By Lily Sperber
Professor Jacqueline Fisher is a new visiting assistant professor of psychology. This semester, she is teaching Child Development and Practicum in Child Development, both courses which are furthered by her training in applied developmental psychology.
“Applied developmental psychology focuses on using our knowledge of child development to inform large scale interventions to address mental health problems,” said Fisher. “I do a lot of research looking at the negative consequences of experiencing different kinds of trauma in childhood and how that relates to things like delinquency, criminal behavior and things like that.”
Fisher started her career in psychology at Boston College, where she received her bachelor’s degree. She then moved to New York and completed her masters at John Jay College, before receiving her doctoral degree from Fordham University.
She first discovered her interest in the field when she took a psychology class in high school.
“I was really lucky that it was offered, and I remember from the very beginning of the semester, I just found it super interesting to learn about the different disorders you could experience,” she said.
Despite her areas of specialization changing over the course of her education, Fisher said that what drew her to applied developmental psychology was a curiosity to understand something that she was unfamiliar with in her own life.
“I don’t feel like I experienced a lot of trauma as a kid, and I was always curious about what leads people down what we consider to be ‘the wrong path,’” she said. “I started doing research and working with people who researched that and a lot of it seems to stem from our early experiences through childhood and adolescence and how we handle those experiences.”
Fisher was born in Florida before moving to Massachusetts when she was six years old. She lived there until moving to New York in 2006 to pursue her master’s degree. Her parents, however, have somewhat different roots.
“My parents are both British, which people find kind of funny,” she said. “They came over here from England, so I am a dual citizen.”
One of Fisher’s biggest interests is traveling, which is connected to another of her academic interests from college.
“I started taking Italian in college because I needed to take a language,” she said. “Then I got into a study abroad program in Italy that you had to be somewhat proficient in Italian for. I just loved it; it was amazing being over there. Now I love traveling, I think in part because of that.”
Besides traveling, Fisher also enjoys spending time with her family, as well as her pets.
“I have two dogs, so I’m obsessed with them,” said Fisher. “I volunteer at the local animal shelter in my town, and I spend a lot of time with family as well. In the winter I like to ski, and in the summer my family has a cottage on a lake up in Northern New Hampshire, so I spend a good amount of time up there. We go boating and things like that.”
Before Purchase, Fisher worked at non-profit organizations such as The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, as well as at education research firms, doing research and consulting for a series of purposes.
“The Center on Addiction does a lot of work around collecting research to understand how to connect individuals, like teenagers and adults, to treatment when they are experiencing substance abuse problems, or when they have family members who are,” she said. “I also worked with a bunch of education research firms researching different methods of providing education to kids in elementary, middle and high school. We were looking at really innovative things, like, how can we bring real-world experts into the classroom, how can we make educational experiences that aren’t just revolving around a teacher sitting in front of a classroom and lecturing students, and things like that.”
Fisher also works as an adjunct course instructor at John Jay College. When it comes to her own classroom, she notes that there are two main goals she aims to achieve.
“The first is bringing in real-world experiences to the classroom,” she said. “I think a lot of times for students, we focus our teaching around a textbook. I don’t think that’s always the best method. I don’t think a lot of students really integrate the material or find it that interesting, and it doesn’t always relate to the world after college, so I am really big into bringing into my classroom ways to talk about real-world problems, and how what we’re learning from the textbook informs the real world.”
The other point she tries to impress upon her students is what she calls 21st-century skills, which are skills employers look for when interviewing and hiring people. These include flexibility, the ability to work well with others, collaborate, and bringing a certain skill set to the workplace.
“I try to spend a good amount of class time helping students with that,” Fisher added. “I make them do group work, which I know a lot of students don’t like, but I help them think through what it means to be a partner in a group. What kind of a role do you, as an individual, play? I think these skills are really important; I think they relate to any subject you’re teaching.”
In her free time, Fisher also works part-time as a freelance photographer for the newspaper in her town and has had her work published a few times.