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Cougar Query: "The content can be transformative."

Name: Pam Musil
BYU employee since: 1993.

My job at BYU is… the associate chair of the department of dance, assigned to oversee curriculum and assessment. I teach several dance pedagogy courses (a fancy way of saying that I teach students how to teach, develop lesson plans and unit plans, manage a classroom and recognize good teaching). I also teach Kinesiology for Dancers, a required course for all dance majors, and by far my favorite course to teach. Students encounter many “aha moments” throughout the semester regarding their bodies, how they function and move most efficiently and how an understanding of human movement can accelerate skill acquisition. For dancers, this content can be, and often is, transformative.

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Currently I’m working on… a book project called Dancing Across the Lifespan: Age-related Issues in Dance. I am co-editing a curated collection of original empirical research, contextualized reflections of lived experience, theoretical framing of existing aging and ageism issues and personal narrative inquiries as they impact or reside within the dance discipline. As the first volume of its kind to address age-related issues in dance, this collection presents a range of new perspectives across professional, applied, educational and popular culture realms. The project is still in its early stages and will not be completed for at least a couple of years.

Dancing to the music on "The Lawrence Welk Show" as a child …sparked my interest in... becoming both a dancer and dance educator. My earliest memories stem back to those moments when at age 4 I would pull scarves from my grandmother’s closet and twirl around my grandparents' living room, lost in the ecstasy of movement. I have always known I was a dancer, even when I didn’t necessarily possess the skills of a dancer.

When I tell people I teach dance at BYU, they often say… "How fun! You must be in really good shape, dancing all day every day!" Though it's true that what I do is fun, it is a misconception that dance faculty spend all day dancing. Actually, I no longer teach classes that require a lot of strenuous exertion. I wish I were in better shape than I am!

What makes teaching the greatest job in the world is… our students here at BYU. They are the greatest students in the world. Not only are they bright and talented, but also meek and humble. They reflect the light of the gospel through their interactions with one another and with faculty. I am incredibly blessed to be able to learn from them.

When I have 30 minutes of free time, you can find me… reading, working in the yard, relaxing in the yard or playing with grandkids.

My advice to incoming freshman is… find something fascinating within the course content of every class you take. Get involved, get to know your professors and classmates and let them get to know you: introduce yourself, ask questions and drop by your teachers' offices to chat.

My advice to graduating seniors is… stay humble. Don’t ever feel or act like you’ve “arrived.” Keep learning, growing, striving and seeking new challenges.

I’ve hiked Y Mountain… one time as a new freshman and vowed never to do it again. I have never broken that vow.

My most cherished memory at BYU was when… my husband-to-be pressed an engagement ring into my hand outside the Marriott Center after a CES Fireside. We were surrounded by hordes of people and all I could do was smile at him when what I wanted to do was jump up and down and scream. Or perhaps loudly proclaim my excitement.

My go-to comfort food is… homemade bread. My mother used to make it every week. And chocolate chip coconut cookies with lots (and I mean LOTS) of nuts. Actually, almost anything with nuts will do. If it doesn’t have nuts, it isn’t worth eating! And if it has my favorite triad of coconut, chocolate and nuts, it could be a cookie, pastry, bread, ice cream—it really doesn’t matter, I’ll be comforted.

The title of my autobiography would be… Comfort Food Without Consequences.

My favorite thing to tell students… who are aspiring to be teachers is, “It’s not about you. It’s about your students and what they need.” Also, “It’s all about building relationships of trust and mutual respect.”

One item on my bucket list is… to visit “The Hobbit” movie set in New Zealand, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m a big fan of hobbits, wizards and other magical, mythical characters.

If I could travel anywhere, I would go to… Egypt and Israel …because… I’m fascinated with the architectural wonders of the world and with old ruins. I’ve visited the Great Wall of China and the ruins of Rome and Pompeii; I would love to see the pyramids and visit the Holy Land.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was… my first year of teaching at BYU. Hardest and most rewarding year of my life.

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