Off the Beaten Track

Beloved Professor Linda Eaton Reflects on Her Time, Experiences at Weber State 

Every study abroad trip has its own personality, but a few spectacular moments stand out for anthropology professor Linda Eaton. This past summer, she led a group of students to Wales and Ireland. About seven and a half miles off the coast of southwest Ireland, an island that looks more like a single, spired peak juts out from the ocean — the 54-acre Skellig Michael. A steep, winding path leads up to a monastery constructed by monks sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries. The buildings resemble beehives or igloos, made of jagged rocks painstakingly stacked and shaped without mortar.
“I think the island represents a kind of single-minded pursuit of the divine that not many people see today,” Eaton said, “so totally new thoughts to think.”

Over nine years, Eaton has led approximately 300 students to China, Tibet, Peru, Mexico, Ireland, Wales, Britain, Greece, Turkey and other parts of Europe. She will retire at the end of the spring 2015 semester after 22 years of teaching at WSU.

“I think it is extremely important that anthropology students learn early to be confident and thoughtful travelers,” Eaton said. “It is an essential component of doing anthropology.”

Study abroad programs are priceless opportunities to experience different cultures, said Christianna Disque, a senior double majoring in history and anthropology. “The best way to experience the world is with a group of people with similar interests, people who are ready to get lost and have adventures.”        

Traveling abroad with Eaton made a significant impact on Disque’s life. “I realized that I could be confident and comfortable abroad,” she said. “I also realized that I loved being in Britain, which reinforced my decision to apply to graduate school there, with Dr. Eaton’s support.”
Though she has visited some remarkable places, Eaton said her favorite thing about the trips is the students who have accompanied her over the years. “They have been enthusiastic, sensible and sensitive to the people of the lands we visit. They have learned, developed confidence and immediately started planning trips of their own.”
Disque said her favorite part of the Wales and Ireland study abroad trip was the constant, overwhelming feeling of fascination and discovery. “Everything we saw had such a great history, and Dr. Eaton made sure we had a chance to learn as much as possible,” Disque said. “She gave us many opportunities to drink in the experience.”           
Eaton’s work in anthropology initially led her to work in a museum, but she always loved teaching. Weber State allowed her to pursue that love, and her students are glad she did.

Disque would gladly recommend Eaton’s classes to others because of Eaton’s unique perspectives. “Her insights into culture and symbology, the study of symbols within a culture, are thought provoking and open up new possibilities for students to explore,” she said.

Disque has taken five classes from Eaton and can’t choose a favorite. “Honestly, please don’t make me pick one!” she said. “Dr. Eaton is always teaching something fascinating. All of her classes are so much fun.”