California State University, Long Beach
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Website Names Faculty Member Among Top Professors In Nation

Published: September 4, 2012

Positive reactions from CSULB students who voted through RateMyProfessors.com have earned Anthropology Department lecturer Thomas Douglas the No. 15 ranking in the nation on the website’s 2011-12 Highest Rated University Professors list, which was released on Aug. 29.

Douglas has been an adjunct anthropology faculty member at CSULB since 1999 and also teaches at UC Irvine. He earned his B.A. in liberal studies at CSULB in 1994, followed by an M.A. in social sciences in 1998 and Ph.D. in anthropology in 2004, both from UCI.

Douglas said he is honored to receive the recognition. “Obviously it’s a terrific expression of support from our students. I think that Cal State Long Beach has many wonderful professors, and I’m a product of those professors myself. I’m proud to be a representative of what Cal State Long Beach stands for.”

At CSULB, he teaches Anthropology 120, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, where he requires students to interview either an immigrant or a senior citizen and write a five-to-six page paper that has particular impact on students. He said, “I think that by interviewing an immigrant or a senior citizen, they get exposure to someone’s experiences that they might not have really thought too much about before doing this assignment.”

He also teaches undergraduate and graduate classes including Anthropology 314, Global Ethnography; as well as Foundations of Anthropology; Culture, Power and Politics; Current Trends in Anthropological Theory; The Anthropological Perspective; and Seminar in Ethnology and Social Anthropology.

“We have a lot of great students at Cal State Long Beach from very diverse backgrounds and I think anthropology is probably something that they really connect to because anthropology teaches a certain amount of respect for different cultural traditions and different ethnic experiences,” Douglas pointed out. “I think that’s something our students probably identify with—just the idea that we need to respect each other and understand that we have different values and backgrounds. I think that for some reason, this course touches a part of their life that other courses don’t delve into. It’s really all the courses, but the 120 and 314 classes especially.”

For his Ph.D. research, Douglas studied religious practices of Cambodian communities in Long Beach and Seattle. “Many Cambodian immigrants and their families were continuing to practice Buddhism after immigrating to the United States but also going to Christian churches at the same time, which was pretty interesting in that they were practicing both religions and seeing them as being complementary to each other rather than seeing them as a contradiction,” he said.

Thomas Douglas
PHOTO BY VICTORIA SANCHEZ
Thomas Douglas

“I spent some time volunteering at Cambodian community centers in both Long Beach and Seattle, and I also spent time at some Buddhist temples, talking with monks and interviewing people who attended the temples and went to the Cambodian Christian churches, trying to get to know some of the immigrants in the community and trying to understand their perspectives about their religious experiences.”

In earning the recognition, Douglas acknowledged current Anthropology Department Chair Barbara LeMaster and professors Jayne Howell and George Scott, who were among his CSULB faculty members when he was an undergraduate student. “If I have become considered a reasonably ‘successful’ professor, it is largely due to the excellent training I received from Barbara and my other anthro professors at CSULB,” he said.

“It is not a well-kept secret that Tom Douglas is one of our most popular professors here in the CSULB Anthropology Department,” LeMaster said. “I continually hear from all levels of students how much they appreciate Tom as their professor, even in anthropological theory classes. The department has him teaching in the Beach Beginnings program, where he has also been very successful with students. What an honor for Tom and the department.”

To see Douglas’ rating, visit www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=461722.

–Anne Ambrose