Linda Marangia took an improbable course to Metro State and the chairmanship of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
Coming from a family that strongly adhered to traditional gender roles, education was never an expectation for her. “I’ve had to go against the stream of my background, my family, my neighborhood culture to seek higher education,” says Marangia, the granddaughter of immigrants and a first generation college student who grew up in a Sicilian neighborhood in Elizabeth, N.J.
Yet, from an early age, Marangia says, she was a thinker, a questioner drawn to the world of the mind. “I saw the men around me dreaming big and I didn’t see the women around me dreaming big. And I thought, why not?”
Married right out of high school, Marangia began her academic career at a community college at age 25. She felt empowered by education. “I found out that there’s a way for me to not only help myself through education but to engage in a career that is meaningful, that can help other people embark on their own personal journeys through education,” Marangia says.
After completing her bachelor’s master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology at the University of Utah, she had a short stint at a Michigan university before joining Metro State in 1992
Social Action Through Arts
In 2000, she created a course called Sociology of Visual Arts. After the September 11 attacks, she revamped the curriculum from a discussion-based course about how art reflects the times to one aimed at facilitating social change and empowerment through arts and community outreach.
The class created a “peace flag” with messages and expressions from church and neighborhood groups, students and families centered on 9/11 and sent it to New York.
“As sociologists, we’re interested in what it meant to the people who participated in this. It’s not always [about] products—sometimes art is a process,” says Marangia. “I told the students, it’s not what happens to the peace flag, it’s the fact that you went out and engaged the community in a dialogue around 9/11.”
The peace flag marked a shift in Marangia’s academic focus and resulted in the birth of Social Action Through Arts (SATA). For the next seven years, SATA would team up with local organizations to tackle and understand topics such as urban sprawl, conservation, urban gardening and seasonal migration and poverty. In 2008, Marangia became chair of the department and SATA became a 501(c) nonprofit organization renamed Community Collage: Arts Based Productions, based in Edgewater’s Jefferson High School.
Marangia is working on a grant to fund a new service learning project that would center on human services, tourism and socio-cultural awareness. Students would be trained and mentored by academics and community experts to be what Marangia calls “expert-supported global area hosts” -- essentially advanced hotel concierges -- who will work in the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center. In addition to hotel-based tourism, the interdisciplinary training would incorporate sociology, anthropology, technical communication and business management.
For Marangia it’s important that her job extends beyond administrative duties. She wants to continue empowering, supporting and mentoring students in much the same way as she was.
“I’m interested in the fact that the students are seeking relevance in their education, that they’re here because they find a necessity for it…they want to do something,” Marangia says. “I very much connect to this student population in a lot of ways. That’s one of the reasons I feel so comfortable at this institution. I feel like I came from similar roots. I feel at home here.”
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