Willard is a professor at Monroe Community College, a two-year institution in Rochester, N.Y. Each semester, she teaches seven to eight developmental psychology courses, both online and in the classroom. Willard also advises and helps prepare students who are applying to four-year schools.
"I didn't set out to be a psychologist, or a professor, for that matter," says Willard. She went to college with pre-law in mind, then decided she wanted to become a physician. On the pre-med track, she took a psychology class, "and I loved it," she says. Willard graduated with a bachelor's in psychology, earned a master's in educational administration at St. Lawrence University, and earned her PhD in developmental psychology in 1996 at Syracuse University.
Finding her passion: Having seven brothers and sisters had a lot to do with becoming a developmental psychologist, she says. In addition to learning sibling conflict resolution from a young age, Willard says she was always interested in how so many children with the same parents have distinctly different personalities. But it wasn't until she was teaching part-time after earning her master's degree that she realized teaching was her passion.
"A college teacher is given the tremendous opportunity to open minds and transform lives," she says. Research-oriented institutions didn't appeal to Willard, though. "I knew I really wanted to be at a college where teaching was the most important part of my job. … I chose a community college for the teaching."
Working and playing hard: Downtime is something Willard looks forward to after teaching a full load of classes and advising students. "I enjoy my work and I also enjoy when I am not at work," she says. With no kids of her own, Willard stays busy with her 15 nieces and nephews. She also enjoys watching classic movies from the 1930s and '40s, hiking nature trails and reading. But most of all, "I'm a big baseball fan," she says. As a New York Mets fan, living in Rochester makes it hard to get to games, but Willard says she goes when there's an opportunity, and that's a "rare, treasured moment."
— Colleen Wilson
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