This month’s GSTA Corner (re)introduces the returning members of our Steering Committee. In 2023, the returning group includes Skyler Mendes (Chair), Madeline Bruce (Associate Chair, January-June), and two members at large: Christopher Kleva and Morgan Franklin. We look forward to introducing you to the other half of our team in next month’s corner. We express our heartfelt thanks to those who helped us recruit a highly skilled, thoughtful, and diverse group of new members.
Skyler Mendes (Chair)
Skyler (Skye) Mendes is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at Arizona State University, with an M.A. in Psychology from Arizona State University and Ed.M. in Prevention Science & Practice from Harvard University. Her subject-area research focuses on the prevention of internalizing symptoms in youth. Skye has been an instructor of record and teaching assistant/associate for an array of psychology and academic success courses over the last 12 years, including teaching in her former staff role at University of Rhode Island’s Academic Enhancement Center. Most recently, Skye spent 2022 teaching Research Methods Labs and Introduction to Psychology at Arizona State University and in 2023 she began an adjunct role at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches Research Methods.
A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I always enjoy teaching about cognitive biases; they tend to be relevant no matter the course and I enjoy how often students start pointing out when they see them in action. (I also enjoy teaching students how to learn effectively and science behind it!)
A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I recently enjoyed the journey of implementing Interteaching in the classroom. As a smaller tip for any style course, though, I like to always have a few “Think, Pair, Share” type questions in my back pocket. It’s valuable for students to have time to process the content together, and it’s also nice for me to take a few seconds to check on the pace of coverage and make any adjustments, or simply catch my breath if needed before debriefing their “shares.”
A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Remember that your favorite models of excellent teaching are often folks who have been able to iterate their course designs, content, and teaching practice over time; every one of those people started somewhere, like you, and their teaching likely looks much different from when the taught their first-ever classes. Try not to compare your first steps with their current ones, but do reach out to them to learn!
Madeline Bruce (Associate Chair, January-June)
Madeline (Mads) J. Bruce is a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Saint Louis University. Her research currently focuses on posttraumatic adjustment, identity, and growth. Interested in evidence-based practice in her clinical work, research, and teaching, her work on trigger warnings was some of the first to subject this controversial topic to empirical scrutiny. In her free time, she enjoys ultra swimming, running, and eating. She has been the instructor of record for Abnormal Psychology and a GTA for General, Clinical, Pediatric, and Trauma Psychology.
A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love weaving in positive psychology whenever possible regardless of the course.
A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I experimented with a flipped-classroom format during the pandemic, which was really well received by the students. I found we could budget our time together well, focusing on what was more difficult, and students had to reflect on what parts of the lecture were easier/harder for them.
A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Teaching as a graduate student for the first time is a really wonderful space to step into your professional self. It can stir all sorts of imposter syndrome and what ifs, but I found many students connected with me the most when I modeled how to handle not having the answers and were honest with them about it. You are more than ready to impart your wisdom, course material and beyond!
Christopher Kleva is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration on Behavioral Medicine. Broadly, his research interests involve the classification of psychopathology and clinician cognition. Chris has had the pleasure of serving as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) and/or primary instructor for several undergraduate-level courses including Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods and, most recently, Psychopathology.
A favorite concept to teach in psychology: I love teaching psychopathology! This is often one of the most popular courses among students and it is so refreshing to see them excited and engaged. I take pride in structuring the course to dispel misconceptions from the media/pop culture as well as encourage students to approach learning with a humane appreciation for those with lived experience.
A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: Recently, I started to assign various podcasts and TEDtalks throughout the course schedule. I feel it complements the assigned readings as well as enables the students to be introduced to the current literature in a brief, digestible format. Two podcasts that students enjoyed the most were: The Psychology Podcast & The Addiction Podcast!
A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: Being a graduate student teaching for the first time can be exciting and also anxiety-provoking. There is often an assumption that we must have all the answers to student questions. It is important to become comfortable with being transparent by saying, “I don’t know.” Students will appreciate your honesty and this creates a space where you can teach your students how to find the answer and you both can learn together.
Morgan Franklin, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Her research interests include treatment outcomes, technology-enhanced interventions, and examining processes of change proposed in the ACT framework. Morgan has 4 years of experience teaching several courses in multiple instructional modalities. She has been both a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), as well as an Instructor of Record for Introduction to Psychology. She has also taught as Instructor of Record for Effects of Recreational Drugs, Abnormal Psychology, and Psychology of Crime.
A favorite concept to teach in psychology: Abnormal psychology is my favorite course to teach and I find it helpful to discuss differences in experience and presentations of distress across cultures and social groups
A favorite tip/trick/technique or technology for teaching: I’ve had peers engage in collaborative development of course materials and exams and I absolutely love this idea. I think it helps students to feel like they are a part of the process/feel included makes it less likely students will feel blindsided by material covered on exams.
A word of advice for a graduate student new to teaching: My biggest note of advice for new instructors is to practice flexibility (both for yourself as well as for your students). Academia is hard for a variety of reasons at all levels. I think that practicing flexibility can help facilitate a positive learning experience for all involved.
Thank you for your time and consideration of how you can support STP’s graduate student members. We wish a wonderful year ahead to all in the STP community!