“My students are deserving of the wonderful opportunities that life has to offer, even if they have to demand a seat at the table.”
“Lean into the present and don’t waste time” are tenets of Dr. Tashana Samuel’s proactive philosophy, words by which she lives. A child psychologist specializing in cognitive development, Dr. Samuel holds a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, with research experience including a longitudinal study at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Center under Drs. Catherine Monk and Laraine McDonough. Since becoming Assistant Professor of Psychology at Guttman in 2015, Dr. Samuel is simultaneously teaching Statistics in the First-Year Experience and Introduction to Psychology in the Liberal Arts and Sciences – Humanities and Social Sciences Program of Study; conducting research on “techniques to alleviate academic anxiety in community college students”; publishing the promising findings in an article co-authored with fellow Guttman faculty Dr. Jared Warner; and sharing their pedagogical impact in service of our students. Also involved in expanding psychology course offerings at the College, she is excited to teach Guttman’s upcoming first iteration of Child Psychology.
“I enjoy the freedom to deeply engage and motivate students in the classroom,” Dr. Samuel proclaims, a method “not merely encouraged, but required from faculty” at Guttman. “Since research informs my teaching and vice versa,” to decrease the math anxiety that many community college students face, “I developed an intervention combining mindfulness and growth mindset theory.” Each time they arrived to Statistics class, students took deep breaths and uttered several positive, math-related statements, “whether they believed the affirmations or not.” If someone voiced a “fixed” mindset, such as “I’m going to fail this course because I’ve never been good at math,” Dr. Samuel would reorient them toward skill development, learning, and application of concepts. Gradually, the idea caught on that “math is not tied to talent; it’s tied to ability and hard work and effort.” Not only is Dr. Samuel working with Guttman STEM faculty to embed this effective intervention to reduce math anxiety in their courses, but in the next phase of the project, will address reading and writing anxiety in students by training English and other instructors of writing-intensive courses. To boot, Dr. Samuel will recruit and guide a student research assistant in research methods through experience on the ongoing study.
In Dr. Samuel’s rigorous and highly engaging lessons, she tries “to connect academic content to real world context” through consistent interest in students’ lives outside the classroom, checks for comprehension, and awareness of individual differences. “I’m intent on having students perceive themselves as agents of change in their communities and beyond.” Both exemplifying this notion and broaching the chasm between academic and concrete, Dr. Samuel reveals that she is “classically trained in ballet and modern dance,” her rise to scholarly stardom in higher education preceded by a dance career and performances in notable New York venues.