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Q&A with new faculty: Sara Beck

Sara Beck

Sara Beck

Randolph College’s 2018-19 academic year is officially underway, and there are several new faces among the faculty.

Psychology professor Sara Beck is one of the new additions:

Where are you from originally and what is your background?

I am originally from Maryland, but I moved to Nashville, Tennessee when I was 17 and stayed there 20 years. I went to Vanderbilt University for undergrad, and then I worked as a singer/songwriter/musician for 11 years. I did a mixture of songwriting (for a music publisher and for myself), studio singing, and road work (guitar/vocals) for other people, as well as touring independently behind the five records I released during that time. Then I went back to Vanderbilt for graduate school to study how children engage in music-making behavior and how it interacts with other social behaviors like helping, sharing, and social engagement, more generally. My interest in kids and music also extends to children’s interactions with recorded music and media as well, so I’ve done some work with children’s gender stereotypes and TV. Of course, I still write music and record, and I’m excited to see what kind of playing opportunities pop up as I get to know people in the area.

What attracted you to the job at Randolph?

I was attracted to Randolph because of the size of the classes and the emphasis on liberal arts. Small classes are so much more fun to teach because they leave so much more space for magic to happen. And the emphasis on liberal arts means that even as faculty, we need to have a broad base of knowledge and be able to talk across disciplines, which I think is a tremendous skill to have in the world and the workplace. Different disciplines approach the same important questions with different tools, and I love engaging in that conversation and helping students to do the same.

What classes are you teaching this fall?

Social Psychology, Psychology of Music, and Introduction to Psychology

Describe your teaching style. What can students expect out of your classes?

I like to give frequent opportunities to chat and reflect in writing and with others during class time, and the reason is because I think it keeps us from getting in the bad habit of only listening in class with the expectation that we will do the “real” learning at some later time. I think connecting a new concept to what we already know or think we know is a critical piece of “real” learning that we should not shy away from doing together in the classroom. My teaching style probably asks a lot of students in terms of engagement, but I hope it also helps carry everyone along together and fosters a community of learning.

What are your initial impressions of Randolph and its students?

So far, the students at Randolph strike me as thoughtful and independent. There’s also a fierceness that I felt at Convocation that caught me by surprise, and I don’t understand it yet! But I can see that there is a distinctive character to the student body here that I really look forward to getting to know.

What sorts of hobbies or fun activities do you enjoy outside of the classroom?

I really like to bike, so I have been exploring the Blackwater Creek trails around Lynchburg. I have two little girls (5 and 3), so any kind of exploring is high on our family activity list. We all love to go see shows of all kinds, so I can’t wait to bring my family to see some theatre, music, and dance at Randolph!



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