Random Sample

Member since: 1985

Occupation: Psychology department coordinator and professor, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

All kinds of people: As a child, Howard’s family road trips brought him to New York City, Los Angeles and other big cities where he and his family encountered “weird” people — those who were much different from the people he met in Akron, Ohio. His mother told him, “It takes all kinds to make a world,” a message of tolerance and appreciation that has stuck with him ever since. That lesson helped shape his future career as a personality and developmental psychology researcher and teacher.

High expectations: Eckerd College attracts very talented students, says Howard. “We train our undergraduates very aggressively,” he says. “They perform a lot of research in the lab, and we work closely with them on collaborative projects.”

Student opportunities: One of Howard’s classes helps students reach their full potential by teaching them about self-identification and emotional growth. He provides exercises to help them figure out who they are and what they want to be, such as taking them to a ropes course and having students lead deeply personal peer discussions. He also uses more traditional methods, such as the Myers-Briggs test. He connects them with campus resources and student leaders who help them become more involved with campus organizations and government. “It really helps give them an overall vision and direction of their own potential they can’t get in any other class,” says Howard.

Increasing understanding: Like many psychologists, Howard is frustrated by the public’s misconceptions about the field. “I think the public values psychology as a clinical field but misses the importance of research.” He hopes that new developments, such as fMRI and the biological study of individual differences, will help the public better understand psychology’s contributions. “The application of this new knowledge is, to a large degree, a matter of educating people on the value of this work,” says Howard. “Our challenge is to make highly technical methods and findings understandable and useful to people.”

—J. Clark

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