Bellevue College assistant professor also researches why people think, act and feel the way they do.

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ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
Tabitha Kirkland

What do you do? I teach psychology at Bellevue College, an open-access college with two- and four-year programs. I specialize in teaching social psychology and research methods, but I also really love interdisciplinary classes where two instructors team-teach a class to give different perspectives on the same topic. Our classes only have around 35 students in them, so students and professors can get to know each other.

How did you get started in that field?
I fell in love with psychology during my college days at the University of California San Diego, and went on to get my doctorate (Ph.D.) from Ohio State. All the extra schooling took 11 years after high school — a big commitment. But it was worth it! I get to work in a career that allows for a tremendous amount of autonomy, which is rewarding.

What’s a typical day like? 8:30: Arrive on campus. Finalize lecture notes, check emails, make copies. 9:30: Teach for 2 hours. 11:30: Have lunch while talking to students about their research projects. 12:30: Teach for two hours. 3:00: Meeting with faculty committee. 4:00: Head home (or sometimes to yoga). Work at home for a few hours answering emails, preparing or grading assignments and researching material to enrich my classes.

What’s the best part of your work? I really love interacting with students in the classroom. I try not to lecture too much so my classes can be fun and interactive. If I come with big-picture learning goals rather than a predefined idea of how much material to “cover,” the class is more spontaneous, students can play a more active role, and we can take random tangents based on people’s interests.

What surprises people about what you do? Many people think that college teaching only involves time in class — not true! Prep, grading and corresponding or meeting with students takes a lot of time, and I also serve on several faculty committees to keep the department and college running smoothly.

I also conduct research with some of my students. Our work focuses on trying to understand why people think, act and feel the way they do in a particular social context. I have a great deal of academic freedom, and I sometimes get to work from a coffee shop or my couch, but I also frequently work evenings and weekends so work/life balance can be a challenge.

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