Honors Spotlight - Dr. Amy Learmonth Dr. Learmonth is a professor in the Psychology Department at William Paterson University. Dr. Learmonth earned a Ph.D. from Temple University in Developmental Psychology. Most of her current research focuses on preschool age children examining memory, spatial ability and imitation in both typically developing and ASD populations. Dr. Learmonth is also the Track Director for the Cognitive Science Honors Track. The Cognitive Science Track draws students from all majors who are interested in an interdisciplinary exploration of how the mind works. Students explore connections between Philosophy, Psychology, Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics, Neuroscience, and Anthropology. Interview: What excites you most about your field of research? I love research in general, but, what is most exciting about working with children is that it gives me the ability to explain something new. Children think differently as they grow and learn. I feel like studying children allows me to see into a different world, but yet a world we all inhabited for the first few years. Nothing is better than playing with children to see how they think. What kind of learning environment are you trying to cultivate within the Cognitive Science track? I want an environment of curiosity. The interdisciplinary nature of the track allows students with different perspectives and different training to have high level discussions, disagree, explore and be willing to be wrong, so they can start learning something new. What do you love about being a track director? I love learning from my students. The track is very open so students, particularly in thesis, can choose their own science of the mind “adventure” and I learn something new from at least half of the projects. How does being a track director challenge you? There are always a lot of balls in the air managing the track, and sometimes it is a challenge keeping everything moving smoothly. How do the courses in the Cognitive Science Track challenge your students? In selected topics (CGSI 3000), the students pick which books we will read. I usually try to give them 15 or so choices (this course justifies my horrible book buying problem). I never know what they will select. We have read literature from cognitive psychology to Eastern philosophy and everything in between, as long as it approaches how people think. I often get to read something I have not read before, which challenges me, but even more challenging to the students is that I refuse to tell them what I think. Honors students are very good at following their professor’s lead, so when I don’t lead, they figure out how to do it themselves. Are there any experiences with your own past advisors or mentors that inform the way you interact with your own students within the Cognitive Science track? I have been very lucky to have a number of inspiring mentors who showed me what effective teaching and mentoring looks like. As an undergraduate, Dr. Gonzalez took me into his lab and under his wing. As a graduate student, Dr. Newcombe showed me how to find my way and my confidence. As a post-doc, Dr. Rovee-Collier showed faith in my abilities. Everything good in my career is a reflection of their collective patience and mentoring. Tell us about some of the especially impactful projects you had the privilege of overseeing. Overseeing the research my thesis students complete is the most fun part of my job, even though it is a huge amount of work. Most of the thesis projects are impactful and it is too hard to pick out special ones from past years, so my answer is about the current thesis group. This year, I am learning about how emotional control matters in a video game, autonomous sensory meridian response, teaching styles in business vs liberal arts, the impact of late diagnosis in autistic women, stress and emotion in athletes, concussion and more. What would you like to say to prospective students of the Honors College, and your track? The CGSI track is fun. If you are interested in the track, it is my favorite thing to talk to students about. Come see me in room 2057 Science Hall East, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Honors College student Becca Gilliland wins New Jersey's 2021 'Changebuilder Scholar Award' for Civic Engagement https://www.wpunj.edu/articles/news/2021-04-26/rebecca-gilliland-wins-new-jersey-s-2021-changebuilder-scholar-award-for-civic-engagement/ Research shows that, while all students benefit from an Honors education, African American and Latinx students benefit even more. Click here to read more about this. HONORS SPOTLIGHT: Recent William Paterson Honors College graduate Samantha Koprowski (2020) visited with us to tell us how graduate school is going for her. She has advice for current William Paterson students, as well as lasting memories and lessons from her time here as an undergraduate. Honors College: Hi Sam. So tell us the exact details of the graduate program that you’re in. Samantha Koprowski: I am a PhD student in Political Science at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. The program requires a major and two minors. I’m unsure of my second minor at the moment, but my major is Women and Politics, and my first minor is American Politics. HC: What made you choose this PhD program at Rutgers? SK: Although I was accepted to four graduate programs, I chose Rutgers because it is the only program in the country that offers Women and Politics as a major field of study. Broadly speaking, my research interests deal with issues regarding the accessibility of elected office for women and the policy-based consequences of women’s representation in U.S. legislatures. Therefore, this program best suited my research interests. Additionally, some of the scholars I cited in my honors thesis and other research papers (specifically Dr. Mona Lena Krook and Dr. Kira Sanbonmatsu) teach at Rutgers. I had the great pleasure of taking courses (Women & Politics Proseminar with Dr. Krook and Gender & American Politics with Dr. Sanbonmatsu) with these professors. For these reasons, it was a no-brainer that I would accept my offer to Rutgers. HC: Why did you choose to get a PhD rather than an MA? SK: I chose a PhD program rather than obtaining an MA first because of my desired career path. I would like to become a professor, and to do that a PhD is a necessity. Before becoming a professor, though, I would like to return to DC and work in Congress. I plan on applying to the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) prestigious Congressional Fellowship, which places recent PhD graduates and professors in congressional offices. As an undergraduate, I was able to complete an internship with a member of Congress in the fall of 2018. I enjoyed it so much that I can’t resist going back! HC: Tell us about your first semester of graduate school. Was it what you expected? SK: My first semester was about as tough as I expected. I expected a heavy workload, and that definitely was the case. The amount of reading assigned per class per week is hefty; ranging anywhere between 100-300 pages per class per week. With four classes a semester in my first year, I spent a lot of my time reading and annotating. The courses are very discussion-heavy too, so a working knowledge of the text that goes beyond summarization is absolutely crucial. Combined with short weekly writing assignments and research papers, this leaves very little free time. Time management is crucial to even doing the bare minimum of passing your courses. I used to be a procrastinator in undergrad, but I quickly learned that in order not to sink, I couldn’t procrastinate anymore. HC: What’s the best part about being a graduate student? SK: Of course, there is more to being a graduate student than reading, writing, and taking classes. I’ve already made some amazing friends in my cohort despite not being able to meet any of them in person. The courses themselves are intellectually stimulating, and being able to discuss freely with my peers during and after class has enhanced my knowledge of critical texts in the discipline. I’ve also received insightful feedback on my current research projects, and I’m treated as an intellectual equal by both professors and peers. Plus, getting paid to do what I love is truly a blessing. Being a graduate student definitely has its perks if you love research and want to make a career out of being an academic. HC: How did being in the Honors College help prepare you for grad school? SK: The honors thesis project was my first stab at a lengthy academic paper. It truly emulates the format of many of the papers I’ve completed and will complete in the future. Having this sort of practice before entering the program was absolutely vital in my success the first semester. This isn’t to say that my Honors classes weren’t useful. In fact, some of my track courses contributed to my working knowledge of key political science texts. For example, Dr. Kressel frequently spoke about public opinion and made us read Walter Lippmann’s The Phantom Public in the first social sciences seminar. I happened to take a public opinion course here at Rutgers, and my professor was so impressed by my knowledge of Lippmann (one of the first researchers of public opinion in the U.S.) that he declared I knew more about Lippmann than he did! My Honors education has helped me in more ways than one, as you can see! HC: What do you wish you had known about applying and getting into grad school that you didn't know before? SK: I wish I knew that GRE scores are not the most important determinant of admission for PhD programs (specifically in my discipline, can’t comment on others)! You don’t need perfect GRE scores to be accepted into graduate school. Recommendations, previous research experience, how well your research interests match the program, internships, and other factors are taken into consideration and usually given more weight than GRE scores alone. A lot of stress would have been lifted off my shoulders if I knew this, and I probably wouldn’t have spent so much money on a personal tutor. My program is close to eliminating the GRE requirement in the near future, so this advice might become obsolete sooner rather than later. HC: What would you like current William Paterson students to know about grad school? SK: That you should not enter a graduate program merely because of prestige or the title you might earn. Specifically, don’t enter a PhD program just because you want to be called “Doctor.” Before applying, you should be 100% certain that you WANT to be in school for the next 5+ years and dedicate the rest of your career to research. It’s an enormous commitment of time, energy, and money. If research isn’t what you’re passionate about or if you only want to do academic work as a hobby or side interest, there are plenty of other routes you can take with your degree. I strongly encourage talking to your academic advisor before making any decisions! HC: What is your favorite memory of your time at WP and/or in the Honors College? SK: I have an innumerable amount of awesome memories from my time in the Honors College. Some of them include: eating Brother Bruno’s dessert pizza pies for my birthday celebrations, laughing about inside office jokes with Jan and Dr. Andrew, being generously gifted books by Virginia Woolfe and other philosophers by Dr. Andrew, helping plan Honors College events such as USHAC with Jan, Lily, and Julianna, meeting with my honors thesis advisor (Dr. Shalom) every two weeks to go over my progress on my thesis (or lack thereof), visiting the 9/11 memorial museum with Dr. Raghavan for our social sciences track course, speaking to prospective students and their families at the Scholarship Brunch, etc. If I have to pick a favorite, I would say attending the virtual USHAC ceremony. After helping to plan USHAC, it was nice to sit back and be a part of the event and receive some awards. The supportive comments in the side chat from Jan and Lily, as well as kind words from Dr. Andrew, were nice to hear, and viewing it with my family was a special moment.