Librarian Brings Travel Experiences to Classroom

By Patrick Derrickson
Elm Staff Writer

Photo by Shannon Kirby

Trekking through the virgin forests of Panama, Professor Michele Santamaria marveled at the scene and the sense of discovery that filled her and went on to fill her life.

Born and raised in Latin America, Professor Santamaria started life in Ecuador, moved to Bolivia when she was three years old, to Panama when she was seven years old, then back and forth until she and her family settled in Miami when she was 10.

The intermittent movement from country to country helped develop her future interest in anthropology. She received her bachelor’s degree from Emory University in Atlanta and her master’s degree from the University of St. Andrews in
Scotland, where she also picked up a degree in English.

Her degrees in anthropology have helped her adapt to new locations and “sit back and observe the culture.”

She also received a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the University of Oregon and a Master of Science in library science from the Palmer School.

Professor Santamaria works at Washington College as a research librarian. In the spring, she will be teaching as an English professor and would like to bring a sense of child-like wonder into the classroom as well as the library. She has also been asked to teach an anthropology course and a Special Topic Spanish course on Andean Culture.

From her time at other colleges, she has found a disparity in the lack of research competency she has seen even in college seniors. As a librarian at WC she hopes to improve all students’ ability to research and is pairing up with the Writing Center to improve research skills.

Books are integral to her life, not only because they surround her, but also because they are outlets for her interest in all fields.

She has a favorite book for each field that she has studied. In poetry, she enjoys Anna Swirszczynska, also known as Anna Swir, a Polish author who has very accessible imagery and language that has profound depth in meaning

“It is poetry that a kindergartener could understand, but that goes deeper,” she said.

In English and in its original Spanish, “Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is her favorite book, as
“the ending is surprising but accessible” and “it is as close to a perfect ending as possible.”

“Why the Reckless Survive” by Melvin Konner strikes her because it combines in-depth biology with culture. This amalgamation of important topics to consider crystallizes why Professor Santamaria enjoys this book so much.

Professor Santamaria worked at numerous colleges before coming to WC, such as Kingsborough Community College, Drexel University, and Temple University. She worked on several campuses which hosted Duke’s Talent Identification Program, or TIP.

She came to WC because of the small class structure, liberal arts focus, creative writing emphasis, and gorgeous setting.

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