Dr. Monisha Pasupathi is one of the new Associate Deans in the Honors College, as well as a Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah. Prior to coming to Honors, she served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Psychology, where she sought to build a better curriculum for students, and to improve paths to graduation for Psychology Majors, as well as developing an interdisciplinary certificate program in quantitative analytics for the social sciences (along with current director Pascal DeBoeck). She has taught Research Methods, Honors General Psychology, and Adult Development and Aging at the undergraduate level, as well as seminars in her research areas; and has also developed a course on “How We Learn” for the Great Courses. In her research life, she studies how narrating our experiences shapes our memories, emotions, and selves across the lifespan, with NIH funded work appearing in journals as diverse as Memory, Journal of Personality, and Developmental Psychology, among others. She is a winner of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences distinguished research award for that work. In her not-very-extensive free time, she likes to make soap, charcoal portraits, and spend time in the outdoors.
Dr. Laurence Parker is one of the new Associate Deans in the Honors College and has a joint appointment in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy in the College of Education here at the University of Utah. He has taught at Temple University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also was a recent visiting scholar at the University of California-Berkeley (spring 2018). His main area of teaching and research are in leadership & social justice (K-12 & Higher Education) and critical race theory and education policy and leadership. During his career he has published in journals such as Race Ethnicity & Education, Urban Education, Educational Administration Quarterly and Teachers College Record. He is a 2013 Derrick Bell Legacy Award winner from the Critical Race Studies in Education Association and is an active member of associations such as the American Educational Research Association. He has also worked with colleagues on campus to secure Eccles Foundation funding to support the African American Doctoral Initiative. At U of U undergraduate level he has taught classes on critical race theory for the Honors College and year-long seminar on student leadership & community engagement for first generation diversity students for Undergraduate Studies.
Q&A with the new Associate Deans:
What was your favorite course as an undergraduate?
MP: Introduction to religious studies or medical anthropology – not sure which!
LP: Sociology of education taught by Steve Butler at Earlham College. It was the first class that brought together the theory and practice of looking at education and schooling in an interdisciplinary way started to crystallize my thinking about schooling and society and put my own educational experience in a larger perspective around race, social class and inequality.
Why pursue a liberal arts and sciences education?
MP: Because the problems confronting our world today require multidisciplinary perspective – to give one example, we need to understand how enduring human questions, aspects of the human condition, and the science of complex systems all converge in order to grapple with a problem like climate change – and to create solutions that might work.
LP: First, liberal arts and sciences gives you a broad but deep foundation of what-how-why we as humans evolved and developed on this earth and where we may be going now; particularly with the rise of fields like artificial intelligence. Second, the humanities/liberal arts and sciences are providing students with perspectives to better understand culture from inside historical traditional thought and newer understandings from outside the dominant perspective.
What inspired you to teach?
MP: My honors thesis advisor had an enviable life, in my view – he spent his time thinking about interesting questions and trying to understand the answers (I’m sure he also went to a lot of committee meetings and mediated a lot of conflicts among faculty or students or staff…he just didn’t reveal that part to me at the time); and he also helped me forge a sense of identity and purpose that has been so valuable for my life since college. I wanted to “be like Milton”, in many ways.
LP: It was personal for me. I had a great teacher at my old high school in New York City named Paul Reeder. He taught history and social studies while I was at Friends Seminary and he was the type of teacher who could connect with students, made you put in the effort, demanded a lot but was also warm human being who cared about his students, the school and life in this world. His passion about teaching was what inspired me.
If you weren’t a professor what would you do?
MP: I suspect I would be some kind of writer or some kind of project manager/department head – someone who helps coordinate people to get things done. Those are two features of my job other than teaching that I truly love, so I think I’d have done something requiring those skills.
LP: I would probably own a jazz club and continually book all kinds of jazz music, from more traditional to experimental. I grew up on jazz and love going to see live music and always appreciate different venues to hear listen and see the music around the world.
What is your favorite SLC restaurant?
MP: It’s always been Martine, because it reminds me and my husband of berlin, Germany – it’s laid out like a Berlin restaurant, and that’s the city where we met. The food is also very good.
LP: Eva’s restaurant in downtown SLC is really good comfort food tapas and small plates and the staff there is super nice and down home. Oh Mai on State St. Right around 33rd south has super-good Vietnamese food of pho and bon mi sandwiches.
What is your favorite movie?
MP: This is not possible to answer. But I would say three identical strangers is a recent favorite, and on a less intellectual plane, I have always loved the star wars, star trek, and lord of the rings movies, even the ones that are arguably terrible movies.
LP: Hard question, I have a lot of them…any movie by Pedro Almodovar I love. His work is funny, smart and covers a range of emotions in Spanish life. And there is a 2013 film by director Johnny Greenlaw entitled Finding Francis. It premiered at the NYC international film festival that year and it is a documentary on the life of one of my oldest friends who I grew up with. It is a film about staring mortality in the face of the good, the bad, the sad and the hope.
What is your favorite book?
MP: I also can’t answer this with one book very easily, but if I could get people to read one thing, it probably would be George Saunders’ 10th of December. It’s a short story collection and contains what I think is the single best short story ever written – friends and I talk about how much we wish we could read that story again without knowing how it unfolds – it was just a singular experience in my literary life. Another book I always loved is called object of my affect, by Stephen McCauley – in looking it up for this Q&A I realized that it got made into a movie while I was living in Berlin, in the late 1990’s, and I had no idea. So I suppose I’ll have to watch that movie now too!
LP: Probably the autobiography of Malcolm x because this is really an American story not only about a famous African American leader, the nation of Islam, the politics of racism etc., but also about how human beings in this country can change in different parts of their lives and his life showed what does it mean to make a way when there is no way available.