Letter of Nomination: JoAnne Brewster, PhD
James Madison University
Dear Committee Members:
The members of the Psi Chi Chapter and the Director of the School of Psychology at James Madison University would like to nominate Dr. JoAnne Brewster for a Regional Faculty Advisor Award. Dr. Brewster has been the JMU Psi Chi advisor for six years. As the advisor, she transformed a rather listless honors organization into one with vigor and vibrance. We would love to see her hard work recognized with such an important and meaningful distinction.
Dr. Brewster's advising philosophy is an essential component of the organization's success at JMU. She exemplifies the principles that Psi Chi members should commit both head and heart to improving the quality of lives of others. However, she has taken that approach one step further. Collaborating carefully with students to enhance their ownership of the process, she challenges them to demonstrate their energies in three important domains: service to the department/university, commitment to developing a professional identity, and enrichment of the surrounding community. These three tiers of effort serve as the structure through which Dr. Brewster gently encourages student involvement. Several examples will illustrate.
A hallmark of the JMU chapter is its huge investment in promoting pleasant and effective working relationships between faculty and sfudents. Although they plan a large number of events through the year, Halloween activities probably illustrate this principle best. This year they sponsored a Halloween Ball in which faculty and members came in costume. (Please see accompanying photos). As just one indication of the level of commitment Dr. Brewster demonstrated, she offered dance lessons to students the few weeks before the event was scheduled. On the night of the event, Psi Chi members dazzled with their new fancy footwork. The event was a great success, highlighted by imaginative decorations and awards for costume quality. The group also sponsors an office door decorating context which has encouraged a kind of lunacy among faculty as they compete for the most interesting, scary, or animated decorations. Our chapter wisely recognizes the importance of play and fosters this attitude as a way of helping the students relate to the human side of faculty. We see this as direct influence of the character and creativity of our advisor.
Our Psi Chi chapter is extremely active in fostering collaborative professional relationships between students and faculty to promote student identity. Psi Chi students routinely become engaged in faculty research teams and amass significant research experience before they graduate so that they are fully prepared for the rigors of graduate school. Psi Chi members prominently display their independent work in a student poster session in the spring. Psi Chi also takes advantage of faculty expertise as well as expertise in the community by inviting them to speak on topics designed to foster strong professional planning among the students. Dr. Brewster not only promotes important collaborative relationships, but also individually sponsors many student projects in forensic psychology. Her office is constantly filled with students who are working on projects at various levels to understand forensic issues, such as police personality profiles that lead to professional success. One of her recent collaborations with a Psi Chi student resulted in the student not just presenting their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, but the student also took the top prize for student work at the national conference of the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology. Dr. Brewster willingly shares her expertise and enthusiasm with her students. As a consequence, many have elected to pursue forensics in graduate school.
The commitment to doing good works in the community is also apparent each year in the members' plans. Students conduct many charitable activities independently as part of their Psi Chi pledge period to demonstrate their commitment. However, the group also enacts routinely scheduled events that remind students of how psychology can improve the lives of others. They regularly sponsor events at Mercy House, a shelter for indigent citizens. Psi Chi is recognized on campus for its generosity toward the community.
We think Dr. Brewster's advising and problem-solving style is critical to the chapter's success. She creates conditions in which students can exercise leadership developmentally. For example, when she observed that transitions in leadership seemed to cause setbacks in the vitality of the chapter, she worked with student leaders on different kinds of transition models. Currently, students in leadership positions agree to serve for three semesters so that their last semester of service can overlap formally with the training of incoming officers. This strategy is reaping enormous benefits in improving the stability of the organization despite changing leadership.
Dr. Brewster started her work as a psychologist in private practice. She began teaching at JMU in 1988 as a part-time faculty member and joined the faculty full-time in 1992. She was promoted to associate professor status in 1998. She is well known for her challenging courses in abnormal psychology. In response to student interest and demands, she developed an advanced class in Forensic Psychology that draws overflow crowds every semester that it is offered. She regularly mentors doctoral students in learning and refining their skills in using the Rorschach. Her teaching evaluations routinely place her among the best teachers in a faculty that is well known for its teaching excellence. She serves on an interdisciplinary committee to refine JMU's criminal justice degree. Her professional commitment is clear from her involvement in four divisions of APA (clinical, teaching, police and public safety, and American Psychology and Law). She just completed a term as President of the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology. She is obviously a wonderful example of professional commitment.
We think that it is a good idea to recognize Dr. Brewster's accomplishments by recognition with a regional faculty advising award. It would mean a great deal to Dr. Brewster and our chapter.
Kim Castora, Psi Chi President
Jane Halonen, School of Psychology DirectorMichael J. Zalanka
UIC Chapter Webmaster, Feb. 1999 - Apr. 1999
UIC Chapter President, 1999-2000