Each month, faculty and staff are recognized for their contribution to Union. In the words of President Sublett, “Only people make a difference in an organization and only people are important in our lives.”
This month Elizabeth A. Pastores-Palffy, Ph.D. Executive Director, Los Angeles Academic Center, is recognized. Beth is retiring later this year and we wish her a happy retirement and thank her for her dedication to Union for the last 26 years.
Q. What excites you about being a part of higher education?
A. My introduction to higher education was as a researcher on an emerging concept called Philippine psychology which put into question the universality of psychology. In this capacity, I also served as coordinator of the Philippine Research House where scholars of Philippine psychology came together to conduct conferences and workshops nationwide. Higher education provides a venue for the development of new and influential concepts, such as Philippine psychology, which makes someone like me enjoy the exploration of new ideas in an environment where academic freedom prevails.
With almost 45 years in higher education, there is so much to be excited about. The world of teaching and research really makes higher education a real exciting place to be. Engaging with students in the classroom and scholars from various disciplines through workshops and conferences make higher education meaningful through one’s professional existence. It is well worth the work invested when I see a student walk across the stage during commencement and when I get a note that he/she has been promoted because of his/her degree. Higher education provides the opportunity to nurture and develop a student’s capacity to learn. It is so exciting when I see a student display creativity and critical thinking in addressing issues. And even better when I receive a note from a student thanking me for teaching him to look at issues from a different light, although he still disagrees with me on various societal issues.
That was enough for me to say that I must be doing something right: creating that small dent can go a long way in making students think and act more broad-mindedly and be more socially responsible in their professional and personal lives.
Q. What attracted you to become a part of the Union family?
A. Union’s mission and vision have always aligned with my own professional philosophy, so I thought that it was easy to fit into the mold.
Union offered something new and something different in higher education. It was unlike traditional institutions that I had exposure to since I was an undergraduate. Advocating for social responsibility, an open university, combining theory with practice, the emphasis on serving the underserved, putting students at the center of the universe – values and ideas that I have always embraced as an academic made me decide to try this new approach to education.
Q. If you could have any job in the whole world, what would it be?
A. I would not wish for any other job than what I have now. Of all helping people professions, I truly believe that this is the best place to be!
Q. What surprises people about you?
“Klein, aber oho!” My husband always tells me that. It simply means, I am small but strong! He (and other people who know me well) tells me that I have this calm and quiet demeanor and approach to things (which some people see as weakness) so that other people who don’t know me well are surprised to find that behind the quietude are tenacity and strength! People that are close to me always say that I personify the saying, “silent waters run deep.”
Q. What is your favorite book, and why?
My favorite books of all time and will forever be etched in my memory because of how much they have opened my eyes to conditions of people in the Third World are as follows; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ books, most notably “One Hundred Years of Solitude”; Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and such other similar books.
I have always been fascinated also by the work of structuralists, initially by Fernand Braudels’ The Structures of Everyday Life and The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Everyday life (food, drink, clothing, money, credit, diseases, the stark differences between haves and have-nots, etc.) is often neglected by historians and which continues to fascinate me as a social historian, something that I would like to reread, revisit, research, study and write about while enjoying retirement life.