Friday, December 8, 2023

Meet a Roadrunner: Daniel J. Gelo, Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts

(Oct. 25, 2018) -- Daniel J. Gelo, is a professor, Stumberg Distinguished University Chair, and dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) at UTSA.

As a cultural anthropologist, Gelo studies the way humans express their thoughts, feelings and values through various cultural activities including ritual, myth, social organization, music, dance, dress and language.

Since the 1980s, Gelo has conducted ethnographic fieldwork and archival research with the Comanches, a Plains Indian society living in southwest Oklahoma.

A new, second edition of Gelo’s textbook Indians of the Great Plains provides a thorough study of Plains Indian life.

We recently asked Dean Gelo about his research. 

Tell us about the new edition of your textbook.

This new edition has a lot of changes to make the text livelier—more readable and memorable. The writing is more straightforward, vocabulary terms are highlighted and there are text boxes exploring case studies. There are several new maps, tables and historical photos, and the statistics on the tribes have been updated.

What impact do you hope your research has?

Generally, I hope that it promotes a full appreciation of Comanche culture, beyond the sensational portrayals that are available, and that it helps the Comanches themselves perpetuate their unique lifeways. As for the textbook, I hope it’s accepted as the general knowledge base for college students and all readers interested in Plains Indian people.

What is something interesting that is going on in your field of research that not many people know about?

Some of my research has to do with how the Comanches used the landscape in Texas for hunting, camping, trading and religious ceremonies. We’re still learning a lot about their sense of place, their trails and the signs they used for navigating. Chris Wickham, UTSA German professor emeritus, and I recently published some details, about the Comanches, recorded by a German settler near Fredericksburg around 1850.

What advice would you share with students who are interested in studying anthropology or entering your field?

Study with many different professors and be open to learning about all aspects of culture, including language. There are all kinds of great career opportunities for those with experience understanding other cultures. When seeking that experience through fieldwork, it is important to be respectful, quiet and, above all, patient.

What makes COLFA unique?

COLFA is distinctive because it has the largest number of majors but it also serves virtually every UTSA student. Lots of students find their home in COLFA because it offers traditional arts, humanities and social science subjects along with innovative new programs like public health, global affairs, politics and law, museum studies and medical humanities.

Kara Soria

Learn more about Daniel Gelo.

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