After becoming full professors, Utah State University faculty members have the experience of addressing their family, friends and colleagues in a traditional Inaugural Lecture at the President’s Home. The event is coordinated through the Provost’s Office.
Two professors from the Psychology Department at USU have participated this year: Dr. Renee Galliher and Dr. Scott Bates. They both spoke on their personal and professional experiences in an event that both scared and uplifted them.
“It’s a bit of a vulnerable experience because you share more about your personal development than you would in any other professional setting,” said Galliher. “But when it was over, I felt like a princess. It was powerful.”
According to her biography, her presentation was about weaving her various identities together.
“She spends most of her personal and professional time negotiating a balance between her rural values and mountain culture … and the new, exciting and sometimes very confusing ways of thinking that she encounters every time she enters a new context or meets someone new.”
She has understood herself as a rural person and worked that identity into who she has become as a psychologist, social justice advocate, mother, daughter and friend.
The subject of identity also comes up a lot in her professional work. Galliher counsels students to apply the principles of psychology in their lives as they start down their own path. Mentoring is an important part of her professor’s role, she said — which means that sometimes she counsels a tearful student in her office.
“My focus is on helping them develop as whole people with multiple roles,” she said. “I work with students on really trying to understand who they are and what they want for themselves and their communities.”
She is also dedicated to broadening the face of psychology to include minority voices — those from other racial and cultural backgrounds (even rural ones).
She offered this advice to psychologists:
“As a field I think psychology needs to practice humility. I think we have a long history of believing we know what is right for our clients and our community. … Psychology needs to get better at listening.”
Scott Bates said his Inaugural Lecture was a new experience — even for someone who has taught nearly 10,000 students.
“It’s also not the sort of lecture we are trained to give,” he said. “We are trained to have some distance.”
But in this presentation he was expected to talk more about his journey. It was intimidating, but in the end he felt more than relieved. He also felt he had done his topic justice.
Like Galliher, he related psychology to life, and his own meandering path through his profession. He started in industry, moved to telecommuting for the university, progressed to large lecture halls at USU and ended up as the associate vice president and associate dean in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.
He began by quoting the late cognitive psychologist, George A. Miller.
“The most urgent problems of our world today are the problems we have made for ourselves. … I can imagine nothing we could do that would be more relevant to human welfare… than to discover how best to give psychology away.”
And that is what Bates urges students in the field to do. Psychology practitioners can help prevent problem behaviors, assist people in living better lives and find better ways to educate students.
“You start looking at the idea that this science of human behavior is the path to saving the world,” he said.
Psychology isn’t like other jobs that stay in the office when the professional goes home, Bates said.
“Those same skills can be super valuable in a person’s life.”
He offers advice to practitioners already in the field.
“Don’t overspecialize. … I think there’s value in specialization, but this field is broad and wonderful and has so much to offer. If you become the worldwide expert on color vision exclusively, there’s value in that, but you’re also missing out.”
Bates and Galliher are two of six professors from USU’s College of Education and Human Services who have given inaugural lectures so far this academic year.
Writer: JoLynne Lyon, 435-7976-1463