Campus Faces

Michelle Schmidt, assistant professor of psychology, is a good teacher. Her students can attest to that. The Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, which she received at the end of the 2002-03 academic year, is frosting on the cake.

But at the same time, Michelle received the Timothy M. Breidegam Award for service to the College and community. She is the first person to have won both honors at the same time.

The Breidegam Award is named for a member of the Class of 1978 who died shortly before he would have graduated. It was endowed by his parents, Helen and DeLight Breidegam, in 1978. DeLight is a longtime member of the College Board of Trustees and the CEO of East Penn Manufacturing Company.

Student winners of the Breidegam Award are recognized at Commencement. Perhaps because of the time that it comes during the year, the faculty honorees simply have been listed on a plaque next to the Student Activities Room in the HUB. The first person to be honored was the late chaplain Robert Woosely; the most recent, John Reynolds, professor of political science.

Michelle, who has been on the faculty since 2000, teaches courses in introductory psychology, developmental psychology, and statistics/research methods.

Her specialty, early childhood development, is a field she never thought of entering until more than halfway through college herself.

A New Jersey native, Michelle attended Drew University. “I thought I was going to law school until I was a junior,” she says. “Then I took a lifespan development class, and it was the most fascinating reading I had done in my college courses.”

After her doctoral and post-doctoral work at George Mason University and the University of Richmond, and publications on pre-schoolers, “I came here and imagined I’d continue with my preschool research.” But she has now shifted her area of interest to the middle childhood years (6-10) and pre-adolescence. She describes the group she’s now studying as “a little harder . . . [in] a more risky environment.” A common technique with pre-schoolers is prevention (of unwanted behaviors, etc.). With pre-adolescents, it’s more likely to use intervention for dealing with situations and behaviors that are already in process. “It’s a different orientation,” she says.

Michelle currently is working on a long-term assessment of the Moravian community-service program the Learning Connection (known as TLC), which pairs College students with children in fourth and fifth grades. The College mentor helps them focus on the possibilities of education and personal interests. Michelle’s study is to see how TLC is doing in the long term.

In addition, she is on TLC’s advisory board, as well as the board of trustees of the Bethlehem YMCA. She also is a board member of Children’s Coalition of the Lehigh Valley, whose position she represented in an op-ed piece for the Morning Call last fall during local and state elections. She is helping to plan the Coalition’s workshop called “Advocating for Families,” to be held at the College in March.

On campus, she is the adviser to Psi Chi, the psychology honorary, which sponsors speakers and programs. She also has created a section of Writing 100, the basic composition course, whose subject is “The Role of the Family in Human Development.” She has had psychology majors in it but also art majors, Spanish majors, and a nursing major. Michelle says: “This might have been the best course I ever taught.”