For the 2018-2019 academic year, Saint Vincent welcomed 14 new faculty members. Among the recent additions were Dr. Jessica Black, professor of psychology, and Dr. Zhu Binzhong, professor of Chinese.
Black attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she received a B.S. in psychology. She then went on to attend the University of Cincinnati and achieved both a M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology.
Black’s interest in pursuing a career in psychology stemmed from a desire to assist others, but she also enjoyed the research aspects and opportunity to teach others.
“With a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, you can teach, you can do research, and you can do clinical work, so it allowed me to do everything that I was interested in,” Black said.
Previously, Black worked as a staff psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh and was involved with the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic.
“My philosophy with clinical work has always been to be as non-judgmental as possible. I really believe that the majority of people, at their core, are good, and [clinical psychologists] are there to help elicit [the goodness] from them,” Black said regarding her experience with clinical work.
Though Black has experience with both the scientific research and hands-on clinical elements of psychology, she was drawn to becoming a professor of the subject, which led her to Saint Vincent. She became an adjunct professor of psychology during the 2017-2018 academic year.
“I always had in mind that I would want to teach. As I went on in my training, I found that I wanted a small liberal arts college [to teach at]; that would be ideal. My family moved to this area, and so I was excited about the possibility of [becoming a professor at] Saint Vincent,” Black said.
In the classroom, Black expresses the importance of careful examination of topics and logical thought.
“If students are choosing a liberal arts education, then the beauty in that is it helps you to think critically. You step back and look at [the topic] from all angles,” Black stated.
“You have had the opportunity to go and have a good liberal arts education, [which helps you] say ‘Okay, I’m really emotional, I need to pause,’ which is important especially in psychology.”
Black will teach Introduction to Psychology, Child Development and Chemical Dependency during the 2018 fall semester and will return in the spring semester to teach Ethics.
Dr. Zhu Binzhong, another incoming faculty member for the 2018-2019 academic year, is a professor of Chinese. He attended Wuhan University in Wuhan, China, where he received a Ph.D. in English literature. He also served as the chairperson of the English department at Wuhan University and was an English professor for 20 years prior to his position at Saint Vincent.
“I [taught] language courses as well as literature courses such as English short stories and 18th century British novels,” Zhu said regarding his career at Wuhan University, which is one of the top ten universities in China.
Zhu stated that his inspiration to teach Chinese in America came from an interest in American culture.
“I have always wanted to work at an American university [...] to further my research and to get to know American culture and people better,” Zhu said.
His curiosity led him to apply to become a professor of Saint Vincent’s Chinese department.
Zhu described the differences between American and Chinese universities, though he said that his experience with American schools is from the perspective of a professor.
“[...] As a teacher I notice that the teacher-student relationship in Saint Vincent is more egalitarian and less close than it is in Wuhan University; the students here have to do more homework and are more frequently tested; they are also more independent-minded and readier to share their views that can be quite different from mine,” Zhu said.
According to Zhu, it is often much easier to teach English to native Chinese speakers than it is to teach Chinese to native English speakers.
“The students I teach in China are undergraduates or MA or PhD students majoring in English and English literature, but the students [at Saint Vincent] are not majors in Chinese and therefore are less well prepared for what they have to learn, so I have to figure out what they know and what they need to know and make constant adjustments in the process of teaching,” Zhu said.
However, taking Chinese classes is not always rigorous work, Zhu clarified.
“I enjoy teaching Chinese because as a native speaker of Chinese I know better how to speak the language correctly and appropriately and I can use that knowledge to help my students. Besides, the American students who take the Chinese courses do it mostly out of interest, which makes them more committed to learn and they seem to quite enjoy the process of learning,” Zhu stated.
Zhu described his general teaching process as basic, but vital to fully comprehend the Chinese language.
“I would review with the student things they learned in their last lesson, then we’d learn something new, practicing orally [...] and writing, as learning to write the Chinese characters is always a central part of learning Chinese,” Zhu said.
Zhu will teach Advanced Chinese Conversation and Selected Readings in Chinese during the fall semester of 2018.