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
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.”