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Faculty Faces: Dr. Leslie Zorwick


When i was thirteen, i went to my first debate tournament. My parents were both debate coaches, and really I just wanted to see what they were doing on the weekend. I didn't any intent debating, but at about two rounds in, a judge who told my partner and I that we were being a little too assertive, and it didn't matter that that two young men we were competing against were being as assertive, if not more so, and the judge reminded us that women really couldn't get away with that in the same way. So, I found that upsetting, but I was actually surprised that the person saying it was a woman. I did not realize at the time, but i had, in that instant, fallen in love with social psychology. So, when I took a class and realized there was a way to study academically, you know, why people who belong to groups can still demonstrate prejudice against people who belong to those groups. I thought, "Yeah. This is for me. I need to know the answer to that question." So, I was excited there was a way in school to find it.

When I went on the job market, I only looked at schools like Hendrix, because I knew this was the kind of place I wanted to be, the kind of place that was really committed to undergraduate education and teaching and where i could talk to people about the kind of things that I was excited about in the classroom. It was something that really excited me about, coming to Hendrix, where students were encouraged to be so well-rounded, with the general education things they learn, with classes like Journeys that really ask students to think in an interdisciplinary light. That was something I really valued in my own education.

It's been really exciting, because my own research interests have been shaped a bit by what my students have been so interested in. I've started doing a lot of research, since I’ve been here, about stereotypes of Southerners, because it's something that's very salient to our students when they think about moving to other regions of the country or interviewing for jobs. Hendrix has this phenomenal reputation in Arkansas, but how they're perceived as Southerners is something our students think about. So, it's been really exciting to let some of their lived experience help shape the things that we're doing.

I love that the biggest problem I have in my research lab is not finding great students, it's not access to resources. It is scheduling my lab meetings, because my students are so well-rounded. They have to go to choir practice or sports. I mean, what a fantastic problem to have, that students are so engaged in their education and can bring so much to the table through these other experiences that our biggest problem is finding time when we can all meet. It’s a lovely problem to have.

I would say Odyssey was one of the single biggest reasons I chose to come to Hendrix. This is the only liberal arts school I looked at that actually put their money where their mouth was. So, I had to students approach me who i didn't know that well , and they are really interested in sports fans, and so we started meeting regularly and talking about identity and thinking about what it means to be sports fan and how that might meet identity needs. These students got a several thousand dollar grant to go interview people at the Cotton Bowl. So, after that, once I knew what Odyssey could do, I sort of felt like the sky was the limit, and so, for the next couple summers,  I got grants to work with students over the summer to have these really intensive research mentorships that even involved things like traveling to other cities to conduct focus groups and as a result of one of those, I actually got to publish a paper with an undergraduate student, which i think i don't think we could have done without those resources. Whenever i have meetings prospective students, i always tell them, “I know you've heard a lot of at Odyssey, but seriously, that’s one of the reasons why I came here. I don't think you can really even conceive of how many doors that can open, for things that your imagination can dream up.”

I’m sorry they couldn’t be here today, but I have these two dogs I’m completely bananas about. One of them is named Colby. He’s a corgi. The other one is named Buster, and he’s a dachshund. Colby actually grew up on campus. We used to have “puppy office hours” on Fridays. I would usually see thirty-five or forty students on Fridays who would ostensibly come to say hi to the puppy and would end up talking about life, or graduate school, or class. So, that was really neat. Usually every semester, I’ll try to bring them once or twice, sometimes during finals so that students can just swing by outside and say hi and get a little pet therapy. I like that they’re the unofficial department mascots that our students know about, too.