UMass Dean of Education becomes APA fellow

By Eleanor Harte

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Christine B. McCormick, Dean of the University of Massachusetts College of Education, was recently elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) for her contributions to the field of psychology.

“I think it’s certainly an honor,” McCormick said. “I’m excited and pleased.”

The APA is the largest scientific and professional psychology organization in the United States, according to its website. The organization seeks to advance the creation of and application of psychological knowledge to improve society and people’s lives.

Becoming a fellow of APA requires substantial contributions or performance in the field of psychology. McCormick is an educational psychologist who has co-authored chapters for the Handbook of Psychology and the Educational Psychology Handbook, and she has been an associate editor for the APA handbook. One of the chapters she co-authored was about metacognition, which is how people learn to learn. She has also conducted research in educational psychology and human development.

Election to become a fellow isn’t based on popularity or how long someone has been in the field, according to McCormick, but rather it is based on contributions to the field of psychology, mainly in research and scholarship.

McCormick was surprised by the attention that she has received at the university for her election as a fellow, including being featured with a press release on the front page of the UMass website.

“I wasn’t expecting everyone to make such a big deal out of this,” she said. “But it seems to have received a lot of attention.”

McCormick stressed that there are at least three other faculty in the College of Education who are APA fellows, and a number in the psychology department as well.

“I think it caught attention because I’m a sitting dean,” she said. “But there are other APA fellows at UMass.”

She believes that her honor reflects well on the school.

“It’s a good thing for the university when we have a lot of faculty recognized by their discipline,” she said, “because it reflects on the quality of the faculty.”

In terms of her research, which she tries to continue even in her limited free time, she is interested in improving students’ and teachers’ abilities to do their jobs.

“I really am interested in teaching students how to be better students. Learning strategies, managing all the things you need to do,” she said. “I’m also interested in preparing teachers so they really understand how students learn, and they can use that to inform their teaching process.”

McCormick was immersed in the educational world from a young age. Her mother and aunt were both teachers, and her father started as a teacher and eventually became a principal.

“I got to see the education system and administration up close,” she said.

McCormick is the longest serving dean at UMass, where she has worked since 2005. Previously, she was a department chair at the University of New Mexico and a faculty member at the University of South Carolina. As dean, she works with faculty and staff to “move the whole unit forward.”

“My role is figuring out where to invest funds, supporting students, and figuring out how to organize things to make them run more efficiently. I like teaching. Part of me still misses teaching a little bit, but I really enjoy what I’m doing,” McCormick said. “This is a very good college of education. It’s really an honor to be the dean in this college. It’s really outstanding.

“I like having the opportunity to invest in our faculty and students so they can achieve their goals and the kinds of things they want to achieve and work on our shared goals.”

Moving forward, McCormick hopes to continue the college’s presence in the schools in Springfield and Holyoke, and to contribute more to the cities in the efforts to educate their students. She then would like to use that to develop national models for how to work with cities.

Above all, McCormick praises her colleagues in the College of Education.

“This college of education has always been known for its emphasis on excellence, equity and social justice,” she said, “and I think we have a real values system where we move those issues forward. It always means re-envisioning what you’re doing and how you can do it better, and I think it’s all very exciting. It’s alive.”

Eleanor Harte can be reached at [email protected]