Department of Psychology alumnus Dr. Sean Laraway '03 received the Teaching Excellence Award by the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Laraway earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Analysis of Behavior and a graduate certificate in Human Performance Technology from Western Michigan University. He began teaching at SJSU in 2004 as a part-time instructor of psychology. In 2008, he became an assistant professor and in 2012, he was promoted to associate professor. Laraway also has an affiliation with SJSU's Graduate Program in Human Factors/Ergonomics.
Laraway chose to attend WMU because of the reputation of both its Department of Psychology and its faculty. Knowing that he wanted to study behavior analysis, WMU seemed an obvious choice as its "psychology department has one of the world's best programs in behavior analysis." Laraway added that "the psychology faculty have long been considered among the leaders and innovators in the field." When asked what WMU's education means to him professionally, he said, "WMU provided me with a first-class education in my field, as well as outstanding research and teaching experience." It was the experience in teaching and research that he credits with landing him the position at SJSU. Laraway says, "Overall, WMU gave me a solid foundation for success in my career and I owe much of this success to the dedication and support of my professors. Personally, WMU allowed me to meet many outstanding students and faculty, many of whom remain my good friends more than 10 years after graduation."
When Laraway learned of his award, he contacted WMU psychology professors Drs. Brad Huitema, Jack Michael and Al Poling to share the news as his thank you. According to Laraway, his own teaching has been tremendously influenced by taking their classes and seeing how they all approached teaching. Laraway thanked Huitema, Michael and Poling during his acceptance speech and believes that the many opportunities they gave him to teach and serve as a teacher's assistant set him up to succeed.
Dr. Laraway's 10 notes of advice for psychology students interested in teaching at the college or university level.
- Find what you love about psychology and pursue it. It shouldn't feel like work!
- Learn as much as you can about statistics and research methods.
- Get as much research, teaching and teaching assistant experience as you can. Seek ever-increasing levels of responsibility.
- Read as many scientific articles as you can and take notes.
- Get to know your instructors and fellow students and establish good working relationships with them.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to challenge yourself.
- Be prepared to move to find a job or attend grad school.
- Don't forget to take time for yourself and spend much of that time with friends and loved ones.
- Again, learn statistics!