Rolling into a classroom in a wheelchair is seemingly not "normal" for a person with no physical disabilities. But according to Dr. Heather Griffiths, a sociology instructor at FSU, there is no real set of standards that constitutes normalcy. Thinking outside the box is a healthy habit Dr. Griffiths encourages in her students to better understand the principles of sociology.
"I show up on the first day in a wheelchair in my deviance class. The wheelchair is used so students can experience stigma first-hand. As an assignment, students have to do something considered abnormal such as carry around a teddy bear or bow instead of shake hands...It's a way of exploring how we create and experience deviance. There's no such thing as being normal. It doesn't exist."
She continues, "When I say that, most students are shocked for about two seconds, and then they realize that it is a true statement. Most of us base normal on what we experience."
Griffiths deems herself "fresh and shiny" faculty, for she is not only winding down in her first academic year at FSU, but this is also her first faculty position since she received her doctorate in sociology from the University of Delaware. Upon graduating, Dr. Griffiths sought employment by "jumping on planes and interviewing everywhere", but she ended her search at FSU. Since she has been at FSU, she has enjoyed her students, colleagues, and the courses she instructs.
She expresses, "I've been made to feel welcome here...It'll be a year in August since I've been here. So far, I have liked all the classes I teach. I have never had to teach a class I don't like."
Dr. Griffiths says she also has taken advantage of the lecture series presented by the Research Center of Health Disparities at FSU. She appreciates the opportunity to sit in on presentations ranging in topics from civil rights issues for the physically and mentally disabled to health issues within the Hispanic community. When she has spare time she visits the art shows in the Rosenthal Gallery while supporting her husband, Mike, who is an art student at FSU.
The Pennsylvania native has had no problems adjusting to Fayetteville. In fact, her relocation to the South inspired her to start driving.
She reveals, "This is my first time driving...I just got my license two years ago. I used to walk a lot when I lived in Pennsylvania."
At times, she does long for a visit to her favorite hometown milkshake shop, "Nifty Fifties", where she has fifty choices of flavors. But for right now Dr. Griffiths is comfortable making Fayetteville home.
"Overall, it's been great. I've had no problem making friends. I have been able to eat at all the best restaurants. I've enjoyed sushi, seafood and barbeque. As long as I am somewhere with cheap books and sushi, I'm satisfied!"