Dr. Sarah Torok-Gerard

Teaching Area(s): Psychology and Neuroscience

Title: Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Courses Taught:
Psychology

Career
Ultimately, I think this profession chose me. As a graduate student in educational psychology, I fully intended to go into educational research and work for an agency like the Department of Education. In my second year of coursework, I was required to teach a class as part of my doctoral program. The first course I taught was Child and Adolescent Development. I realized I had a lot to learn about how to deliver information, but worked with my graduate advisor and talked to my students about how I could improve. I decided to teach the same course again the following semester. After a lot of revision, I felt more comfortable presenting the material and engaging the students.

Professional Accomplishments
I think one of my proudest professional accomplishments was being invited to present my dissertation research on reading remediation at an Oxford Roundtable a few years ago. As a young girl I dreamed about going to Oxford University for college, so the conference made me feel like my academic career had, in a way, come full circle.

Teaching Style
I like to do service-learning projects, when they are possible. I have done a service learning project on bullying for my Psychology of Gender course for the last several semesters. I also have students do regular writing exercises in some of my classes. This gets them to think about the material beyond what the textbook and my lectures tell them. In my Child and Adolescent Development course students have to write and also take part in formal debates.

Interesting Research and Curricula
This summer I began a work group to bring a bullying forum to campus. The event took place on Unity Day (October 10) during National Bullying Prevention Month, and I was very pleased with the turnout. With respect to interesting curricula, in addition to integrating service-learning projects into my own courses, I served on the University’s General Education Task Force since its inception and continue to serve as a member of the Integrative Core Advisory Board, which is involved in the continued development of the new Integrative Core program.

Favorite Part of the Job
I like that I have the freedom to continually tweak the courses I teach and that I can seek out new challenges in the administrative roles I take on. My job is not, and never has been, boring!

Adaptation
Since I came here, we have experienced a lot of growth and change as an institution. I think the progressiveness and willingness to adapt to a changing landscape in higher education on both the part of the administration and of the faculty is what makes us unique.

Research Interests
Bullying

Education
B.A., Psychology, Mercyhurst College
M.S., Educational Psychology, University at Albany, SUNY
Ph.D., Educational Psychology, University at Albany, SUNY

With respect to interesting curricula, in addition to integrating service-learning projects into my own courses, I served on the University’s General Education Task Force since its inception and continue to serve as a member of the Integrative Core Advisory Board.

Fun Facts

If You Could Teach Another Class
I’d like to teach a course on exercise physiology with an emphasis on the runner’s body.
Words from a Student
I am not sure why, but I am always surprised when a student, especially a former student, tells me that they have used something that they specifically learned in one of my classes. I know that is my role as an educator, but it is always validating when someone you haven’t taught in a while reminds you that you did play a role in their learning and lives in some small way.
Favorite Quote or Motto
"...if you can't run, then walk. And if you can't walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, never, ever give up." ~Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathoner
Surprising Fact About Yourself
While my job requires almost constant interaction with people, I am actually pretty shy and reserved in most social situations. I am what a developmental psychologist would refer to as a “slow-to-warm-up child.” For that reason, I tend to seek out the company of animals (like my dog) more frequently than being amidst a group of people.
If You Weren’t a Professor
If I could do it all over again, I probably would have gone into health psychology and athletic training. I would love to be a personal trainer. I think having a background in both psychology and athletic training would allow me to provide clients with the mental and physical strategies they would need for their long-term health/lifestyle goals.
Places to Visit or Things to Do
I’d like to run an ultramarathon. Mind you, an “ultra” is anything over a marathon (26.2 miles) distance, so a 50K (31.1 miles) would be appropriate! In fact, I am planning on attempting my first 50K during my sabbatical, which will be relevant to my research.
Favorite Movie
Anything with John Candy in it, especially Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Favorite Book
Anything to do with ultrarunning!
Hobbies and Interests
I love art and like to travel and horseback ride.
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