Student participation keeps psychology professor motivated

by RYAN SHANKS//Staff Writer

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When Alicia Barr was sitting in Dr. Daniel Gilbert’s class at the University of Texas at Austin, she realized her passion for psychology.

My most influential experience in college was taking a class with Dr. Daniel Gilbert, at UT,”  “He was such a fantastic and enthusiastic professor, and being in his class convinced me that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology”

Dr. Barr earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Texas, before going on to attend Arizona State University for graduate school. She obtained her doctoral degree in Social Psychology.

Upon completing her degree, her parents and in-laws were still living in Lubbock. Also, by the end of graduate school, she and her husband of 18 years had a daughter. Barr had always wished she lived closer to her grandparents (who lived in Austin), so Barr wanted her daughter to live near her grandparents.  That is the main reason Barr and her husband returned to Lubbock, she says.

Dr. Barr has been a professor at SPC since 2001, having taught General Psychology, Social Psychology and American Minority Studies.

“Some days are great, and other days are more of a challenge,” explains Dr. Barr. “Often, this is related to the topic for the day. Students are inherently more interested in dreams than in research methods, and the time of the semester students are more energized is at the beginning of the semester, rather than the last few weeks of the semester.”

Dr. Barr says she enjoys the diversity in terms of the students at SPC in terms of their personalities and demographics.

“In the classroom, I truly appreciate the extroverts who are willing to participate in discussions,” Dr. Barr says, “but I equally appreciate the quiet, more reserved students.”

Dr. Barr said she appreciates the students who stay a few minutes after class and share their impressions and insights about class that day. She says her favorite part about teaching at South Plains College, is “When I can actually see insight or the proverbial “light bulb goes on” in a student’s expression.”

When Dr. Barr began working at South Plains College, her children were very young (5 months and 2 1/2 years old).  At that time, her children gave Dr. Barr more insight into class discussions on child development.  Her family, to their chagrin, has also provided her with more personal examples of various phenomena that she can share with students.

However, Dr. Barr says she thinks the main influence her personal life has on her professional life is that she understands that all of her students are individuals with lives and challenges of their own, just like those in her own family.

“I think my parents had the most significant impact on my career choices,” said Dr. Barr. “My mother was a middle school and high school math teacher, and my father was a history professor.  I always thought I’d like to be a professor, so that I could have my summers off. But obviously they both influenced my choice of being in academia and teaching.”

If she wasn’t a professor, Dr. Barr suspects that she would be working as a laboratory scientist.

Her advice for students is, “Work hard and understand that real learning and exemplary grades take effort.  But also recognize that if a class does not seem easy, that does not mean you are not capable of succeeding.  Research tells us that the individuals who excel in any area are the ones who put in the most effort and practice.”

[Photo by JORDAN PATTERSON/PLAINSMAN PRESS]

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