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MC Spotlight: Dietlinde Heilmayr

MC Spotlight 20/20

Dietlinde Heilmayr


What is your role at the College and what is something many may not know about the work you do?

I teach and do research in the psychology department. Courses I teach include: health psychology, social psychology, and experimental methods and data analysis. In our research, students and I explore questions related to psychosocial interventions that promote human and environmental health. Although much of my research focuses on community gardening as such an intervention, I'm surprisingly bad at keeping plants alive.

My favorite spot on campus is ______ because ______.

My favorite spot on campus is anywhere I meet with students—usually my office—because I love talking with them one-on-one about their interests and goals. In these meetings, we get to unpack course concepts, dig into data, and chat about research ideas. Engaging students in this way is my favorite part of my job.

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My typical weekend would go something like this: ______.

I like my weekends to be low-key. Usually they involve spending time being active outside; cooking and eating good food; doing some work; reading a novel; catching up with friends near and far; watching a movie with my dog, Sandy, and partner, Matt; and plenty of sleep. Sometimes we go on short weekend trips—recently we went to Minnesota for a mini reunion with friends from graduate school who are now spread across the US.

Who is your hero? Why?

My hero is anyone who overcomes social pressures to behave in a compassionate or prosocial way. As a social psychologist, I understand the power of the situation—how situational and social factors can bring moral people to act in immoral ways (which includes simply failing to act—the evil of inaction). I admire anyone who speaks up in the face of injustice, who intervenes even under ambiguous or risky circumstances, or who breaks social norms to do what’s right.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

My first year of graduate school my PhD advisor suggested I sign up to present at a conference for which the deadline was quickly approaching. While this was standard and even supportive advice for a PhD student, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and proceeded to break down. After I recovered, my advisor told me to reinterpret all of the things that were making me feel overwhelmed—deadlines and data collection and upcoming presentations—as opportunities rather than stressors, that is, to reinterpret my anxiety about graduate school as excitement.

Reevaluating the way I approached graduate school and subsequent challenges in my life (including juggling the demands of being a professor!) helped to keep me excited and energized as opposed to nervous and exhausted. I remember his advice anytime I start to feel overwhelmed. (I should note here that this “good” type of stress—the stress of being challenged in a surmountable way—is different from “bad,” chronic stress which requires alternative coping strategies. (Take my health psychology course to learn more!)

What is your favorite ice cream? Why?

Hazelnut. Is there any other flavor???

I can never resist a good ______.

nap

What makes you happy?

Riding a bicycle!

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon as me. Lemon is the first TV character with whom I identified. “That’s me!” I yelled when she was flabbergasted at the thought of being picked up for a date at 10:00 p.m. She is idiosyncratic and neurotic, but at her core she is a humble, smart, and affable woman struggling to make it in a “man’s world.”

I love her because she has many flaws—as all of us do—but she tries to overcome the ones worth overcoming and is not embarrassed to be herself the rest of the time. She also makes watching the struggles that many modern women face downright hysterical (in a good, empowering kind of way).