Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2016

Faculty Award winner

Karen Mottarella

 College of Sciences


Carl Rogers' Humanistic model inspires my teaching philosophy. The university classroom provides the perfect environment for students to develop their potential to grow positively. The university classroom is also a perfect forum to challenge and expand world views and views of "self."

The opportunity for students to explore the diverse areas and career pathways launched by a psychology degree is crucial for undergraduates. To this end, I developed our Cornerstone Course, which is required for the major. To continue to facilitate students' exploration of opportunities and careers in psychology, I led efforts to host an Undergraduate Psychology Major Conference. Last year, we had over 80 undergraduate students attend our conference, and over 20 undergraduate student presenters at the poster session.

Students often enter the major with one of two common ideas: they indicate that they want "to help people," or they express a desire to become "criminal profilers." In order for them to explore what clinical work is really like, I incorporate experiential exercises, role plays, and case discussions in my classes. My Interviewing and Counseling course culminates with student demonstrations of videotaped Diagnostic Interviews featuring them in the role of helper. In relation to the desire to become a criminal profiler, the truth is that the profiling jobs students see depicted on popular TV crime shows do not exist in real life. However, students can pursue psychology careers that incorporate more realistic legal-forensic components. To this end, I designed and coordinate the UCF Certificate in Behavioral Forensics.

Lastly, it is imperative that our students understand the importance of psychology as a science. Mentoring undergraduate research remains a strong priority for me. Each semester, I mentor an Undergraduate Research Team and supervise Honors in the Major undergraduate honors thesis students. I prepare my students to present their research at the UCF Showcase of Undergraduate Research (SURE) and at the annual Florida Undergraduate Research Conference.

Just as Rogers believed that a healthy therapeutic environment facilitates a person's innate self-actualizing tendency, creating an active and positive learning environment in the classroom and providing enrichment opportunities outside of it are invaluable to student development. The opportunity to engage in research; to host, present and/or attend conferences; and to be part of student-based psychology groups such as Psychology Club and Psi Chi Honor Society, greatly expand our studentsí awareness of themselves and of the field of psychology and what it has to offer.