Marie Cini is provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maryland University College. Before joining a Zócalo/Arizona State University panel discussion titled “Can Digital Learning Dismantle the American Class System?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles, she chatted in the green room about loving animals, dressing up for Halloween, and not throwing dead catfish at hockey games.
What country would you most like to live in apart from the United States?
Italy. My father was 11 when he came to this country, so I have relatives in the southern part of Tuscany, and it’s my favorite place in the world. I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood in Hershey, Pennsylvania. So being in Italy is like a second skin, because it feels so comfortable when I’m back there.
What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
I would like to rescue animals. Maybe I’d be a veterinarian—then, that would help me heal them. But sometimes I think that if I retire early I would love to have an animal sanctuary.
Has that been a lifelong attachment to animals?
Yes, and I think it comes from my father, because he was sort of a tough old Italian but he had this soft spot for animals. And so even as a kid I remember he would save ducks, and if they were in trouble he’d clean them with dish washing liquid. It was very sweet.
Was there a teacher or professor who really altered the course of your life?
My high school English teacher Miss Barnhart. She was the first teacher who really just trusted us and trusted me. We could read what we wanted, by various authors, and she encouraged us. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was really intrinsic motivation. And I remember not wanting to disappoint her, and how powerful that was, that I would go out of my way to do the reading because I didn’t want her to be disappointed. She would never yell at us; she would just be disappointed.
Do you have a favorite holiday?
Halloween. It’s not about the whole family getting together and everybody eats too much and you talk politics. People dress up, it’s fun, we just can’t wait for the little kids to come [trick or treating]. My family members always dress up. So it’s all-around fun—and it’s over in a day.
Do you have a favorite American 20th- or 21st-century author?
I can’t say that I have a favorite; there’s not somebody that speaks to me in that way. I’m very eclectic in what I read, so [what I read] all depends on if it’s a vacation or work or whatever.
Do you have a pet peeve?
People who are rude. Like, I don’t know if you watched the Stanley Cup Finals? I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. The folks throwing the dead catfish—I just thought that was so uncalled-for. That kind of stupid behavior is kind of a pet peeve.
On what device do you do most of your reading?
I was an early adopter of the Kindle, so I read on that. And then, because I’m always on the metro or on a train or on an airplane, I started reading on my iPhone. But then about two years ago I realized that if I’m reading for pleasure or because I really want to learn something, I can’t do it on an electronic device; it becomes like work. So I’ve actually gone back to hard copies of books that I really want to read or care about.
What superpower would you most like to have?
I’d like to be able to fly. That would be really great. Or let’s make it even better: to teleport, so even faster than flying, to be able to be in a different place instantaneously.
What was the first record you owned?
The Monkees. I think it was 1967. I think it was their greatest hits. But I still remember that cover, and it was really exciting. I also got a white belt to go with bellbottoms the same day.
Did you have a favorite Monkee?
Mickey Dolenz. You can actually have lunch with him [to support a charity]. So every once in a while I think: Is it worth it? Maybe.