Professor brings a global perspective

Maria Woolson applies varied cultural background to teaching

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Romance language professor Maria Woolson says both. She also says neither. To her, it depends on who is looking at this glass and from where.

Born in Argentina, Woolson grew up in an Italian household. Italian was her first language, followed by Spanish, English, French and Portuguese later in her life; her culturally rich upbringing influences the way she approaches her studies.

“I don’t forget that there’s always somebody in the margins in a particular line of consensual scholarship or opinions because what we may understand as the right way may not be the perspective that’s accepted elsewhere,” Woolson said.

After conducting field work in environmental research throughout Latin America, she ended up at UVM in 1990 as a research assistant with the Biology department.

Woolson soon found joy “in the relationship that one establishes with students… when opening doors for inquiry to grow,” she said.

In the classroom, Woolson references art and literature when analyzing scientific concepts in environmental sustainability to spark diverse dialogue in the classroom.

“When I teach, I like for students to be exposed to different perspectives,” she said. “They can then chose to embrace them or not, to include them or not. But at least to know that they exist.”

Aside from teaching, Woolson enjoys being outdoors like any typical Vermonter.

As a resident of Mad River, she is an avid skier; she was a ski race coach at one point, she said. Woolson also enjoys cycling with her sons and photographing how light can change the perception of a space.

When asked if there was anything Woolson wishes she had done when looking back on her life and career, she said she could not think of anything.  

“I tend not to think about the empty part of the glass,” Woolson said, “but the full part of the glass.”