Plymouth State University is home to 193 professors and instructors. Of these 193 professors and instructors, 84% have a doctorate or terminal degree in their field of study. That just blows my mind. Hearing stats like that makes me feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the academic community at PSU has to offer. I’ve taken courses in many different departments and I’ve never had a professor who wasn’t qualified to be teaching that class. I think I’d even go as far to say some of them are overqualified. But that’s the best part! Professors who have so many accolades, accomplishments, and honors, are still taking the time to enrich our lives and further our educational development to astronomical heights.
One of these professors is Dr. Kathleen Herzig. Herzig grew up in Hingham, MA., a town south of Boston. She did her undergrad at University of Massachusetts Amherst and majored in psychology. At UMASS Amherst, she was put into a psychology Talent Advancement Program (TAP). These are selective programs that put students in residential spaces with other students within that TAP. This program is actually what sparked her interest in psychology. Herzig confesses some of her motivation to be a clinical psychologist is partially due to a skeptical professor. “I think I’m actually a clinical psychologist in part because I was told by a professor that because I was a state school student I couldn’t do it.” Thanks to Dr. Herzig, all state school students now have evidence that anyone can become clinical psychologists!
After graduating, Herzig continued her education at University of Connecticut where she was a research assistant to a doctoral student there and helped conduct research in non-verbal communication. As a student in the honors program, she did her own thesis on family child care and needs assessment and observed children in their homes.
Herzig continues, to share that she became a clinical psychologist because, “[she] wanted the option to do research and to do [her] own research.” The option to work in a university setting also played a role in her decision to pursue clinical psychology.
In her first semester of teaching at PSU, Herzig was given the opportunity to teach Community Mental Health. She was the first clinical psychologist on faculty for a few years so she got to construct the course to her liking and form it from a clinical psychologist’s perspective (before Herzig taught the class it was being taught by teaching lecturers). She expressed how, “it was both a little cool to make it up myself but also a little overwhelming because it’s not like I could look at another school and be like, oh who teaches the community mental health course there? I will write them and see if they can tell me because there really aren’t a lot of classes like that.” Just another example of Dr. Herzig’s drive. Creating a syllabus for a course you’ve never taught before, at a school you just started at, with little to nothing to go from. That kind of just speaks for itself.
During the interview, I asked Dr. Herzig about interdisciplinarity in her work and study. She told me currently, she is working on The Happiness Quest, which is a research study run by a philosophy professor here and includes Herzig and two other sociologists on campus. She goes on to describe how she finds interdisciplinarity beneficial. “Psychology is very individualistic. The mental health problem comes from the individual and maybe their family; a person’s genetics, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and I agree with that. However, there’s this whole context. There’s the world. There’s culture. There’s social oppression. There’s all these different things that impact our wellness. So that is much more of a social work lens and a sociology lens really.”
I think this is awesome and creates so much forward motion in terms of inclusion and perspective in the world. Developing your own point of view and not sticking to rigid perspectives of your field helps to shed light on situations and provides ground for interpretations that may not have been made otherwise. I also think this challenge to include different perspectives into our own lives and thought processes is so beneficial because it can integrate so many more ideas and principles into our work. “Clinical psychology in a weird way is a little bit interdisciplinary because it takes sort of the research base of psychology and the study of the mind, and combines it with psychiatry.” The point that I take away from this statement is that even though Dr. Herzig studied clinical psychology, she was still able to identify ways that other areas of study were involved.
When I first received the assignment of interviewing a faculty member I was filled with dread, because sometimes I’m super awkward and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of one of my professors. However, through this interview, I was able to get to know Dr. Herzig more than I would have just taking one of her courses. I think what I admire most about Dr. Herzig was her tenacity and resolve to prove her professor wrong. Imagine one of your professors saying something like that to you. Nice. Cool. I’ll just go home, cry a little, and then attempt to make sense of my life that is turning to shambles. I mean I’d love to say that I could channel the same feeling Dr. Herzig had when she spoke with her professor, but who knows. All I can do is remember this story and hope that I can use it to push myself when I run into the inevitable obstacles and bums along the way.
Thank you Dr. Herzig for giving me your time and knowledge! Plymouth State is lucky to have you!