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Faculty in Focus Hosts Psychology Professor, Dr. Lesa Rae Vartanian

Staff Photo- Taken by Elmer Denman

Photo credit: Elmer Denman

Staff Photo- Taken by Elmer Denman
Written by: Mikaela ConleyApril 01, 2015

How much parenting is too much parenting? And at what point, is allowing students and children to fail more helpful than carrying them to success?

Psychology Professor, Dr. Lesa Rae Vartanian, who has been employed by IPFW since 1997 will be exploring these questions on Tuesday, April 7th from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m in Walb Student Union, room 114.

According to Vartanian, full time faculty at IPFW essentially do three things: teach courses, create knowledge, and serve students and the department that they belong to.

Vartanian’s lecture, titled “When Helpfulness Holds You Back: How Your Parents and Professors Might be Doing You Wrong” will feature the “creating” aspect of her time here at IPFW, which is creating knowledge and doing research, or “creating a product of scholarly activity.”

“I have been working on developing the conceptual or theoretical argument for why what seems like such helpful parenting is actually deleterious to development,” Vartanian said, and I have come to believe we as professors can fall into this same trap of robbing students from important learning experiences by trying to be uber-helpul.”

In other words, there is such a thing as too much help which can hinder student’s ability to have a healthy amount of independence.

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and an “additional major” in psychology, Vartanian completed her Masters and doctoral degrees in Psychology at Northern Illinois University, and she also serves as the head of the Gerontology Certificate program at IPFW, former associate chair of the psychology department.

“Part of my degree requirements was completing course work in a behavioral sciences cognate, and I chose Psychology…thus began my love affair with the study of the mind and behavior,” she said.

Her work with adolescent independence was sparked by encounters with parents as she was trying to work with her students. She said, the first encounter grabbed her attention when she was called by a parent to find out how to find the study guide for a course exam online, and the more recent event involved an advising session with a student where a parent brought a list of classes that the student was going to take, letting the student have no say.

“I was floored,” Vartanian said, “And apparently I wasn’t the only own having such experiences and making such observations, because I started to hear this term ‘helicopter parent’ bandied about in the mass media- and I thought, bingo. This is my next area of focus.”

Vartanian will be discussing her hypothesis and the data that she has collected to back it up during her lecture, amongst more in depth views and examinations of her belief that “hovering is potentially harmful.”

“I hope it will be a fairly interactive and thought-provoking session,” Vartanian said.