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Social psychology students get a glimpse of real world at William Temple House

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The students in Monica Schneider’s Social Psychology class at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus got a rare glimpse recently into the difference – and the relationship – between the theory they learn in the classroom and the reality of the professional world.Cascade Campus students Maya Noble, left, and Marissa Mojica show off their research projects at the William Temple House in Northwest Portland.

Schneider’s students spent the morning at the William Temple House in Northwest Portland, where they presented their recent research projects to Temple House staff. While they were at it, they had a chance to interact with staff and clients, get an idea of how the principles of social psychology play out in the real world – and fulfill the course’s service learning requirement.

“The study of psychology is meant to be a shared experience,” Schneider said. “This was a great opportunity for my students to take what they’ve learned outside of class, outside of the text.”

Schneider defines social psychology as “the scientific study of how individuals behave, think, and feel in social situations.” Broadly speaking, the discipline examines how individuals function when exposed to the pressures and dynamics of a group setting, and also how psychological principles and practices can be employed to improve the health of the whole community. Viewed in this respect, the William Temple House – which provides mental health, pastoral, and emergency social services for the working poor and others in need — was an ideal setting for Schneider’s class to present its research and talk shop with the house’s professional staff.

The choice of the William Temple House also satisfied Schneider’s desire to explore the connection between poverty and mental illness, as well as expose her students to an environment where community service is the guiding principle.

“I was looking for a place that serves the public,” she said, “where my students could see how they could use their knowledge to give something back to the community. It’s also important for them to have an awareness of poverty in the community, and an awareness of the link between poverty and mental illness. Times are very hard at the moment, and there are a lot of people who need help right now.”

Schneider got in touch with Lael Concordia, William Temple’s director of social services, who was enthusiastic about hosting the students.

“Monica explained to me what she wanted to do,” Concordia said, “and it sounded interesting. I wanted her students to see William Temple as a model of what trained and dedicated people can do for their fellow human beings.”

Before the students visited William Temple House, Concordia paid a visit of her own to Schneider’s class, where she spoke with them about their projects.

“The students really impressed me by being so inquisitive and intellectually engaged,” she said. “I’m a big believer in education, and I was pleased to see them so excited.”

The students then completed their research, and created folding poster displays of what they had learned. During the visit to William Temple House, they shared their projects with Temple House staff and got some firsthand feedback on their research.

Alyssa Munsey, an environmental science major, presented her research on “Self-Presentation and Perceptions of the Self.”

“I really like the idea of helping the community,” said Munsey, who aspires to join the Peace Corps one day. “This class has changed how I view the way people interact, and has really given me a wider view of the world.”

Maya Noble, a nursing student, echoed Munsey’s sentiments.

“This class has been really exciting,” said Noble, whose research project was about persuasion and persuasive techniques. “I took it because it’s a nursing prerequisite, but it’s really made me consider working in a community health setting.”

At the end of the day, Schneider was delighted with the experience at William Temple House, and proud of the scholarship and polish of her students.

“I’m so proud of their work,” she said of her students. “They started out with curiosity and a desire to help, and they ended up doing some really good work. It was a joy to see their confidence grow.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »