Anthropology changed his life


By Billy Gay

As a young boy growing up, Dr. Vincent Melomo didn’t know what anthropology was, and his path in life was not very clear. Accounting, counseling, and journalism were a few of his future options.

At 53 , Melomo is now an associate professor of anthropology and chair of the department of culture, history, and politics at William Peace University. After teaching anthropology at Peace for over 20 years, Melomo believes he has chosen the right path in life.

Melomo grew up in a diverse community outside of New York City.  After attending an affluent Catholic middle school and moving to Tennessee for high school, Melomo developed a growing interest in the subject of anthropology.

“What drew me most to anthropology is the way of understanding the kinds of perspectives that it offered,” said Melomo. “I found anthropology’s focus on both our biological selves as well as the specificity of culture and how that shapes us to be especially powerful in terms of understanding my own self and world.”

Melomo’s experience in college at Adelphi University fostered his passion for anthropology through immersive learning. Many of his class assignments had him out in the field looking at artifacts in museums, participating at weekend digs, and connecting with the people of the community.

“I found myself just enjoying doing that stuff,” said Melomo. “I like going to museums, I like being outside on a weekend working in the ground, and that basic experience made me interested in doing more with it.”

Melomo’s goal wasn’t always to be a teacher. However, tutoring and leading discussions during his time as an undergraduate built up his confidence. Melomo later became a teachers assistant during his graduate work at Binghamton University, where earned his master’s and doctoral degrees.

“I loved having a class and I loved having students,” said Melomo. “I loved feeling like I could engage people and open their eyes and get them to think about things they didn’t think about before.”

Melomo believes that anthropology has a powerful impact on the lives of his students.

“Anthropology allows students to see themselves differently, and to see others differently,” said Melomo. “If I can get students to see how those things that they do that they thought were normal are actually particular or peculiar, it puts them in a different position to being open to understanding others.” 

Dylan Cross, a communications major at Peace, said he learned new perspectives in Melomo’s class.

“Melomo taught me new ways to think about the world and the people in it,” said Cross. “If I could use one word to describe him it would be ‘impactful’.”

Melomo’s motivation for teaching goes beyond the classroom.

“What I hope is that by example and how I interact with people, I can create more passionate and more open people,” said Melomo. “Going through my day, I might encourage that spirit among others more through my classes and through working at a university.” 

Andrew Gilleskie, a junior at Peace majoring in criminal justice, said Melomo is both  knowledgeable and accessible. 

“Not only does he know what he is talking about in terms of the subject matter, he’s also very  good interpersonally wise,” said Gilleskie. “He just has a very good presence in the classroom.”

When he is not teaching and grading, Melomo enjoys spending time with his family, watching shows with his children or spending time outside. He also enjoys reading news articles on various topics and seeing what is being learned about our world.

Looking back on his life, Melomo has no regrets choosing anthropology as it has impacted him in many ways.

“Anthropology has changed my life in terms of whom I have been able to interact with,” said Melomo. “I feel in many ways that I have definitely chosen the right path, there are many things that suit me very well and are very rewarding.”