Every spring semester, I shake off the winter routine by taking a short, weekly “break” from my role as dean to teach a class. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a teacher, clinical psychologist, and college administrator.
This year, I am teaching the 300-level psychology course Approaches to Psychotherapy, which focuses on theories and practices of clinical and counseling psychology. Teaching this course takes me back to my roots as a clinical psychologist, when I developed as a clinician in a variety of settings as a graduate student at Duke University, and I did community mental health work in Washington, D.C., after earning my doctorate—my area of specialty focuses on trauma and dissociative disorders in multicultural populations. In class, we look at psychological theories and approaches through a broad cultural lens—at how they intersect with the experiences of people from various backgrounds and identities.
I have found teaching to be profoundly energizing, for several reasons:
A classroom full of bright Middlebury students is a stimulating environment in and of itself. The students always challenge me with their discerning observations, questions, and ideas.
Outside experts—practicing clinical psychologists—visit class to discuss their work, which allows me to connect with colleagues active in the field and community.
As a class, we think critically about the field of clinical psychology, and that is a good thing. Middlebury students planning to work in the field will ensure that the field evolves and is responsive to new realities.
The teaching process revs up my creative juices, and I take that renewed creativity back to Old Chapel. I realize some people don’t think of administrators as creative, but I have found that innovative approaches and inventive problem solving are needed each day.
Teaching has helped to make me a better dean. It is grounding (and humbling) to be able to carve out this special time with students. What I gain from the classroom experience stays with me and informs my work for the rest of the year.
I have also taught Racism and Mental Health and Psychological Disorders. I hope I will get to see some of you in my course in the future.
Teaching vitalizes me and pushes me in ways that are so important to being a better college administrator. I am interested in learning more about what students want to experience and learn in the classroom. I also want to know more about what others do at this time of year to recharge their lives. What do you do to rejuvenate and energize your academic or professional life?