A Psychology Grad Lands Her Dream Faculty Role at Widener

March 16, 2022

Maureen Coyle (Ph.D. ’22, Psychology) wanted to teach at a small liberal arts college, and with a tenure-track faculty appointment at Widener University, she’s getting her chance.

Maureen Coyle
Maureen Coyle (Photo courtesy of Maureen Coyle)

Maureen Coyle (Ph.D. ’22, Psychology), whose research specializes in how media and technology affect relationships and behavior — if you’ve ever been ghosted, she has advice for you — recently accepted an offer to join Widener University’s psychology department as a tenure-track assistant professor in August.

Coyle is currently a visiting assistant professor at Seton Hall University, where she teaches a course on the psychology of media and technology that she created during her graduate student years. She recently spoke to the Graduate Center about her love of teaching, how she focused on finding a position that fit her values, and the reassuring finding that social media might not actually be destroying your well-being.

The Graduate Center: What do you think made you stand out in the job market?

Coyle: I always knew that I wanted to be at a small liberal arts college, and have always been teaching-focused — I’ve always engaged in professional development in terms of teaching pedagogy. I taught multiple courses for five years while I was a graduate student, and also designed my own course. To be a graduate student and design my own course, teach my own course, at Brooklyn College and then at Seton Hall University, helped me stand out compared to other people who were applying for these positions.

GC: What is the course like? It sounds like a topic that college students can relate to.

Coyle: Students love it. All the assigned readings are empirical articles, so beyond teaching them about the psychology of media and technology — things that are very personally relevant to college students — it’s also teaching them how to read empirical articles and critically analyze empirical results, to be able to critique limitations and methods, and to get really comfortable talking about empirical literature. It’s much easier if the literature matters to you.

We talk about fake news on social media, self-presentation and how that relates to concerns about your body, like self-esteem issues and self-objectification. We talk about online dating, using telehealth, online therapy. Social media and well-being are talked about largely in the news and anecdotally, but students are really interested in seeing what the research says. There’s not as much evidence that social media directly causes negative effects on our well-being, but there is a lot of evidence that it contributes to how we feel through other factors. It’s more about how you use social media than if you are using it or not.

GC: What are your plans for your new position, and what are you most looking forward to?

Coyle: I’m going to be teaching two sections of Psychology of Media and Technology in the fall, and I’m also going to be teaching Introduction to Psychology, which I have not taught before. I’ve typically taught Social Psychology, Experimental Psychology, so this will be new — teaching students who don’t have any psychology background. But I’m excited, because I’m very interested in psychology and I think I can get students excited about it, too.

GC: What advice do you have for current students who are looking to follow a similar path?

Coyle: You really want to search for places that align with your values. It’s so important to be in a department where you feel supported. For me, I knew that I was not for R1 universities — even though I love my research, I love teaching more. That’s the most important thing for me, personally. I think that most of the professional development models are still geared toward R1. I would say it’s important to realize there’s a world beyond R1. There are so many small liberal arts colleges — if you’re someone who enjoys teaching and mentorships and loves interacting with students, then look for those spaces.

Another thing I’d say is if you have to struggle to say why you’d be a good fit in your application, if you’re really trying to push the limits beyond your own expertise and values, then it is probably not a good fit. I did not apply to too many university jobs, because I knew exactly what kind of environment I wanted to be in. I only applied to six small liberal arts colleges, and I got interviews for three of those.

GC: You’ve said before that you wish you’d taken things a bit slower when it came to research while you were a Ph.D. student. Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were going through the program?

Coyle: I wish I’d had more efforts toward collaboration as a graduate student, just so I would have a better model for how to successfully collaborate. I would like to start collaborations [now], but I don’t have experience with it. I would say, as a graduate student, talking to your adviser to get the gears in motion to have a collaboration beyond your immediate adviser or advisers is useful, just so you can understand what makes collaborations work or not work.

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