By Rob O'Connor '95
When Leslie Templeton '91 turned in her final exam in Introduction
to Psychology to Dr. Chris Spatz '62, she told him, "I just loved
She left the classroom and decided, in the hallway of the Mills Social Sciences
Center, that she would be a psychology major.
"I was totally hooked," said Templeton, who is now a psychology professor at
her alma mater.
Her post-exam epiphany was just the start.
"Dr. Tim Maxwell's Abnormal Psychology was really interesting to me," she said
of one of her undergraduate psychology courses. "He was respectful and compassionate
when he talked about mental illness. It was the first time I thought about a methodical
and scientific approach to mental illness."
She and her classmates in Dr. Ralph McKenna's Advanced Social Psychology learned
basic methodology by doing their own research projects almost independently.
"It was essentially advanced research methods," she said. "There were three to
five projects. It was exhausting but so exhilarating. The whole research process
was so exciting."
After graduating from Hendrix in 1991, she spent one year in graduate school
at the University of Missouri at St. Louis before following her graduate school
mentor to the University of Arkansas, where she got her master's and Ph.D.
For her master's thesis, she studied eye-witness memory. She became really interested
in gender aspects of psychology, and when she began formulating her ideas for her
dissertation, she decided to focus her research on children's cognition about gender
"The research was real gender, real cognitive, real developmental ... all rolled
into one," she said.
She joined the Hendrix faculty in January 1998 as an adjunct and finished her
doctoral dissertation in the spring. She was hired back in fall 1998 on a one-year
contract and became a tenure-track faculty member a year later.
As a faculty member, Templeton involves Hendrix students in research, just as
her undergraduate mentors did with her. Psychology majors currently account for
the largest percentage of Hendrix degrees, and she routinely supervises 30 to 44
student research projects a year.
"I do a lot of research with students in the natural course of the classroom,"
she said. "So I feed my desire for research that way. It's an incredible amount
of work, but it's really satisfying to me."
She's also satisfied at the results of the work that she and her colleagues in
psychology have done preparing Hendrix students for success.
"I think our department does a fantastic job, and we have seen really good outcomes,"
she said. "Our students are accepted into their graduate schools of choice. They
get interesting jobs, post-graduate honors, and competitive research positions."
"Internship supervisors at Arkansas Children's Hospital and University of Arkansas
for Medical Sciences rave about our students' research skills, how competent they
are, and how good they are at writing clearly and concisely and presenting their
research," she said. "We can't minimize the beneficial value of good oral presenting
and good writing skills. It's the culmination of research."
Nurturing those skills in students is deliberate.
"Every class is designed pedagogically to strengthen an academic skill," she
said. "We work, work, work to prepare our students to do that really well."
Research-intensive classes and independent student research are critical components.
"We're all at a teaching college because we enjoy those opportunities to teach,
mentor and guide, and research is one vehicle for that," she said.
"Doing research is an almost perfect academic experience ... A perfect liberal
arts experience," she said. "There's nothing in it that's wasted. Every academic
skill is developed ... problem solving, critical thinking."
Templeton's passion for the value of student research is contagious. A student
in her Psychology of Gender class told her that she was thinking about her research
project while she was in the shower.
"I love it when students get the spark of excitement when they work on a topic
and it becomes something they think about when they're otherwise occupied," she
said. "It's hard to catch the fire until you have owned the research and come up
with the design. That's a fantastic experience for students, and that's the point."
Dr. Templeton lives in Little Rock with her husband and their two sons.