I was pleased to present the first SEPA Mentor Award to Professor Michael J. Rulon of Covenant College (GA). Mike was my undergraduate mentor from 1980 to 1984. He is an innovative and engaging lecturer and a patient advisor, whose commitment to and investment in undergraduate education can be illustrated by the following:
Most summers (i.e., when he isn't taking a group of students to study abroad), Professor Rulon organizes and leads a group of 5-10 students in a course called "Psych Tour." Aimed at psychology students in small colleges like Covenant, the course allows students to visit (in a three-week period) many of the influential psychologists who live and work in some area of the country. In the summer of 1981, for example, I enrolled in the Psych Tour. A group of 5 students, representing three different colleges, drove together with Professor Rulon in a van to San Francisco, and visited the major universities, research laboratories, and psychologists between central and southern California. Each evening (and on the van-ride to our next appointment) we would read articles about the scholars we were going to interview or engage in discussion about the topics we had just heard. My Psych Tour experience included interviews with names like Jensen, Hilgard, Dobson, Pribram, Gorsuch, and Zimbardo. We saw the Stanford sleep labs, the UCLA EEG labs, and the commune at which "encounter groups" were begun (to mention only a few visits). Additionally, we meet as a group to discuss interpersonal issues, controversies, and career plans. Each trip is different, but the common element is Professor Rulon who invests his summer into making this the most intensive learning experience I (and other students like me) could ever imagine.
More familiar to the regular attendees of SEPA is Professor Rulon's use of the annual convention of this and other opportunities to teach students what psychologists do and how they comport themselves as scholars and professionals. The 50 or so students who travel with Dr. Rulon to SEPA are not on a weekend of leisure. Each student carries a notebook in which sessions attended must be documented, reaction papers must be written, and questions must be answered. Each student is required to interview some of the speakers they hear during the meeting, and a summary report is submitted before the students return to campus. Each evening, the group meets together to discuss interesting research, controversial topics, or other issues. My own first convention experiences were structured in this way by Professor Rulon. It is through experiences like this that students learn what psychology is--as a discipline and a career, not just a subject or a course.
Other examples could be cited. The energy and creativity that Professor Rulon brings to education and mentoring are amazing, particularly when one considers that he chairs a department with only two faculty members serving the needs of perhaps 100 majors. It is fitting that Professor Rulon should receive the first-ever SEPA Mentor Award because he effectively communicates to students the following: Your life as a psychologist doesn't begin when you get a job, or when you earn your PhD, or even when you graduate from college. Your life as a psychologist began with your first psychology course. Undergraduate majors are already students of the science of behavior. And as Mike Rulon's own career attests, the learning never ends.
--David Washburn, PhD
Director, Language Research Center
Georgia State University
Summer 2004 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 8, No. 4, p. 7), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2004, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.