Campus Closeup: Patricia Cianciolo
Patricia Cianciolo (Sociology/Social Work) has been working with older adults in different capacities for 32 years. She began studying gerontology in the 1970s. “For not knowing I wanted to go into the field of aging, I’ve been in it for a very long time, and I’m very pleased about that,” she said.
So what exactly does Cianciolo do? In addition to teaching social welfare policy classes and overseeing the gerontology minor, she is involved in researching current reform efforts in the Social Security program, which is a vital income source for much of the nation's aging population. “Social welfare policies are dynamic and constantly changing, so teaching about them requires that I keep up to date with these policy changes” she said.
Although Cianciolo enjoys her scholarship, she equally appreciates her teaching position at NMU. “Social work was always something I wanted to do. Teaching was always something I wanted to do. Being a college professor has given me the opportunity to be able to teach about social work and social welfare policies; it has been a nice combination of some of the things I always wanted to do,” she said with a smile. “It is amazing to observe and have a hand in the transformation that occurs in students between their freshman and senior years. It’s really quite remarkable.”
Cianciolo has plenty of experience in her subject. She worked in the social work field in the 1970s and ‘80s and has taught in social work programs at several different universities. She also tried her hand at teaching sociology courses in two prisons in southeastern Ohio. “Teaching in the prisons was both challenging and rewarding,” she said. “Most inmates appreciated having the opportunity to earn college credit; some did not.”
One time, she caught two students cheating on an exam and failed them in the course. From this, she earned the nickname “Big Little Woman.” She said the other students in the class were astonished that such a petite woman could be so strong.
Cianciolo is very familiar with dealing with people, not only because she studies social work, but also because she grew up in a very large family. “I have six living brothers and sisters,” she said. “I think that oftentimes in work settings, we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to find out personal things about one another and I think some people are surprised when they find out I come from such a large family.” She also added, with a laugh, “I don’t have any children of my own, so what does that say?”
In her spare time, Cianciolo enjoys being physically active. She likes to bike, hike, kayak, ski, swim and travel. She enjoys cooking for other people and spending time with friends over meals. “I find that it is a very fun way to have interesting conversation, good company and great food,” she said.