Thursday, September 1, 2016

Professor Highlight 002: Erica Kleinknecht

Professor Highlight 002
Erica Kleinknecht, PhD
How is Dr. Kleinknecht changing the world?

She is a professor of Psychology on our Undergraduate campus who has been dedicated to giving her knowledge away to those who will use it to better the lives of those around them. She’s passionate about Psychology because it's a field that has so much to offer the world and current social issues.

What does it mean to you to be a professor dedicated to community engagement?
Part of our job description as faculty members is to engage in “service” to our community. The traditional definition of community service, to university faculty, is the academic community. I want my work to have a broader impact too though, so I additionally choose to follow a different definition of community. That is, one can also define community as the local community – the folks and organizations we live with outside the university and research settings. I do this too – find ways to apply my professional and personal skills outside “the academy”. As I do this, I blend my personal interests in helping the community with my professional teaching and scholarship. 

Could you elaborate on how you apply yourself to the varying definitions of a civically engaged professor?
1. Public Intellectual - As a public intellectual, I “give psychology away.” When folks ask, I provide them with print resources and offer suggestions for how to put research and theory into practice in their lives and work, as relevant. For example, several years ago, the principal of the Forest Grove Community School asked me if some students and I could build a school-wide curricular package for her teachers to use, to help boost the social-cognitive development of the student body. We did that, and some (though not all) of the activities were adopted by a few of the teachers there and at other local elementary schools as well.
2. Civic EngagementIn the spirit of “service learning” for several years running students enrolled in my Child Development Class have been placed in a local elementary classroom where they simultaneously help out in the classroom and conduct observational work that brings course content to life for them (in fact, I have been doing this with my students for longer than the center for civic engagement has been in operation). My students have worked in this capacity in the on-campus Early Learning Community and in the Forest Grove Community School.
3. Applied Research Mentor - Using the volunteer projects mentioned below, I create applied research experiences for appropriate students, that is, students with civic minded and research interests. Over the years, several students have worked on the Pixel Arts project and the Perspective Taking project in a variety of ways.
  • Pixel Arts program mentors: Pacific students have been trained and then volunteered in Pixel Arts camps and After School Programs 
  • Pixel Arts program evaluators: Pacific students have worked alongside me in designing, analyzing, and writing up assessment reports. Our reports are often presented at peer reviewed research conferences
  • Perspective Taking programming: Pacific students take my program curricula and use them in elementary classrooms. As they do this, they provide students with meaningful opportunities 
Why do you feel it is important for you to share your knowledge?
I believe that the work we do as experimental psychologists has much to offer the world, and so I work to make that information accessible as much as I can. In terms of how I work to make the world a better place then, I blend my personal and professional interests and skills.I work to blur the lines between scholarship and life, in both directions too. Not only do I take my students out into the world, but I also bring the world into my classrooms. I blend social issues and facilitate discussions on how to handle them in all the courses I teach. I train students to be critical thinkers and I offer them opportunities to take what they are learning and apply it to real-world challenges, just as I do myself.

Contact Admissions to learn how you can apply for free or schedule a visit with Pacific; a University that has professors who are passionate about change.

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