Psychology Department Lecturers: Touching Lives of Psychology Students
“We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and enthusiastic team of lecturers!” says Patti Reuter-Lorenz, Psychology Chair. Did you know that the department’s twenty-one lecturers are responsible for teaching over fifty courses in an average year, reaching approximately 6,000 students per year?
Our lecturers teach the core curriculum of psychology in their classes, touching the academic lives of many undergraduates—some of whom are encountering the discipline for the very first time. Lecturers work to make difficult material accessible and expand “the educational experiences the department is able to provide to undergraduate students by developing and offering courses in their own areas of expertise,” says Brian Wallace, Director of Student Academic Affairs.
The department’s lecturers not only have a passion for the discipline, but also helping students apply what they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives. “It’s been a great privilege as SAA chair to get to know the lecturers and admire the example they set,” says Cindy Lustig, Associate Chair of Student Academic Affairs. “A common theme across these comments is how much everyone loves both the science and the process of… seeing our students grow both as individuals and across generations,” she continued.
“It’s clear to me that our lecturers have a love of learning and curiosity about psychology that keeps their perspectives fresh and motivation high,” says Reuter-Lorenz. “They are both challenged by the students and engaged in their learning—believing in the value of what they teach and the life lessons they hope to engender.”
We polled several lecturers asking, “What does teaching in Psychology mean to you?” Here is what they had to say:
“For me, teaching is about taking all of the knowledge and skills and experience I’ve gained over the years—from when I was in school myself, to my years of conducting research in the lab, to the things I’ve picked up while in front of a classroom—and using it to make Behavioral Neuroscience accessible to all students. It is about showing them that just because material may be difficult doesn’t mean it’s incomprehensible. It is about challenging the students, watching them rise to those challenges, and then seeing how proud they are at what they have accomplished. For me, teaching is patience and hard work, challenges and successes, learning and growing. For me, teaching is life.” –Dr. Jennifer Cummings
“From my 100 and 400 level seminars to my Entrepreneurial Creativity lecture, I’m always amazed by the engagement and abilities of Michigan students. It is great to work with such helpful and knowledgeable staff as well; they make things run smoothly so I can focus on serving my students. For as long as my students are happy and I’m having fun, I’ll be a proud lecturer in the nation’s best Psychology Department.” –Dr. Eric Fretz
“As much as I love interacting with and helping students, I have to say that for me personally, teaching Psychology is a great intellectual adventure. Teaching ‘Intro to Psych as a Natural Science’ has challenged me to articulate more systematically and precisely how the human mind, organism, and behavior fit into the scheme of things as revealed by the natural sciences. My advanced class, ‘Religion & Spirituality,’ is, for me, a fascinating exploration of how and why we humans have a spiritual dimension, and how cultural traditions have evolved to give this dimension shape and expression. The constant challenge to think more clearly and more deeply keeps me excited about the subject matter, and I think that enthusiasm helps to interest students in turn.” –Dr. Brian Malley
“I teach a number of political psychology courses, and it has been interesting to see the increasing ease with which students recognize the relevance of these courses. In these times of political invective and disagreement, it is important to approach questions of political behavior and attitudes with objectivity and falsifiability. For example, the students in my first-year seminar do a survey in which they measure an individual-difference variable and correlate it with support for the president. Regardless of what the students actually find, it usually ends up being a fascinating process.” –Dr. Josh Rabinowitz
“Undergraduate students in psychology have a very wide range of interests and backgrounds—but all of them were once children, and most of them will someday know or have a child of their own. In this way, the mental life of childhood is very close to our experience, and yet very foreign. Teaching psychology courses in language development and cognitive development lets me re-discover these familiar mysteries each semester. I am always excited to watch very bright minds grapple with these fascinating questions of basic psychological science, which also have clear implications for both their pasts and their futures.” –Dr. Anne-Michelle Tessier