INSIDE Chico State
0 February 28, 2002
Volume 32 Number 11
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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In Common Purpose

2001–2002 Faculty Service Award goes to Emmerich

  Lisa Emmerich, History, says that her grand-mother’s adage, “many hands make light work,” prepared her for service.

American Indian scholar, environmentalist, and mentor of students, Lisa Emmerich has received the 2001–2002 Outstanding Faculty Service Award.

Emmerich, History and American Indian Studies Program, traces her commitment to service to values instilled by her family’s Maryland and Pennsylvania roots. “Many hands make light work” was a saying passed on by her grandmother and practiced by her parents in their family of four children. “Everyone should do their part; that’s certainly a value instilled in us. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt that more and more. All sorts of things in the world that we have to deal with would be very different if everyone, whenever possible, thought about what they might be able to do in addition to what they are already doing.”

Emmerich’s penchant for service results in a packed-to-bursting schedule. In 2001, she served on nine departmental or campus committees, coordinated the American Indian Studies Program, co-coordinated the Multicultural and Gender Studies fifth annual senior Symposium, presented a paper at the Anthropology Forum, was the Herbert Hoover symposium keynote speaker, a CELT panelist, a docent at Dye Creek Ranch, secretary and board member of the Chico Creek Nature Center, and stayed active in her church. She taught classes fulltime and published articles. This was a typical year.

American Indian studies and the American West have been Emmerich’s lifelong passions. She serves as faculty adviser to the American Indian Club/ Indigenous Students Alliance and this year received the Myles Tracy Outstanding Faculty Adviser Award. “That was a total surprise to me, and I’m particularly proud of that. As a non-Native person teaching in this field, I depend on the kindness of strangers in many ways,” said Emmerich.

Emmerich was recently elected to the steering committee of Phi Alpha Theta International History Honorary Society. For the past two years, she’s read dissertations for a Phi Alpha Theta competition. She likes to read “new scholarship and see what students are doing. It’s nice to be able to give people who are working hard and doing good work recognition for their efforts.”

Emmerich’s support of several local environmental organizations is based in the belief that it is important for humans to be good stewards of the environment and to treat all living things respectfully. It is a belief nurtured by her family’s closeness to nature (her parents are both birders), her small-town roots, and, later, her passion for Native American history. “Working with Native people and learning from them about their connection to the earth as a living thing and not just a pit stop for us on the way to somewhere else has really encouraged me to become aware of opportunities for service.”

For the future, Emmerich wants to expand her work with American Indian students on campus and to become more involved with American Indian K–12 students. “It’s important for children to see that there’s a way that they can walk in both sides of the world—that they can maintain their connection to their traditional community and that they can also gain skills and expertise in a larger American society.”

Emmerich’s research has focused on late-19th-century and 20th-century topics related to American Indian women, health care issues, and assimilation issues. She has become increasingly interested in legal issues, specifically in the cultural impact of Indian gaming and the way the tribal communities are coping with the changes that they’re experiencing. “Gaming is so timely, and the changes that are taking place in tribal communities are dramatic. It’s an area that’s wide open for research right now,” said Emmerich.

Although Emmerich laughed at the idea that anyone in their right mind would love committee work, she did say, “It’s wonderful to be with a group of like-minded people who are serious about getting some work done and who make the commitment to it.” She said that she’s been fortunate to hook up with good people and to be taught by them. She mentioned Carol Burr, Randy Wonzong, Glen Gomes, and Jane Rysberg as having served as service mentors to her.

“It’s not like I leap out of bed every morning and think, ‘What else can I add to my list?’” Emmerich acknowledges that her level of involvement is not for everyone. “I would encourage my colleagues, however, to find a component of campus life that interests them and to which they would happily become involved and stay involved. That’s where service really grows—when you latch onto something that you find exciting or that you’re passionate about. Then you can walk away feeling good about what has taken place. It’s nice to be in common purpose with other people.”

Barbara Alderson

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