The greatest discovery of my generation is that man [woman] can alter his [her] life simply by altering his [her] attitude of mind.
When I was 16 years old, my high school guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do with my life. To her surprise, I told her that I wanted to be a psychologist. Why was she surprised? Given that I grew up on a farm in rural Ohio, she did not expect me to understand the importance of higher education let alone the career aspirations of a psychologist. According to the research on risk factors of students who are not likely to succeed in college, I should not be in the position I am today!
Positive psychology researchers note that we need at least one person in our lives who consistently supports and mentors us to help us grow as healthy and functional adults. That person in my life was my grandmother, LaVonne Koppes. She inspired me to reach my potential through education. Interestingly, she was the only four-year college-educated person in my family—she graduated from The Ohio State University in 1924 with a four-year degree and spent her career as a fifth-grade schoolteacher. As I was growing up, she encouraged me to pursue the best and most extensive education possible. Every day, I am grateful for my education, my professional career in higher education and my current position as the dean of UB's Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology. With hard work, perseverance and an education, you can realize your potential, too!
Why psychology? For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with human behavior and curious about why people do what they do. When I thought about attending college, I researched various majors and careers that would allow me to learn more about people. The instructor of my first psychology course at The Ohio State University showed me how we can scientifically study the mind and behavior. I was and continue to be fascinated with psychological science.
I am especially interested in individuals who are functioning optimally in their daily lives in the context of workplaces. After all, we spend about 2,000 hours a year at work (based on a 52-week work year, five days a week, eight hours a day and two weeks' paid vacation). I earned my doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology to better understand individual and organizational effectiveness from both science and practice perspectives. Currently, my research and practice focus on fostering organizational cultures and climates in which employees can effectively manage work, family and life responsibilities. I focus specifically on the responsibilities of leaders and managers in fostering great work environments where individuals can do their best by capitalizing upon their strengths both at work and outside of work. That's part of why I chose to work for UB, because we create opportunities for employees and students to excel.
A life-changing experience was my U.S. Fulbright Scholar grant, through which I lived and worked in the Czech Republic. Immersing myself into a different environment and culture forced me to challenge my own cultural norms and societal expectations, which resulted in opening my mind to think more freely. I greatly enhanced my global perspective and became a better educated and engaged citizen.