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Wildwood Campus

A Student for Life

Dr. Mary Morgan

Her education and careers have led her to Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, California, Indiana, and finally back to St. Louis where she is most at home. Dr. Mary Morgan speaks with excitement and appreciation about the path that brought her to St. Louis Community College, a path that was sometimes windy and took her to unexpected places, but has led her to do what she loves best: teaching psychology at the undergraduate level.

Born in Virginia, she began her academic career at Mary Washington College where she earned her B.A. in psychology. She attended the University of Richmond where she received her master’s degree, and then went on to Emory University in Atlanta where she received her doctorate in developmental psychology. “I love school. I am a student for life,” she exclaimed.

After receiving her doctorate, she moved to North Carolina and began teaching at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “UNC-G has strong undergraduate and graduate programs in psychology. I supervised four doctoral dissertations and 12 master’s theses, but my first love was always teaching undergraduate students,” she said. “It was tremendously rewarding.”

After three years, Dr. Morgan earned tenure and became an Associate Professor. She chaired her department’s Undergraduate Academic Advising Committee and was named an American Council on Education Fellow for her potential in higher education administration. Since earning her doctorate, she has been a member of the American Psychological Association and its Developmental Psychology Division and its Society for the Teaching of Psychology. She is also an emeritus member of Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society.

Life events took her to St. Louis, and she decided to attend Washington University. It was there that she obtained her M.B.A. degree, which in turn led to a second career in business at the May Department Stores Company. “I worked my way up and eventually became Senior Vice President of Store Company Administration and Merchandise Research. It was a diverse job. I was very fortunate to know people who were of such high caliber and high integrity. I learned so much there.” When Macy’s acquired May Department Stores, Dr. Morgan decided to take an early retirement and joined her husband in Los Angeles where he was working.

Fifteen months later, his employer relocated them again – this time to South Bend, Indiana, and it was there that Dr. Morgan had her first experience with a community college . . . as a student. She enrolled for computer classes at Ivy Tech Community College. “I even had to take the admissions test!” she exclaimed.

After a year in Indiana, the pair happily returned to their home in St. Louis. “This is where I feel most comfortable. I have enjoyed living in other places, but this is where we decided we wanted to be,” she explained.

“When we finally moved back, I was wrestling with what I wanted to do.” She works as a volunteer at her church and also gets her “retail fix” by volunteering in the gift shop at the Butterfly House. “I saw the on-line job opening for a psychology instructor at Wildwood, got my application together, and drove it myself to STLCC’s Cosand Center offices. I wanted to make sure I made the deadline.” She began teaching in 2009 and describes her job “as a dream come true.” “Teaching undergraduates in a great atmosphere, it’s what I love!”

When she speaks about teaching at St. Louis Community College, she becomes animated. “Can you imagine class sizes that are no larger than 35 students? It’s such a value! And I think we truly have the most caring group of faculty here. Our college is an economically and educationally wise choice for students.”

“I have worked to get myself up to speed on the factors that are part of my students’ lives. Most of my students have jobs. They need both the money and the credentials of work experience. Most of them also have family obligations. Students who go away to college can let go of some of those daily obligations, but our students often don’t have this option. I try to understand when a conscientious student says he has to leave class early to pick up his younger brother or drive a family member to a doctor’s appointment.”

Dr. Morgan is also clearly passionate about the science of psychology. ”Why do we think, feel, and act the way we do? Regardless of their majors, students can benefit from the concepts and findings that psychology offers in answer to this important question. I like nothing better than to ‘see’ a psychological concept or principle ‘click’ with a student. Then, I know I’m getting through.”

For her General Psychology course, Dr. Morgan created a theme and schematic – nicknamed “The Wheel” – to introduce and develop seven major perspectives within contemporary psychology. “My students need to walk away from the introductory course with an understanding of the structure of the discipline and how eminent psychologists and key psychological concepts relate to that structure. ‘The Wheel’ helps them learn these perspectives cumulatively over the entire semester. There are no surprises that an expanding ‘Wheel’ is part of every test! And, I believe that working with it throughout the semester gives students more confidence about the final exam.”

Morgan also believes that building a positive classroom environment is equally important to the success of the course. “I learn every student’s name, and I call on students by name. To me, this is part of creating a learning community. However, I don’t want students to be apprehensive about class, so I tell them it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know,’ but it’s not okay to say nothing.”  She’s also available to help outside of class. She holds regular office hours for tutoring and is proactive in assisting her students. “I can do that with the smaller class sizes at Wildwood,” she said.

“I never consciously picked teaching. Life led me here,” she says with pleasure. “But I’ve always received personal satisfaction from helping people of all ages learn. I am a lifelong learner, and I have a passion for helping others learn. I’m very fortunate that I get to do that here!”

By: Debbie Ward