Ask Associate Professor Dr. Jerome Rekart about the biggest challenge he faces as a professor and he doesn’t hesitate to answer. “It’s when I see a student with potential who turns in lackluster work,” he says. “I think it’s because I see a little bit of myself at that age.”
Rekart joined the psychology department in 2006 and in 2009, became Rivier’s first dual-appointment professor when he began teaching in the education department. In addition to teaching at all levels—from undergraduate to doctoral students—he oversees the College’s Behavioral Science (Cognition) Laboratory, and mentors master’s level experimental psychology students.
Rekart says without hesitation, “I love teaching.” On his roster are “required classes many students are reluctant to take,” including Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences for undergraduate psychology students and Fundamentals of Research for graduate education students. Among other classes, he also teaches Advanced Quantitative Analysis to doctoral education students. While undergraduate students may perceive him as “the expert,” the dynamic is entirely different with master’s and doctoral level students. “They bring career and life experiences to the classroom and feel comfortable contributing. It’s a neat dynamic.”
The biggest rewards come when he succeeds in reaching those students who lack confidence in their ability to understand the subject. He recalls one pre-school teacher who found Fundamentals of Research daunting at first. By the end of the semester, she was able to apply the concepts. “That’s rewarding,” says Rekart with a smile.
He also finds satisfaction teaching at a smaller college, where he gets to follow students’ progress throughout their academic careers. The experience is different from his own undergraduate days at Indiana University, where a student could get lost in large classes. At Rivier, students “know that I know who they are.”
Rekart notes that students are co-researchers with him in the Cognition Lab, where there is a strong focus on memory and emotion. They have explored the effects of disgust on false memories—a topic on which he and several former students have presented at international conferences. “One of my goals is to help and encourage experimental psychology students to publish their findings,” he says.
Each year, when Rekart talks to AP psychology students at Nashua High North, he realizes the pressures high school teachers face. They have curriculum mandates, troubled students, and “bells going off constantly.” Against that backdrop, he wonders, from a researcher’s standpoint, how some teachers are able to engage their students in deep learning.
When he isn’t busy teaching, Rekart participates in or chairs a number of campus committees, including Rivier’s Institutional Review Board. The Board closely examines all proposed research projects to ensure its human subjects are protected from harm. He is also looking to bring faculty and students together to discuss recent research findings through the nascent Education and Brain Journal Club.
The father of three young girls who is married to a clinical psychologist, Rekart admits he doesn’t have much time for solo leisure pursuits these days, although “I really enjoy cooking and being outdoors.” One thing is clear, however. He will always find time to pursue through research his fascination with the workings of the human brain