Hey Faculty, What’s Your Impact?

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives
-Jackie Robinson

Impact is such an interesting word.  It can be used to describe wisdom teeth, a tool, a form of wrestling, and even a type of font!  Though I do not think of it in those terms often, I do think of the word impact when it comes to the teaching and learning I do in and out of the classroom.  How do I know when I’ve made an impact?  Is it when I see a test score come back at an 85, 90, or 95%? Or when I read an essay and see a student has earned an A?  I suppose in some ways that is the way my teaching and learning impact could be measured, but I would like to believe that my impact could be measured in other ways as well.  Ways that are not so immediately apparent. 

Take, for example, a former student of mine who worked as a research assistant in my Language Learning Laboratory during an independent study course.  It was my job to teach her how to recruit participants for research, how to execute experiments with young children, how to code the collected data, as well as how to analyze and write up the findings.  I teach numerous independent studies each semester – in the form of research assistantships and internships mostly.  I acknowledge in the syllabi of these courses that they will “provide a hands-on learning opportunity to apply students’ knowledge of human development and psychology” and I state these experiences “will be useful in future coursework as well as in graduate school and/or future employment.”  How do I know this?  Well, I don’t.  Not really.  It is just a good guess.  I should probably write “could be useful,” “might be useful,” or “I hope it is useful.”  But, I don’t.  I state it confidently because I do believe that at some point in one’s life it will come in handy to be a good consumer of psychological research.

Sometimes, though, the teaching and learning goes beyond the how to’s and how not to’s of research and provides a life-changing experience for a student.  Just recently I received the following note from a former student,

I became a lab assistant for the Language Learning Lab with Dr. Jennifer Lanter.  It was here I found my calling.  I did not fully realize it at the time.  I did not work in research until 4 years after graduating from college but it set my mind in motion.  After receiving my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, I am now a clinical research assistant for the Medical College of Wisconsin.  My education and professors at UWGB helped to prepare me for the research world.  What I enjoyed most about my experience at UWGB was the wide array of opportunities to be involved in and the encouragement and support from my professors.  Dr. Lanter taught me to write better, research better, and to apply myself.  My courses prepared me for the research world of critical thinking, professional collaboration, scientific writing, and experimental implementation.  I enjoy being a researcher and my experience at UWGB helped me to achieve that life goal.

And this is one way I know I’ve had an impact.  This student graduated from UWGB in 2008 and, although I’ve followed her success since then, I didn’t truly understand that it was her experience learning in my lab that led her to her future.  It’s a pleasure to hear stories such as this, stories that remind us of why we do what we love every day.  It’s not for us.  It’s for our students.

I think those who have impact and influence over us are often unaware.    -Nora Roberts

Jennifer LanterJennifer Lanter,
Director of CATL

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