Assistant Professor of Psychology
As a native of St. Louis, I attended St. Louis University for my Bachelor of Arts degree (double majoring in Psychology and Women’s Studies). I entered college knowing I wanted to study psychology and I was hooked after that first introductory class. After my first year I knew I wanted to pursue psychology at the graduate level but I was unsure of the specific area. I knew going to graduate school meant I had to be involved in psychology research so I spoke with my professors and asked them about opportunities for undergraduates. I started off working with a developmental psychologist and as the years went on I accumulated more and more data (like a good researcher) by working in several different types of labs that included cognitive psychology and psychology and law.
It was not until my junior year that a class really opened my eyes and made me realize what my direction of study should be. In Psychology of Oppression I felt a great sense of intellectual awakening. We discussed the origin of stereotypes, how they are expressed and affect minority group members. I had never heard someone discuss these concepts and ideas that we are familiar with in society in such an open and frank way. I was amazed at how persistent negativity can be towards outgroup members (i.e., individuals who belong to different groups like race, gender, sexual orientation than you) and how the social justifications for that negativity don’t make sense. If we are indeed created equal, then why do we have things like hate, prejudice, and stereotypes about people that we may have little to no contact with? This issue resonated with me and I was compelled to examine if we, as civilized people, can be less biased despite people/society/media who promote otherwise. Can we be successful in reducing our bias towards others?
Consequently, I aligned myself with faculty that allowed me to have experience working on research regarding stereotyping and prejudice and I went to the University of Kentucky and earned my Master’s and doctorate degrees in Experimental Psychology, specializing in Social Psychology. At UK I had the honor of working with Dr. Margo Monteith and her graduate students. Again I was fortunate to encounter another faculty member who cared deeply about educating students and inspired me to examine the mechanisms by which people can be more egalitarian.
In my stint as a student, I saw how incredibly influential faculty can be given how I was shaped, encouraged, and inspired to better understand the ways in which people can be successful in reducing prejudice against others. In my current research, I continue to examine these themes. As an educator I strive to make students aware of different perspectives and hope to encourage them to question current practices of inequality as well. USI is a great place for this to happen given its commitment to educating students and I look forward to the opportunity to return the favor and help facilitate that kind of awareness and understanding in others.
Associate Professor of English
Two kinds of experience growing up in rural Southwestern Pennsylvania affected my choice of professions and my particular interests in that profession.
One was reading. When my brother and I were in elementary school, my mother read to us every evening. Our choices of texts varied, from Encyclopedia Brown to Mark Twain. A more memorable moment for me was a moment of confusion rather than insight. While we were reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, my mother at one point laughed aloud and exclaimed, “That’s terrible!” I was enjoying the story. However, I didn’t understand why she was both amused and offended by the same passage, especially when I didn’t have either of those reactions to the very same passage. It wasn’t until undergraduate school, when I encountered Huckleberry Finn a second time, that I began to understand how a work of literature could entertain a child while it both amused and appalled an adult.
The second kind of experience occurred nightly, at the supper table, where my mother – a conservative Republican – and my father – a sometime moderate-to-liberal Republican, sometime moderate Democrat – frequently discussed politics. My interest in these discussions were less about who I thought was right and more about how each drew on certain kinds of evidence to persuade the other to see things in a new way.
Exposure to literature and political argument and persuasion led me to major in English and minor in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I focused on English during my master’s degree program at the University of Missouri. When I entered the Ph.D. program in English – also at the University of Missouri – I discovered I could combine my two interests by specializing in Rhetoric and Composition, with a minor concentration in modern literature. I was particularly drawn to studies that examine how language shapes our perceptions of the world around us and how we shape our language use to construct our social selves and to articulate and defend our worldviews, and my own research continues to investigate such phenomena.
Prior to arriving at USI in the fall of 2007, I was a faculty member at the Ohio State University at Newark, where I also developed and directed the campus writing center, and then at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky, where I served as Humanities and Fine Arts Division Chair and developed and directed the campus writing center. My tenures at those two schools have provided me with invaluable experience that prepared me for working with the USI student population and for directing the composition program.