By Blair Bordelon
 
Eddie Palmer, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school, has “always been curious about people and human behavior.”
 
Growing up in a small town called Treemont, Miss., Palmer spent his days working with his dad in heavy construction and having no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up.
 
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said, “but I knew I didn’t want to continue in construction.”
 
It was not until his second year in college that Palmer found his calling in a sociology course. He liked the class so much that he made it his major and his life.
 
Palmer compared his curiosity about people and their behaviors to an alien on Mars, looking down at the Earth and studying its inhabitants.
 
He said these Martians would be “looking at all the different things we do, like building cities then burning them down, loving each other then killing each other, all of the different fascinating inconsistencies in our behavior.”
 
Palmer said that it is “the unpredictability of people” that interests him the most, because everything we say or do has to be interpreted from symbols or gestures.
 
“We’re not hardwired to know what someone is trying to tell us,” he said. “So we have to learn, and in that learning process, sometimes we miss the mark.”
 
After receiving his bachelor's and master's degrees in sociology, Palmer was still not quite sure where this fascination would take him. He spent some time teaching at Delta State College after his master's, until he and his wife decided they were going to pack their bags and travel the country.
 
They spent many nights sleeping on the ground or in cheap motels and explored the entire West Coast from Alaska down to New Mexico.
 
And on a sign on the side of the road, just outside of El Paso, Texas, is where Palmer discovered his future.
 
The sign was advertising the University of Texas at El Paso, and Palmer’s wife turned to him and said, “Why don’t you just go over there and get a job, . . . and then we can explore Mexico.”
 
So, marching in there “with jeans and long hair,” Palmer went straight to the sociology department asking “You got anything for me to do,” and walked out again with a year's worth of work as a professor.
 
In that one year he realized that teaching was what he wanted to do, and that he would need a doctorate to continue.
 
He started applying to schools across the country, and got his doctorate at Virginia Tech. He then got a job at Texas Tech, where he stayed until an advertisement for a position at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette caught his eye in 1985.
 
Palmer was hired as the head of sociology and anthropology department, and taught several courses in social disorganization, which covers topics such as criminology, juvenile delinquency, and even death and dying.
 
In 2001 he was promoted to dean of the graduate school, and has not had any more time to teach.
 
As dean, Palmer works with the more bureaucratic means of helping out the graduate students, such as doing paperwork and revising policies.
 
“I really don’t get that one-on-one connection,” he said “and yes, I miss it.”
 
He still manages to do research and write articles about sociology, but, he said, not as much as he would like.
 
 Palmer said he has found other ways of “keeping his sanity.”
 
He and his wife began collecting decorative furniture in Texas, and once they realized they could not fit it all in their house, they decided to get into the antiques business.
 
Now they own an antique store in Rayne, La., where they sell hubcaps, paintings, stained glass and, Palmer’s favorite, interesting hood ornaments, several of which are now decorating his office.