Cheryl Dickter, a William and Mary professor who specializes in teaching social psychology, describes herself as a "nerd" – and defines that term as someone who spends time "being inquisitive, reading information, and talking about more intellectual topics."
Talk about positive reinforcement:
Dickter has been chosen from among hundreds of college professors nationwide as a "40 Under 40" honoree by NerdScholar, which is part of NerdWallet, an online financial literacy publication for college students.
A Williamsburg resident who is in her sixth year with William and Mary, she was nominated for the honor by students in her classes. "I thought it was really cool," said Dickter, 34.
She is also the recipient of the college's 2014 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award after being nominated twice by her colleagues.
Dickter's area of concentration is social psychology, a field she became interested in after taking a course in "stereotypes and prejudice" during her freshman year at Randolph-Macon College. She went on to earn degrees in the field at the master's and doctoral levels from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Social psychology, Dickter said, looks at "perceptions about other people, how individuals influence one another, how we think about others, group dynamics" and similar subjects.
Dickter teaches five classes:
Introduction to Psychology, Advanced Research Methods in Social Psychology, Elementary Statistics, Social Psychology and a seminar on Stereotyping and Prejudice.
She is the co-director of the W&M Scholars Undergraduate Research Experience program, which provides scholarships to students from under-represented groups, and runs the William and Mary Social Cognition Lab. She has authored or co-authored more than two dozen peer-reviewed papers, and in 2013 she authored a book, "EEG Methods for Psychological Sciences," which is a primer for researchers such as senior undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members who are setting up or working in EEG laboratories. EEG is a tool for measuring brain waves while a subject is looking at or listening to stimuli.
Based on the evaluations she receives from her students, Dickter said her students describe her teaching style as difficult but enthusiastic. "I expect a lot of my students, but also convey that love for research that I have to them," she said. "They look forward to going to class but they know that they really have to pay attention.“