Macmillan Learning Author Spotlight: Dr. Susan Nolan

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Dr. Susan Nolan on the terrace outside her house in Banja Luka, overlooking the Vrbas River in Bosnia and Herzegovina.Dr. Susan Nolan on the terrace outside her house in Banja Luka, overlooking the Vrbas River in Bosnia and Herzegovina.Dr. Susan Nolan is a distinguished psychologist, educator, and author whose career is marked by resilience, curiosity, and an unwavering commitment to advancing the field of psychology. With a diverse educational background and a passion for research and teaching, Susan has made significant contributions that resonate within and beyond the academic community. Her innovative approaches to education, including the integration of generative AI technologies, reflect her forward-thinking mindset and dedication to enhancing the learning experience for her students. In this spotlight, we delve into Susan's journey, exploring her educational background, research and teaching experiences, and her impactful work as a textbook author.

 

Susan’s Winding Path to Psychology 

Susan’s journey in psychology is a compelling tale of serendipity and perseverance. Growing up as the oldest of five children in a family where education was valued, but graduate school was not the norm, Susan navigated her academic path with a mix of family guidance and personal discovery. Her father was a high school teacher, and her mother was a dental hygienist. The expectation was clear: attend college, earn a bachelor’s degree, and enter the workforce. However, the specifics of her educational journey were left to her to discover.

She enrolled at Holy Cross, where, initially, she had a passion for French and aspired to major in it, but her parents steered her to choose something more "practical." So, she became a psychology major. Reflecting on this decision, Susan shared, "At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with a major in psychology, and that’s okay. What’s most important is that my studies opened up so many doors for me later in my career.”

Despite her initial lack of direction, Susan found herself drawn to the subject, enjoying her introductory psychology course even though she admits her grades were not stellar; she earned a B-minus in the class. After graduating from Holy Cross, Susan faced the daunting task of deciding her future. Graduate school was not part of her initial plan, so she ventured into the workforce. She took on a job as a bike messenger in Boston, an experience that ended abruptly when she was injured in an accident. After recovering from surgery, she saved enough money to move to Paris, where she taught English for an academic year. This international experience was transformative, exposing her to new cultures and solidifying her interest in teaching.

Susan eventually secured a position at Massachusetts General Hospital's Depression Research Unit after returning back to the United States. It was here that she fell in love with research. A psychiatrist mentor advised her to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, a suggestion that led her to Northwestern University, where she completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. 

 

Inspiring Students and Colleagues to Make a Real Impact in the World

Susan's research interests span several areas within psychology, including clinical, social, and international psychology. Her early exposure to clinical settings at Massachusetts General Hospital ignited her passion for research, particularly in understanding depression and other mental health conditions. This initial focus on clinical psychology expanded during her doctoral studies at Northwestern University, where she also delved into personality psychology.

Susan began her tenure-track career at Seton Hall University, where she quickly became a beloved professor known for her engaging teaching style and commitment to student success. What she appreciates most about Seton Hall is its mission of servant leadership. The university's focus on training students not only in knowledge and skills but also in values and community service aligns perfectly with Susan’s own educational philosophy. "Seton Hall's emphasis on servant leadership resonates with me. It's not just about what you learn, but how you use that knowledge to help others," she explained.

One of Susan’s standout courses is her international psychology class. This innovative course explores how different countries approach psychological research, practice, and policy. It addresses global issues such as terrorism, migration, and environmental psychology, and emphasizes solutions and positive transformations. Through this course, students gain a global perspective on psychology, learning about diverse approaches to mental health and well-being. "My international psychology course covers how different countries handle research, practice, and policy in psychology," Susan said. "We look at big issues like terrorism and migration, focusing on solutions and positive changes."

Susan’s teaching extends beyond the traditional classroom. She has given talks to international audiences, including recent virtual presentations to educators in Mexico and India; she served as a United Nations representative for the American Psychological Association for five years; and she spent sabbatical years as a Fulbright scholar in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Australia, researching education in psychology. Her ability to connect with students and professionals from different cultural backgrounds underscores her commitment to global education and her belief in the power of psychology to foster understanding and change.

 

Writing Textbooks as a Way of Giving Back to the Field of Psychology

Susan’s journey to becoming a textbook author is as unconventional as it is inspiring. Despite her initial struggles with introductory psychology and statistics as an undergraduate, she has co-authored several textbooks in these subjects. This transformation from a student who earned a B-minus in statistics to an accomplished author of a statistics textbook is a testament to her dedication and growth. “I like to share with my students my own challenges as an undergraduate student in these courses,” she said, “to inspire them what’s possible through dedication and perseverance.” Susan considered what concepts she struggled with as a student and how she could bring more clarity to those same concepts in her writing.

Reflecting on this achievement, Susan remarked, "I never thought I'd write a statistics textbook, especially after getting a B-minus in the course. But it's been incredibly rewarding to turn that early struggle into something that helps students learn and succeed."

Susan was also part of a taskforce that developed the new APA (American Psychological Association) Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major, 3.0, which came out last summer. She is also a co-founder and co-leader of a group of over 100 psychology educators from more than 40 countries who developed the International Competences for Undergraduate Psychology. “Both of these experiences with the development of learning outcomes directly inform my textbook writing,” she said.

Her textbooks are known for their clarity, accessibility, and practical applications. Susan’s ability to present complex psychological concepts in an engaging and understandable manner has made her books popular among both students and instructors. She brings her extensive teaching experience into her writing, ensuring that her textbooks are not only informative but also pedagogically sound. "I aim to make my textbooks as clear and engaging as possible," she said. "It's important to me that students find them helpful and approachable."

Writing textbooks allows Susan to reach a broader audience and contribute to the field of psychology in a significant way. Her books are used in classrooms around the country, helping to shape the education of future psychologists. For Susan, authoring textbooks is more than just a professional achievement; it is a way to give back to the academic community and support the next generation of scholars. "Knowing that my textbooks are being used by students globally is incredibly fulfilling," she shared. "It's my way of giving back to the field that has given me so much."

 

Enrolling in “Teaching With Generative AI” Course Offered by the Institute at Macmillan Learning

Susan’s commitment to innovative teaching methods led her to enroll in the Institute at Macmillan Learning’s Teaching with Generative AI: A Course for Educators summer session offering. This experience has been transformative, equipping her with new tools to enhance her teaching. The course focuses on the integration of generative AI technologies in education, offering novel ways to engage students and personalize learning experiences.

For Susan, the potential of generative AI in education is immense. She sees AI as a tool that can revolutionize the classroom, making learning more interactive and tailored to individual student needs. "Generative AI has the potential to transform education," Susan explained. "It can make learning more interactive and personalized, which is incredibly exciting."

One of the exciting applications of generative AI in Susan’s teaching is in the area of statistics. AI can help demystify complex statistical concepts, making them more accessible to students. Interactive AI-driven tools can provide students with hands-on experience in data analysis, enhancing their understanding and retention of statistical methods. "Using AI to teach statistics can really help break down complex concepts," she said. "It makes the material more accessible and engaging for students."

Moreover, AI offers new opportunities for international collaboration and learning. Susan envisions using AI to connect her students with peers and experts from around the world, facilitating cross-cultural exchanges and collaborative projects. This aligns with her broader educational philosophy of fostering global awareness and understanding through psychology. "AI can help bridge cultural gaps and connect students globally," Susan noted. "It's a powerful tool for fostering international collaboration and learning."

 

Susan’s Lasting Impact in the Field of Psychology

Susan’s career is a testament to the power of resilience, curiosity, and dedication. From her early days as a somewhat aimless undergraduate to her current role as a renowned psychologist, educator, and author, Susan’s journey is marked by continuous learning and growth. Her diverse experiences in research, teaching, and textbook writing reflect her commitment to advancing the field of psychology and making a positive impact on students and the broader community.

Susan’s story is particularly inspiring for students and aspiring psychologists. It shows that the path to success is not always straightforward and that it is okay to take detours and explore different interests. Her ability to turn early academic struggles into a successful career as a professor and author of textbooks in those very subjects demonstrates the transformative power of education. "It's important to remember that struggles can lead to growth and success," she said. "My own experiences have shown me that perseverance and a willingness to learn can make all the difference."

Through her teaching, Susan not only imparts knowledge but also instills values and a sense of global responsibility in her students. Her innovative use of generative AI in the classroom exemplifies her forward-thinking approach and dedication to providing the best possible education for her students. "Teaching is about more than just conveying information," she emphasized. "It's about inspiring students to use their knowledge to make a positive impact on the world."

Susan’s contributions to psychology and education continue to resonate, inspiring both her students and her peers. Her work embodies the mission of servant leadership, making a lasting difference in the field of psychology and beyond.



Dr. Susan Nolan is Professor of Psychology at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where she has been a 2020 College of Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year. Susan has researched curricula and assessment in psychology education, the interpersonal consequences of mental illness, and the role of gender in science careers. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. Susan was the 2021 president of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. She also is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Psychological Science. She holds an A.B. from the College of the Holy Cross and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Susan is fascinated by the applications of psychology to the real world,; both locally and globally. She served as a representative from the APA to the United Nations for 5 years, and was a recipient of the Fukuhara Award for Advanced International Research and Service from the International Council of Psychologists. She was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she and her husband have a home, as well as a 2023 U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Australia. An avid traveler, Susan uses the examples she encounters through these experiences in the classroom, in this textbook, and in the statistics textbooks that she co-authors. At Macmillan Learning, she is co-author of Discovering Psychology, Psychology, and Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences.