Kristin Flora, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and psychology department chair, believes her students’ successes prove how large of an impact the Franklin College community has on its students. Flora said these successes keep her motivated in her own teaching.
“It sounds simple, but seeing each of our students develop academically and personally makes me proud of the impact this community can have on a person,” Flora said. “Whether that is getting their first job or being accepted into graduate school, seeing students succeed, meet and often exceed their goals really speaks to why I chose to pursue higher education as my career path.”
Flora didn’t enter college planning to pursue a degree in teaching psychology. She began as a chemistry and psychology double major focused on research.
“As I progressed in my coursework, I found the chemistry work to be more tedious and less satisfying,” Flora said. “But the psychology work never seemed like work. I actually enjoyed doing my reading and was motivated to go above and beyond, doing additional reading to better understand the discipline. Also, I’ve always been a ‘people watcher’ and to be able to understand what I was seeing really appealed to me.”
Then, as part of her graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Flora was assigned to be a teaching assistant. At larger institutions, the lectures consist of more than 100 students with a single faculty member, and then once a week a smaller group of 15 students meets with a teaching assistant.
“At first I wasn’t terribly excited, but quickly found that my TA sessions were my favorite parts of my day,” Flora said. “I looked forward to interacting with the students and actually being able to help them better understand course material. It was those early relationships I experienced that showed me how fulfilling teaching could be. I quickly decided that personally, I’d rather spend my career focused on teaching than focused on research. Additionally, I had an excellent mentor in Dr. Dan Arkkelin who pushed me to do research as an undergraduate when I lacked confidence in my own abilities.”
Flora received her Bachelor of Science in psychology and chemistry from Valparaiso University in 2001. She earned her masters and doctoral degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2007 and joined the Franklin College faculty that same year.
Prior to joining FC’s psychology department, Flora was a lecturer at Carroll College and at Cardinal Stritch University, both located in Wisconsin. She also worked as an Outcomes Analyst at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, doing research on sports related concussions. As one of her job duties, Flora was the project coordinator for Project Sideline, which studied traumatic brain injury, or concussion, in high school athletes.
Flora explained how this project tested concussed students immediately post-concussion. Each injured student was paired with a matched control, who completed the same tests for comparative purposes. Her team found that the extent of right hemisphere brain damage was linked to poorer cognitive test performance and other concussive symptoms in the short time period. At seven weeks, however, she said the concussed students showed heightened activity in the right hemisphere, which coincided with improved cognitive test performance and other self-reported symptoms.
Last year, the team’s manuscript was accepted for publication in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. “Because I spent years of my life on concussion research, seeing it culminate in a publication is my greatest professional achievement to date,” Flora said.
Flora said she is also extremely proud of being selected to be on the Steering Committee for the Midwest Region of Psi Chi, an international honor society in psychology, and is currently in her second year of a two-year term.
Currently a Franklin resident, Flora teaches general, social, developmental and health psychology in Franklin College’s psychology department.
“The psychology program at Franklin offers a variety of unique experiences to undergraduates both inside and outside of the classroom,” Flora explained. “Coming from a liberal arts institution, I value the active learning experiences I participated in and have worked to construct my courses in a similar fashion. Many of our courses have an experiential component, such my Lifespan Development course where we bring in children to the lab and observe them engaged in a variety of tasks, such as Piaget’s 3-Mountain task or Mischel’s delay of gratification paradigm (aka the marshmallow test).”
Outside of the classroom, Flora said every May the department takes a selected group of students to the Midwestern Psychological Association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. This meeting allows students to network with other students, experience a professional conference and check out various graduate programs.
Flora said curricular experiences, coupled with internships and other outside the classroom experiences, have resulted in high placement rates for both jobs immediately upon graduation as well as entrance into graduate school. In the last five years, 87 percent of psychology students who have applied to graduate school have been accepted.
To improve placement percentages even further, Flora said the department has a few goals. “I’d love to see more students engage in undergraduate research, especially during the summer,” she said. “We’re also hoping to strengthen our community partnerships to help provide more options for student internships.”
Flora has presented at various conferences during her time at FC. Last year, she was a co-presenter at the Midwestern Psychological Association’s Annual Meeting on ‘Being a Rock Star Undergraduate.’ This May she will also be a co-presenter for two presentations on teaching and learning. She said the first is a roundtable discussion on using peer education in curricular design and the other is a presentation on the use of games as a tool to enhance student learning.
When she isn’t a ‘soccer mom’ – busy with her children’s activities – Flora regularly volunteers at Creekside Elementary School and last year participated in the first Women Build for the Johnson County Habitat for Humanity chapter. As a former collegiate athlete, she also tries to remain active to effectively deal with stress. Flora said she has expanded her repertoire of physical activities from tennis to yoga to spin class. Flora also loves to travel, both domestically and abroad. Though her recent travels have been to the UK, her goal for her next trip would be continental Europe.
Flora has been part of two study abroad experiences at Franklin College and said these are some of the successes outside of academics that reaffirm her choice to pursue teaching.
“The type of growth that occurs in that setting is phenomenal,” Flora said. “Students who have never been on a plane walk away with confidence that they can be world travelers and navigate foreign transportation systems. I’m so proud of those students who push themselves out of their comfort zone in order to have a study abroad experience.” This motivation from students keeps Flora excited about teaching, even after seven years.
“The courses may be the same, but because each group of students differs and brings in different experiences, the classroom never gets boring,” Flora said. “As a lifelong learner, as students come in with new ideas about career paths that mirror changes in the discipline, I am able to continue to learn and grow as a professional.”
Flora is available to discuss the psychology department and what a Franklin College liberal arts degree as a psychology major or minor can do for you. Schedule a visit by contacting the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.
Founded in 1834, Franklin College is a residential, liberal arts institution with a scenic, wooded campus, spanning 207 acres, including athletic fields and a 31-acre biology woodland. Students enjoy the comfort and safety of suburban living, while also experiencing the many opportunities Indianapolis has to offer with a short 20-minute drive to downtown. The college prepares students to think independently, to lead responsibly and to serve with integrity in their professions, their communities and the world. The college offers its more than 1,000 students Bachelor of Arts degrees in 51 majors from 25 academic disciplines, 42 minors, 11 pre-professional programs and five cooperative programs. In 1842, the college began admitting women, becoming the first coeducational institution in Indiana and the seventh in the nation. Franklin College maintains a voluntary association with the American Baptist Churches USA. For more information, visit www.FranklinCollege.edu. Find Franklin College on Facebook and follow @FranklinCollege on Twitter.