Adelphi professor of psychology Robert Bornstein, PhD, explains that students learn best with professors who are personally interested in their lives and their future goals.
Fallon Kane ’16 was a junior when she began research work with Robert Bornstein, PhD, a professor in the Derner School of Psychology. A member of Adelphi’s selective Emerging Scholars Program, which gives undergraduates the opportunity to collaborate with faculty members on original research, she and Dr. Bornstein worked together to develop and conduct an investigation of intimate partner violence.
“Professor Bornstein really worked with me to find an area that matched my interests,” she said. “He got to know my strengths and my plans for the future, and helped me come up with something really interesting and useful.”
Kane said that Dr. Bornstein encouraged her to dig and become an expert in the subject. “He began deferring to me as I learned more, and even would say, ‘You’re the expert’ when questions would come up,” she said. “No one had ever called me an expert. It really helped me build confidence.”
Kane is a doctoral student in psychology at Adelphi now, with Dr. Bornstein serving as her dissertation adviser. He continues to give her the attention and support she needs in her studies. “He is really thoughtful about the advice he gives me,” she said. “He thinks about projects for me that I can build on to reach my goals.”
The Powerful Impact of Caring
“A personalized approach is crucial for students because a lot of learning isn’t tied to the content you’re delivering in the classroom, but rather your ability to connect with students emotionally and get them excited about learning,” said Dr. Bornstein, a leading expert in the field of personality assessment. “What students need from professors is a feeling that someone out there is interested in their career and in them as a person. For many of our students, it’s something that they’d never experienced in academia until they got to Adelphi.”
This personalized teaching takes place both inside and outside the classroom. Dr. Bornstein, who has been recognized for outstanding teaching three times at Adelphi, exemplifies the passion and support of the University’s faculty and their commitment to providing a personalized educational experience.
Inside the classroom, Dr. Bornstein tailors material to students’ personal and professional interests. When students questioned why the nation had become so polarized and why immigration emerged as a hot-button issue in the election cycle, he spent time discussing the psychological dynamics of the current political climate.
Dr. Bornstein also works individually with students on independent study projects and research collaborations. He worked with Fallon Kane in her first year in the PhD program, supervising her research on unhealthy dependency in victims and perpetrators of child maltreatment, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Former student Greg Haggerty, MA ’03, PhD ’08, continues to collaborate with Dr. Bornstein on research for developing a new approach to psychological testing, for which they received a National Institute of Mental Health grant.
Unlocking Students’ Potential
Outside of the classroom, mentorship is key to helping students unlock their potential and remain engaged. Dr. Bornstein has seen students who are reluctant to speak in class carry on days-long conversations with him over email, covering everything from upcoming exams to other classes and future graduate school plans.
“I started teaching in 1986, and I can tell you one thing for certain: Students haven’t changed a bit,” Dr. Bornstein said. “What has changed is technology.” Even now, Dr. Bornstein has students from 10 or 20 years ago reconnect with him on Facebook and share their successes.
“This personalized approach is part of what keeps faculty members engaged as well,” he said. “Adelphi students have great potential, so you can have a tremendous impact working here. That’s one of the joys of teaching at Adelphi.”
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