Want to see what some of our accomplished alumni are doing now? Check here each month to see a new featured alum!
This month we are featuring Amanda Lipko-Speed (class of 2002). Amanda is currently an Associate Professor in Psychology at The College of Brockport. She discusses her favorite memories from TCNJ, how she got to her current position, and more! Read more in our interview with Amanda below:
A Conversation with Amanda Lipko-Speed (’02)
What is your current position, and what do you find the most fulfilling about it?
I am currently an Associate Professor in Psychology at The College of Brockport. I am also the Associate Chairperson of our psychology department.
As an associate professor, I feel most fulfilled when students who have taken my classes tell me they decided to become a psychology major because of my class, or that they loved the class and learned a lot. It is also very fulfilling to work with talented and engaged undergraduates on research projects. I enjoy mentoring them and watching them grow into scholars. Lastly, I find the moments when I watch a student transition from struggling (with a concept, class, etc) to “getting it” very fulfilling.
As the Associate Chairperson, I feel most fulfilled when I can help a student who is struggling with a problem. The majority of problems I help to solve for students are academic advisement related, specifically course concerns, as well as short-term and long-term schedule planning. It is wonderful when everyone involved in the situation can walk away feeling heard and satisfied with the outcome.
It looks like you went straight from TCNJ on to graduate school. How did you know you were meant to head to graduate school? What influenced your decision?
I have always loved school and the learning experience in general so graduate school was always on my radar. Once I decided to pursue a career in academia though, I knew that graduate studies were the necessary next step to achieve my goals. Former psychology faculty members Dr. Paul and Dr. Coppola were very influential in my graduate school application process. They advised me regularly, specifically helping me to narrow down the programs I wanted to apply to and supporting me through the many aspects of the process (especially taking the GREs). I really enjoy helping and encouraging my own students through this process now that I am on the other side of the table.
Can you describe your path from TCNJ to your current position as an Experimental Psychologist? What steps and career moves got you where you are today?
I graduated from TCNJ in 2002 with a psychology major and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I began a PhD program at Kent State University a few months after graduation. I earned my MA in 2005 and my PhD in 2008. I accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at The College of Brockport in early 2008 and officially began the position in August 2008.
As an undergraduate at TCNJ, being involved in faculty led research and completing my own research project senior year were important steps. Also, serving as a teaching assistant for Research Methods was very important because it strengthened my interest in college level teaching. In graduate school, there were many important steps but the most important one was accepting the opportunity to work on research with a faculty member who had just joined the department. I was concerned about taking on another challenge especially one that would involve learning a new area of research. But, I am so glad that I took the chance. I gained an amazing mentor and a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills. Lastly, I think it was very important both when applying to graduate schools and applying for tenure-track positions that I did not restrict myself geographically. Although it was scary to think about moving to a new place (which I did for both graduate school and my assistant professor position), the flexibility allowed me to apply to a wide variety of places which I believe ultimately helped me to succeed.
Now that you’ve attended two different schools and work at a third, what do you think makes TCNJ and its campus community unique?
I think the thing that makes TCNJ unique is that it is a public college but has all the earmarks and ambiance of a private college. TCNJ also offers opportunities comparable to much larger institutions of higher education while still maintaining small class sizes and focused engaged experiences. One thing I found particularly interesting while I was at TCNJ was how much I learned about the culture and opportunities of my home state (NJ). I met people who lived geographically close to me (NJ is a relatively small state) yet our experiences were vastly different. Despite the variability, almost everyone had a welcoming and open heart, which made it easier to feel a sense of belonging on the campus very quickly. At TCNJ, you have the privilege to be supported and challenged by top notch peers, distinguished scholars, and supportive staff while enjoying amazing facilities and a beautiful campus. It is a magical mix of variables that make it a very special place to learn and grow.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned while at TCNJ?
I think the most valuable lesson I learned was that you truly never know where life is going to take you or how a single person or experience will influence your life. When I entered TCNJ,
I had never thought about pursuing a PhD or becoming a professor. In fact, I had a very different idea about the career I wanted to pursue. A single conversation with my academic advisor (Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger who is now the president of Drew University) changed the entire trajectory of my career.
What is your favorite memory from your time at TCNJ?
I have too many memories to choose just one. I made so many wonderful friends and met incredible people who influenced my life while I was at TCNJ. Some of my favorite memories include the fun times I had as a college ambassador including all of the welcome week activities especially lip syncing/dancing skits we put on for the freshmen. I also always loved the college ambassador retreats. Finally, I have many fond memories from my time living and laughing with my friends in Townhouses East 18.
What advice can you give to current students at TCNJ?
Enjoy every minute of your time at TCNJ! It goes by very quickly. The people you meet and the information you learn will influence you for the rest of your lifetime. Yes, there will be stressful and challenging times but there will also be amazing, fun times. Your college experience will shape you in indelible ways. Your time at TCNJ will give you a foundation academically and personally which you can rely on and build on as you work to achieve your goals. Also, although it sounds cliché, life is truly about the journey, not the destination.
Interview by Maddie Anthes, February, 2018.