Chair, Department of Psychology
Associate Professor of PsychologyJoined USJ: 1999
The popularity of psychology – consistently the second or third most popular major at USJ – is “because of the breadth of psychology,” explains Mary Whitney, an engaged and passionate professor, who serves as chair of the department. “It is not only counseling – it is the study of people. Whatever field you’re in, psychology will help you understand people. It’s the foundation for almost any career. “
Rigor and Support
Whitney describes the education at USJ as “transformative,” and thoroughly enjoys “seeing students realize how much fun it is to learn, to take that knowledge and apply it. The diversity of students – including many who are the first in their family to attend college – underscores the joy of teaching. And it is especially rewarding when former students, their careers underway, see first-hand that the “high standards and rigor of the psychology program are helpful in their career,” Whitney says. Her dedication to teaching – and students – is plainly evident. “I don’t believe in dumbing down the work, I’d rather spend a lot of time with a student who is willing to work.” And she does. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Understanding the Brain’s Impact
Whitney’s fascination with and dedication to learning more about the complexity of the brain has driven her research and informs her teaching. The Psychology profession has come to “realize how important the central nervous system is, as there has been more emphasis on multiple perspectives and the value in better understanding the brain and behavior.”
Currently, Whitney is studying sleep patterns in adolescents and the biologically different needs and patterns of that age group, as well as the implications for education, employment and daily life. She’s seeking the best way to integrate the results into pedagogy, as she works with colleagues and students to extend critical thinking and real world applications. Both the sequence and content of courses can be made more efficient and effective by a greater understanding of how learning occurs during the adolescent years.
Whitney previously conducted research into the sleep patterns of newborn infants, investigating connections between sleep and central nervous system development. At every age, Whitney observes, understanding the brain’s influence on behavior is central to understanding people.
A.B., Oberlin College
Ph.D., University of Connecticut