Most new faculty don’t even see their students until the first day of class, but psychology professor Blair Gross was already getting to know some of hers when she helped them move in to their residence halls prior to new student orientation.
Gross is the newest member of Randolph College’s psychology program, and is teaching Introduction to Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Research Methods II this fall. She said she has received a warm welcome from the College community.
“I love it here,” Gross said. “The campus is beautiful and the students are great. They’re really enthusiastic and involved. Classes have been a lot of fun because I feel less like I’m talking at students and more like we’re having a conversation, which is what I want.”
Originally from Brunswick County, Virginia, Gross earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Virginia in 2006. Upon earning her degree, she was hired as a social worker in the Charlottesville area, but quickly realized she missed the classroom and laboratory research side of her field. Gross returned to psychological research when she worked as a lab assistant for esteemed author and psychologist Simone Schnall at the University of Plymouth. She then returned to UVa, where she earned her Ph.D. in 2015. Most recently, she was a visiting professor in psychology at the University of Richmond.
In the spring 2017 semester, Gross is excited to bring one of the courses she taught at Richmond to Randolph called Myths and Controversies in Psychology.
“We’ll look at a range of topics, but it’s more about gaining skill, assessing research, and improving students’ ability to draw conclusions, think critically through issues and build arguments, and recognize assumptions in other people’s arguments,” she said. “It’s a very skills-based class, but it’s so much fun because the topics are so interesting.”
Randolph’s rich history in psychological research is another reason Gross is excited about her new job. When teaching her students about the founding of psychology, she looks forward to being able to tell them that the College’s psychology lab was one of the first of its kind in the nation. She also plans to highlight women’s contributions to early psychology, which were often left out of the history books.
“I really try and build my assignments and assessments not just with content, but also with ways to develop students’ skills,” Gross said. “My other philosophy, as far as teaching goes, is to try my hardest to let students know I’m in it with them. I try to be as open and approachable as possible because I really think it goes a long way in motivating students.”
When she’s not teaching class, grading assignments, or conducting research, Gross enjoys running, hiking and attending live music events, especially those featuring local artists. She lives just outside of Charlottesville with her husband, Jim, who is a foster care supervisor for the city of Charlottesville. They have two sons, Grayson, 4, and Porter, 2.