of Ghana. She received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1999-2000 to study African Americans who recently repatriated to that country. She has also taught courses in Davidson’s summer college preparatory “July Experience” program, and served on the search committee that selected current President Tom Ross.
A native of eastern North Carolina, she published a monograph in 2003 entitled “Dreaming Ancestors in Eastern Carolina” for “The Journal of Black Studies” It examines the significance of dreams to African American, West Indian, and African people. Many of the subjects of her study believe that deceased family members remain in touch with them through dreams. The deceased family members warn the living of mishaps, alert them to good fortune, and comfort them in time of crisis. Her study demonstrates the continued importance of dreams in maintaining harmonious family relations.
Fairley has also become well-known as a storyteller. What began as a fun family activity developed professionally, and Fairley now conducts many storytelling workshops, has expanded her interests into writing and publishing children's stories and doing research on folklore of other cultures. In 2006 and 2007, she conducted workshops on storytelling and its significance in the education of youth for teachers from across the nation of Freedom Schools, a summer educational enhancement program sponsored by the Children’s National Defense Fund.
Posted By: Bill Giduz