My journey inside and outside of Wake Forest University
[Today’s blog features former alumni Caitlin Brez and now assistant professor in the Psychology Department at Indiana State University. She describes her experiences in Wake Forest’s Psychology Department and how it impacted her career. Thank you, Caitlin, for contributing your thoughts about Wake Forest. Many thanks to all the professors mentioned who mentored and taught Caitlin – Jacque]
For me and my fellow classmates of the Wake Forest class of 2003, 2013 marks our 10th year since graduating from Wake! Although I was disappointed that I could not attend our class reunion activities over Homecoming weekend, I have been reflecting on my journey these past 10 years and how my experiences at Wake have influenced my journey and my current career as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Indiana State University.
In the past 10 years since graduating from Wake, I have lived in five different states as I continued my pursuit of education that began as a student at Wake. When I entered college, I wanted to study psychology and biology and I immediately began taking courses in those disciplines. I enjoyed my courses and to this day I tell my own students about what I learned from those courses. I can remember clearly my first year seminar course with Dr. James Schirillo on Attachment Theory that I took my first semester at Wake, and my parenting course with Dr. Christy Buchanan remains one of my favorite college courses. The coursework at Wake provided a strong foundation for my future graduate studies in psychology. Aside from the content of the courses, the interactions and support from my professors was a valued part of my educational experience at Wake. I felt that my professors cared about my education and me as a person. I knew that my professors were approachable and willing to help, if needed. The knowledge that my professors would provide that level of guidance and assistance was a comfort to me as a student.
I also appreciated the liberal arts approach to education at Wake. I was always excited to make connections between classes that I was taking in multiple departments. In my own teaching, I try to make material relevant to my students’ every day experiences with the purpose of helping students make those same connections between material that we are talking about in my class to material from other classes or other situations in their lives.
Aside from the education that I received in the classroom, I enjoyed several opportunities to engage in learning outside of the classroom. I was fortunate to be able to study at the Worrell House in London with Dr. James Barefield. What an amazing experience that was! That semester will always be one of the highlights of my Wake Forest career. I got to expand my horizons by experiencing new cultures and taking courses outside of my major. The independence and challenge of living abroad led to valuable life lessons and personal growth. Another opportunity to learn outside of the classroom came through research. I was fortunate to have hands-on research experiences with Dr. Clifford Zeyl in the Biology Department and Dr. Dale Dagenbach in the Psychology Department. These research experiences shaped my own interests in research and increased my desire to pursue a career in research.
My journey from Wake has been broad, but has been focused on pursuing my interests in psychology and research. I completed my Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and furthered my research with a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Kansas. When I graduated from Wake, I had no intention of teaching. However, after having an opportunity to teach a college course as a graduate student at Texas, I realized that I truly enjoy the experience of teaching students. I immediately was reminded of my days at Wake and that experience has shaped my teaching goals and philosophy since. Whether in the classroom or the laboratory, I try to engage students in the learning process and ignite that passion in learning and psychology just as I experienced as a student at Wake.
I am grateful for my Wake Forest education and for all of the opportunities that it afforded. Not only did Wake provide a strong foundation for my education in psychology, but it has strongly influenced my approach to teaching and research. When reflecting on my own passion for education as well as my teaching goals and style, it is clear what a strong and beneficial influence my education and professors at Wake Forest have been.