Broadening the Mind
Written by Victoria Barry
When Aaron Pomerantz, ’15, found himself in a graduate-level statistics course at the University of Oklahoma, surrounded by classmates filled with angst, he took solace—in his notes from an undergraduate course at Hillsdale College.
“While many others in my cohort had literally no idea what to do, I was able to just look at old notes from advanced stats and figure out how to solve a lot of the problems, because I’d learned the information before,” Aaron said. “The way Dr. Barnes teaches stats is better than most undergrads will ever have a chance to encounter.”
Alongside Aaron, 2015 graduate Mary Kate Kibbe, who currently works at the Early Childhood Development Center at University of Notre Dame, also credits her psychology classes at Hillsdale with preparing her to take on a classroom of youngsters.
“The psychology department…[provided] me with information on studies and various theories surrounding the young child and their development,” she said. “The fact that I had a solid understanding about children and how they learn and develop allowed me to better understand the different needs of my four- and five-year-old students, and in turn helped me to be a better teacher.”
Mary Kate and Aaron both value the intersection of disciplines they experienced in their psychology classes at Hillsdale.
“Having my classes [as a psychology major and early childhood education minor] connect was extremely helpful because it allowed me to really understand the subject matter and dive deeper into the material,” Mary Kate said.
Aaron added that, specifically, Dr. Barnes’s interest in other areas of study provided a healthy amount of skepticism.
“Dr. Barnes is very interested in other disciplines, especially philosophy and history, and he involves other perspectives in the material that he teaches. He questions psychology a lot—questions and even doubts.”
This doubt allowed Aaron to recognize the limits of psychology and avoid the error of assuming that it holds all the answers.
“Part of a liberal arts education is understanding history and heritage,” Aaron said. “That should be no different for psych than it is for any other discipline.”
The psychology department is currently making a shift in its curriculum in hopes of integrating more with the liberal arts, which Aaron said is good and important, and with this shift has come growth.
“Not only have I seen the department grow in the hiring of Dr. Collin Barnes my sophomore year and with Dr. Jeri Little my senior year, but I have also seen the department grow in interest among the students,” Mary Kate said. “It seemed like every year I had more and more friends tell me how much they loved their introduction to psychology class with Dr. Barnes that they took as part of the core curriculum. As a result of taking this class, I had many friends take more psychology classes and even decide to major/minor in psychology.”
Mary Kate added that the resources and space available to students in the department add to the benefit of the psychology major/minor. And though not everyone who graduates with a psychology degree will now have to complete the same type of research project Aaron and Mary Kate did, they highly recommend it.
“It gets you an edge, and you are taught to interact with and learn from different regions and know other disciplines,” Aaron said.
This harks back to that unique perspective. The Hillsdale Psychology Department, as we like to say, appears to be in pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
“I think it’s healthy for the discipline as a whole that there’s a department out there capable of sending out competent, intelligent, psychologically educated young people who haven’t been exposed to the overwhelmingly liberal side of the discipline,” Aaron said. “I think a lot of Hillsdale psych students may end up shocked by what they see in the ‘real world,’ but I think a lot of people in the ‘real world’ will be equally shocked by what comes out of Hillsdale.”
Victoria Barry is a senior English major and classical education minor. She is an active member of Catholic Society, the president of the A.A. Milne Club, and a volunteer at Mary Randall preschool. In addition to reading and writing, Victoria enjoys baking, singing, and taking long outdoor walks. She plans on teaching elementary school after graduation this spring.