N. Rajkumari Wesley
Business & Social Sciences Institute
Faculty member since: 2001
PhD in Educational Psychology, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York
Office: Main Academic North (MAN)
What brought you to Brookdale?
The story of my coming to Brookdale is interesting!
We were soon to relocate from Long Island, New York, when my husband accepted a new position here. One evening, he was quite lost and found himself on Route 520-Newman Springs Road (no GPS back then!). He was driving by and saw Brookdale. Back then I was a doctoral student, collecting data for my dissertation from college students. He suggested that I explore opportunities at Brookdale instead of going back and forth to New York. I contacted the then-chair of the Psychology Department, Lynne Schmelter-Davis, who graciously arranged for me to do that. When I was leaving after data collection, she asked me if I could teach two sections of psychology that fall, in 2001. I was completely tied up with my own graduate work as a research associate at my university, but as a token of my gratitude, I agreed to teach one class as an adjunct. To my good fortune, when I graduated, a position opened up and I was hired as a full-time faculty member in 2004.
Describe one or more of your biggest achievements as a Brookdale faculty member:
I was the faculty adviser of the Psychology Club for a few years. I enjoy working with my students outside of the classroom, and have taken them on field trips, even to conferences where they become acquainted with the academic world. We met every week, and engaged in several activities like conducting research, having guest speakers, constructing and becoming familiar with research techniques.
I am passionate about educational research and have been a recipient of a Brookdale Innovation Grant a few times. I am very concerned about the basic issues our students face, like managing their time better and lack of motivation for educational excellence. To that end, I use my doctoral research in Self-Regulated Learning and Grit extensively in all my classes, and to my complete satisfaction, the retention rates in my classes have been high consistently.
Do you work outside of the college?
I work in the community with young adults as they seek support and encouragement to figure out their future plans for their education and career. Being cross-cultural and a faculty member at Brookdale has earned me deep respect in my neighborhood and it is satisfying to know that we can make a small difference where we live.
I am also involved with some educational programs back home in India. I travel home every summer to engage with that process and it is wonderful to work my colleagues and friends of my earlier academic days.
What would you say is your most memorable moment – or moments – as a member of the Brookdale community?
Most of us agree that when we are able to reach out to a student who has severe challenges and see them succeed, we come full circle. I have numerous such examples of when there seemed no hope at all, but we were able to work things through. In my office, I have cards and little notes from such students displayed, so when I come in each morning, it inspires me to do my best. Many students have told me that I was the first one to believe in them and see their potential. Today many of them are doing very well in life, and to know that I was a part of that journey makes me very proud.
However, the day my daughter Rashmika graduated from Brookdale is a day of special significance. I was invited on stage to award her the diploma and I will never forget the applause we got. People cheered and cheered; in fact, when I went grocery shopping or to the movies, there was always someone who recognized me as that professor and, more importantly, that proud mother!
What do you think separates Brookdale from other colleges?
I love the ‘work culture’ at Brookdale where everybody is warm and friendly.
People care for each other, whether it is within my department, the Business & Social Sciences Institute, or across the college including the cafeteria, the bookstore, the library and the several offices across campus and in the HECs. Our staff and students come from diverse backgrounds in terms of age, interests, and cultural groups which I enjoy very much. I also enjoy having returning adult students in my classes as they bring a mature and unique perspective to our class discourses.
Most of all, I particularly enjoy coming to work in an environment where I am valued for who I am. I do not have to be like someone else! This has been the most encouraging and enriching aspect of my Brookdale experience and I have grown immensely as a professional here.
Would you recommend that students take a class in your department?
Psychology is the science of behavior and explores what makes people do what they do. How do our underlying thoughts and emotions affect our behaviors? What is the role of the brain in these processes? I am happy that psychology is a required course for most majors, and it is absolutely essential to have a working knowledge of psychology for every career, be it health, fashion, business, education or something else. When we understand the basics of human interaction, it helps us in both our personal and professional lives to build better working relationships.
Most people think that a degree in psychology only results in careers like psychiatry, counseling, therapy and so forth. While that is quite true, it is important to know that there are several branches of psychology like experimental psychology, health psychology, sports psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, educational psychology, industrial/organizational psychology and many others that are unique in what they offer. One should find out what each of these specialties are and explore them.
The Psychology Department at Brookdale has faculty with specializations in some of these different fields and we would be very happy to help anyone if they need any information. The department at Brookdale has a Human Services Option where courses like addiction studies, counseling techniques, and group dynamics are included as well.