Cultural background shapes assistant professor’s identity, teachings, societal views

Faculty Spotlight

Cory Kay, Assistant Features Editor


Within the classroom, assistant human development professor at CSUSM, Dr. Rodney Beaulieu, expresses his ties with the American Indian community.

Before he began teaching, Beaulieu was a first-generation college student and attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst as an undergraduate, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

After graduating, he attended graduate school at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received both a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Beaulieu has currently taught at CSUSM for about a year and a half as an assistant professor, but he also taught Human Development here part-time from 2001 to 2005, before the program was an official department.

Beaulieu is of “First Nation” descent. He identifies with the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Canadian Mi’kmaq.

“Most of my tribe is in Canada, and a very small section is in Maine,” said Beaulieu. “In Canada, both ‘American Indian’ and ‘Native American’ are considered disrespectful terms. Canadians use the term ‘First Nation’ consistently… Here in the U.S., most prefer ‘American Indian.’”

The preference of how to refer to their culture stems from societal and historical interpretations and connotations that are attached to each term.

“‘American Indian’ seems like a misnomer because we are not from India,” said Beaulieu. “And while the term native is technically correct… it connotes a ‘primitive’ people because the two words have historically been used together.”

Beaulieu’s cultural ties and experiences greatly inspired him to pursue the field of human development, and his background influences the way he teaches within the classroom.

“American Indians emphasize a holistic perspective on life, so studying and teaching lifespan development seems like a natural choice,” said Beaulieu. “I come from a northeastern tribe that was dependent on hunting and fishing; we lived at the ocean during the summer and on the inland territory during winter. This migratory tradition made me sensitive to the cycles of human life and nature.”

While his cultural ties have influenced his teaching, they have also shaped Beaulieu’s perspectives on his identity and his perception of society.

“Here in California, life is very different of course, but I somewhat live in traditional ways by the way I think and view the world,” said Beaulieu. “I now see myself as a global citizen.”

Through Beaulieu’s teaching, he hopes to challenge his students to consider new ways of thinking and to promote awareness of his culture and his community.

“As an educator, I want to help students understand our complex world with all its tensions, and be active citizens who are committed to improving life.”

The ultimate goal of his teaching is to raise awareness of how we, as a society, can put an end to discrimination and misrepresentation of diverse cultures.

“Many racial and ethnic groups experience these problems, so must struggle together to address them… The journey for social justice is long and education is the most powerful path.”