Professor Joseph Eisenlauer lingers inside an empty anthropology classroom, jotting down some last minute notes for his next lecture. Nicknamed “Noble” in middle school for his patrician heritage, the silver-haired 64 year old is the remaining senior member of the anthropology department. Yet, even after teaching at Los Angeles Pierce College for 18 years, Eisenlauer continues to enjoy the experience.
“The most rewarding part about being a teacher is the recognition in the students’ eyes when the information finally clicks,” Eisenlauer says.
Since his youth, Eisenlauer expressed a keen interest in “collecting and organizing things.” As a boy he traveled around the globe with his parents visiting more than 70 countries. During these periods of travel, Eisenlauer’s mother encouraged his curiosity. Together, the family toured famous archaeological sites from which the public is now barred. Those experiences would later be the foundation for an expansive career.
After obtaining two master’s degrees—one in pre-Columbian studies and the second in native studies from California State Hayward (now East Bay), Eisenlauer sought out a teaching position. The competition at four-year universities was fierce. Available jobs were often given to applicants with the best-selling book. Seeking an environment where his passion for archaeology and anthropology could thrive, Eisenlauer turned to Pierce College.
“The growth for teachers at Pierce is more apparent than that of a university. At a community college you can achieve the rank of Professor quicker than at an establishment like the University of Southern California or the University of California Los Angeles,” Eisenlauer says.
Now a full-time tenured professor, Eisenlauer works hard to keep the department afloat.
Lina Ramirez, 24, is a Pierce student majoring in both archaeology and geology. She was first exposed to archaeology at Moorpark Community College where she took the Egyptology course. When she enrolled in anthropology classes at Pierce they were with Professor Eisenlauer.
“I noticed the difference in the teaching methods immediately,” Ramirez says. “Professor E is so passionate when he does his lectures that he inspires others to take interest.”
Ramirez has since only taken her required anthropology courses with Eisenlauer. In addition to a full class schedule, she also acts as Eisenlauer’s assistant for his field study class on Fridays in the Spring. Working alongside her is Tina Nupuf, a 74-year-old volunteer and Encore student at Pierce. Nupuf has been the professor’s assistant since 2002. After years of working closely together, she has come to value Eisenlauer as a friend and mentor.
“Dr. E’s biggest contributions are his views and interests. He makes the classes interesting by lecturing through stories of his past travels,” Nupuf says.
Even with recent cutbacks to the department, Eisenlauer he hopes to keep teaching new courses, such as Prehistoric Technologies. Two years ago, his independent field study lost its funding. Archaeology students that required fieldwork for the degree had nowhere to go. Pierce was the only college in the Los Angeles area to offer such a course. The class has since been reinstated, however it is completely voluntary. Eisenlauer receives zero funding from Pierce, but his hopes remain high. If enough students enroll in anthropology courses the chances of the department growing is a real possibility. And it is the students that matter the most in the end.
“Years from now, my students may not remember my name and that’s ok. But what they do remember are the lectures I tell through my stories and that makes me happy,” Eisenlauer says.