Prior to the start of the 2023-2024 academic year, New College saw an increase in the number of full-time faculty members that parted ways with the school. As of Aug. 18, out of 90 faculty members, 38 have resigned, retired or taken leave. Some have left with the intention of returning following an extended sabbatical, others have no such plans. Nevertheless, with such an increase in teaching vacancies, the search for Visiting Assistant Professors (VAP) ramped up over the summer.
VAP are hired on a temporary basis, typically filling in for professors on sabbatical, with the possibility of an extended contract at the end of their stint. Returning students were offered the opportunity to participate in the search process in real time, as students were given public notice time and time again for each virtual meeting where the VAP search committees held discussions and evaluated a pool of potential professors. One such professor who was hired is VAP of Anthropology Frederick Pirone. The Catalyst interviewed Pirone following the first week of classes.
Pirone received his Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Florida (USF) in 1998. Later, he graduated with a Juris Doctorate (JD) from the American University Washington College of Law in 2001. With this experience, he worked for a private legal practice in Tampa from 2003 to 2023.
“My background didn’t originally start as an archaeologist/anthropologist, it began as a lawyer,” Pirone said. “My [career] began with me one day in court, essentially giving myself permission to be myself. ‘Be true to yourself. You don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Why not get a PhD in Anthropology?’ And it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Originally from Tampa, Pirone returned to USF and graduated in 2017, earning his PhD in Applied Anthropology. Since then, he has traveled across the world in service of the fields of archaeology and anthropology, studying and living various cultures throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Over the course of his work and travels, Pirone has gained perspective that has shaped the way he teaches anthropology to his students.
“Ultimately, it is in my belief that archaeology and anthropology is in service of humanity,” Pirone said. “We’re doing this to have a better understanding of ourselves in the past, present and even in the future. My idea is that we have to relate better to the community, and have better outreach to the community.”
“For humanity to improve, we have to improve what it means to be human. Realizing that the diversity of life is part of the natural order. You can never fully understand the other, but by interacting with them, you can get closer to understanding. With better understanding, I believe you could help improve the human condition.”
Before joining the ranks of the New College faculty, Pirone has held several teaching positions over the years. Most recently, he taught Introduction to Anthropology at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and a course on Ancient Greek history at USF.
“Teaching at HCC was a really great experience,” Pirone shared. “I still love those students. It was [also] a great honor to teach at USF, considering I got my undergraduate and PhD from there.”
With extensive experience in the classroom, both behind the student’s desk and the lecturer’s podium, Pirone credited his time as a pupil to being influential to his teaching style.
“I was a student during my professional career,” Pirone said. “I still have the experience as a student fresh in my mind and I think that part of me has informed me to have a better understanding of what the students are going through. So, I make honest efforts to structure my classes with the idea that students have a certain voice they want to express. I try to learn as much as I can about my students, so I can adapt the class to their needs.”
Philosophies such as Pirone’s are well-aligned with New College’s goals to “honor each student’s individuality with a personalized course of study.” Recognizing the time in which he is joining the New College community, Pirone acknowledges the era of uncertainty that has plagued the campus since January.
“I want my students to be themselves,” Pirone offered. “Let’s face it: we all know all the changes that are going on. The student dynamic has also changed. You can see it in the class. There’s sometimes two cultures happening. As an outsider, if I were to say anything, my concern would be somehow that [cultural] gap can be bridged and people could integrate better.”
Pirone also spoke on how the turbulent New College political climate affected him once he accepted the position.
“I’m not deaf to all the political stuff,” Pirone noted. “I had friends sending me news articles over the summer. But as a new person, you don’t want to say anything as an ‘outsider.’ I don’t want to say anything or do anything that interrupts a student’s experience. It’s vital for all students to feel comfortable and feel like themselves.”
In a time when walking around a once-familiar campus can feel unrecognizable, it’s important to keep in mind that new additions to the community can still contribute to traditional New College’s fundamental ideas.