I have taught in higher education since 2000 and I love it – teaching is the best. I enjoy both master’s and bachelor’s students and our shared learning journey. I’ve been with Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, since August 2013, and it is my best teaching experience yet. My particular specialty is teaching graduate and undergraduate psychopharmacology (let’s talk synapses!). I’ve taught many other courses at Metro and look forward to getting back to it after sabbatical.
In the meantime, I have been fortunate to do some teaching in higher ed while on sabbatical. During the five weeks I spent in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, I taught several classes at Martin Luther Christian University, most to master’s in counseling psychology students, one to master’s in social work students. In both cases, I was talking about substance use and substance use disorders (SUDs). I had more time with the counseling psych students, so we were able to go into greater depth. I had a wonderful experience with the MLCU faculty and did some curriculum consulting with them. Indeed, I’m hoping to go back in October 2020, as they’re putting on a conference and have invited me to be the keynote speaker.
Talks and Trainings
Since 1992, I’ve given a wide variety of presentations on topics ranging from pharmacology to clinical work to counselor education. I enjoy doing it, so I was pretty happy in Shillong, as they set up all kinds of opportunities. The Manbha Foundation, run by Dr. Rica Lamar (left, from a lovely day of touring), is the host organization that originally got me to Shillong. I did two staff trainings there. One, with peer counselors and outreach workers, was on basics of the helping relationship. Prepping it was great; it had me think through said basics and distill them down as best I could. The other staff training was on LGBTQIA issues for social work students in field placement. This was fascinating, as all the students grew up in relatively conservative Christian denominations and had learned many stigmatizing beliefs about queer people. They had already made some progress in examining their biases; I like to think that they made more due to our discussion.
With MLCU, and in collaboration with the Bethany Society, I gave a presentation on World Mental Health Day. I was pleased to give a talk at Saint Mary’s College as well. In both cases, I spoke on mental health basics and suicide prevention. I loved both of these opportunities and the leaders and participants that I got to interact with.
Yes, there’s more. I facilitated one of several student groups at a drug awareness event. I was one of a series of presenters at an all-day session on LGBTQIA issues at a small, conservative Bible college. As you can imagine, there was some contention, challenging and rich. Fr. Thomas Ninan of the National Council of Churches India organized and led the day, all respect to him. I also had a second opportunity to provide the basics of the helping relationship training, this time for peer counselors in a small faith-based organization.
Why Teaching Is The Best
I often talk about loving my work. What’s so special about it? My teaching philosophy is based in engagement. It’s pretty straightforward from there: Engagement means relationships and relationships are life. When students and I engage with each other, when we develop a space of shared learning, when we connect – well, we’re connecting, we’re doing the work of life. Then add these factors: I teach counseling, which demands that everyone engaged in learning must bring forward who they are with genuineness and bravery; our students are the best; our institution serves students with an amazing range of life experience; my faculty colleagues are second to none; and, well, truth is, I love to sound smart and funny, and teaching seems to bring that out in me. I love nearly everything about it. Just not grading. As my students well know.