Denis Mitchell

Denis Mitchell

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Mitchell stresses need to teach on individual basis.
By Kevin Marshall Pinkney

“Students need individual attention to fully develop,” psychology professor says.

Psychology professor Denis Mitchell spoke about the importance of teaching students as individuals rather than as an entire class during his lecture as part of the “What Matters to Me and Why” speaker series Wednesday. About 50 students, faculty and staff attended the event at Ground Zero Coffee House. Rabbi Susan Laemmle, head of the Office of Religious Life at USC, began the afternoon discussion. “Today, we are in the season of Lent, which involves restraining yourself of something or trying to achieve a goal,” she said.

During his lecture, Mitchell focused on his teaching style. “God sent me to college to make people feel uncomfortable,” Mitchell said. He has been making students uncomfortable – in a good way – for 28 years here.

Mitchell spoke on the need to give individual attention to each student. “At the university level, it’s very easy to focus on content and forget the development of the individual student. That student needs to take charge, be involved in their education, and have confidence in their abilities,” he said.

The Q-and-A session offered a different look into Mitchell’s life. When asked what occupation he would hold if he were not a professor, he said, “Gardner because I love my collection of cacti.”

“Although, students are like plants, they need to be tended to, some you have to water a lot, some very little, some not at all, but you must know how to point them in the direction of growth,” he said.

Mitchell graduated with a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Washington in 1975. He currently teaches the Introduction to Psychology, Principles of Psychobiology and Learning and Memory courses, among others.