Teaching with heart and soul (and bones): Rosado to receive Lindback


An anthropology professor in Rowan University's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) since 1993, Maria Rosado talks a lot about doing good work...in the classroom, in her scholarship, in her family life, and in her community. Her dedication to her profession--and to her students--has earned her Rowan's 2008 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, the University's highest teaching honor.

So there she was in the midst of a thrilling, four-month excavation of prehistoric skeletal remains in Oaxaca, Mexico two decades ago when Maria Rosado's thoughts drifted to her young family at home in New Jersey.

"I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I'm in the middle of a hole 12 or 15 feet deep. What am I doing? I miss my son--James was three at the time--and I miss my husband.'

"And yet," says Rosado, pausing to remember, "that was one of my best experiences professionally."

Our real accomplishments in life, says Rosado, aren't achieved by ourselves.

"We do it with family and friends," she says. "So we have to do good things with it."

An anthropology professor in Rowan's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) since 1993, Rosado talks a lot about doing good work...in the classroom, in her scholarship, in her family life, and in her community. Her dedication to her profession--and to her students--has earned her Rowan's 2008 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, the University's highest teaching honor.

Rosado will officially receive her Lindback, which includes a $4,000 stipend, during Rowan Day on Friday, April 17, as part of Rowan's Celebrating Excellence Awards Ceremony (11 a.m., Boyd Recital Hall, Wilson Hall).

Rosado, who takes students to Chile each spring to conduct research on human and animal skeletal remains dating back to 2,000 BC at the Museo Arqueologico de La Serena in La Serena, was nominated for the Lindback by Frances Johnson, the late director of Rowan's Faculty Center for Research and Teaching. A writing arts professor, Johnson passed away suddenly last fall.

"I said, ‘Frances, I don't have time. I'm leaving for Chile.' She said, ‘Do it. You need to be recognized.'

"I received the letter telling me I'd received the Lindback a few weeks after Frances passed away. She was such a friend and mentor. It really hit me hard. She really appreciated what faculty do."

For Rosado, "what faculty do" means doing whatever it takes to help a student learn. It means approaching teaching with seriousness, but also tender-hearted humor. It means exposing students to new worlds. It means demonstrating that a college education is truly a gift, one that should never be taken lightly by students or professors.

That's why her class syllabi are often intertwined with funny notes, but also require her students to sign a contract with her.

"The contract shows that I am accountable...and so are they," the Mullica Hill resident says. "This is an agreement. Education is serious business.

"There are parts of the world where a college education is only a dream. I'm not going to waste that."

Rosado's parents moved their family from Chile to New Jersey in 1970. At Public School 26 in Paterson, Rosado learned English in six months and was well on her way to gaining an education in and out of the classroom. Her father worked as a mechanic at a local factory. Her mother worked in a staple factory.

"My accent is from 29th Street in Paterson," laughs Rosado, whose husband, Victor, also grew up in the neighborhood. "It was a very diverse area...Germans, Jews, African-Americans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans. That short stretch of street was the U.N.

"Since my family was here in the United States, and the opportunity was here, there was no question we'd go to college. It was attainable to us."

The three-time graduate of Rutgers University entertained thoughts of becoming a doctor, but became enthralled with anthropology her senior year of college.

"I took anthropology and had a wonderful professor, Susan Cachel," Rosado says. "I decided I wanted to study fossils and bones. Rutgers has one of the best human evolution centers. I never thought I would become an anthropologist until my senior year."

The human archaeological bones she studies "talk," she says.

"As we work-and we do so with the utmost respect and ethical behavior--the people come alive. They tell you their sex, their age, their diseases.

"And when we look at them as a group, they tell us about their lives and their culture...who they are and where they come from."

Her students' experiences in Chile are life-changing, Rosado says.

"It's an incredible moment. I can see a sense of amazement in their faces," she says. "I tell them, ‘Suspend your disbelief. You're here.' They're recognized as important contributors to the museum."

At Rowan, Rosado frequently co-teaches courses, including the popular Forensic Anthropology course-better known as "Rowan CSI." In that course, Rosado and fellow anthropology professor Diane Markowitz teach students about the subject by requiring them to unearth a "body"-actually an anatomically correct plastic skeleton. The students are charged with determining the body's sex, age, ethnicity and cause of "death."

Co-teaching is a joy, says Rosado, who also has shared classes with foreign language professor Marilyn Manley and biological sciences professor and CLAS associate dean Patricia Mosto.

"There's a real friendship and collegiality in co-teaching. I have a lot of fun with my colleagues. We disagree on many things," Rosado laughs.

"When classes are co-taught, the students are less afraid of being critical. It makes for a better involvement for the students overall."

From the moment she first led a classroom, Rosado realized the great responsibility that comes with teaching.

"In the face of this knowledge, you must always remember that you're affecting people's minds," Rosado says. "You can't mistreat people with that knowledge. You share yourself with them. You have to be honest...and very humble.

"I thought from the very beginning when I started teaching, ‘This is a huge responsibility. It can never be taken for granted.'"

Education is becoming somewhat of a family affair for Rosado. Her son, James, is a math teacher at Clearview Regional High School. And, though only six, her daughter, Victoria, already has chosen her profession.

"Victoria," Rosado, says, smiling, "wants to be a teacher."