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Lander Professor Retires from “First Job” – Research Fund Renamed in Her Honor

Dr. Deb Acorn
Dr. Deb Acorn, longtime professor of psychology at Lander University, participates in her last commencement on May 12, 2018. Acorn retired three days later after 29 years at the school. Photo by Laura Brown

When Dr. Deb Acorn entered Lander University for the first time in 1989, she saw it as "a good fit for a first job after graduate school."

At noon on May 15, 2018, Acorn officially closed the books on her first job - stepping down after 29 years of teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and preparing all levels of students for careers beyond college.

"I didn't originally expect to remain at Lander for so long," said Dr. Acorn, a professor of psychology. "But my colleagues and the Lander staff have been so congenial, and the students so wonderful, I couldn't help but stay. And I truly appreciate everyone's support throughout my career."

Dr. Jonathan Bassett, professor and chair of Lander's Department of Psychological Science, said it won't be easy having someone else in her place next fall.

"Deb will be greatly missed," Bassett said. "She not only had a strong commitment to supervising students in undergraduate research, she also played a key role in shaping the rigorous nature of our curriculum with a focus on scientific and critical thinking skills."

Bassett added that Acorn's development and implementation of the Psychology 101 Teaching Assistant Program was arguably her most valuable contribution to the department and to Lander.

"This program allowed upper-level psychology majors the chance to provide tutoring and supplemental instruction to students enrolled in general psychology courses," he said. "And Deb's mentorship in these capacities has helped numerous students to succeed in professional careers and graduate school."

In her three decades at Lander, Acorn taught Behavior Statistics in Experimental Psychology, General Psychology, Group Processes, Global Issues, Psychology Research Skills, Women Across Cultures, and projects related to social psychology.

Together with Bassett, Acorn supervised countless Lander students who presented the results of their research at professional meetings, including: The Georgia Undergraduate Research in Psychology Conference; The South Carolina Psychological Association; and the Annual Convention of the Behavioral Sciences.

In honor of her many contributions and her retirement, the Department of Psychological Science renamed their Lander Foundation fund supporting student research as the "Dr. Deb Acorn Student Research Fund."

Its purpose is to support student research projects and expenses when they travel to present the results of their findings at professional meetings. Since its renaming, Bassett said the department has raised "over $1,000 for the fund" - and Acorn said she was honored by her colleagues' gesture.

"Many of my fondest teaching memories involve working with students and Dr. Bassett on various research projects," she said. "I love the science behind psychological experimentation and I've enjoyed sharing this process with students."

When asked why she chose to retire now, when she seems to be at the peak of her career, Acorn simply said she was "ready for a change."

"I've been thinking about it for a while and I'd like to see what else I might be able to do," she said. "I have truly enjoyed my time at Lander, but there are other parts of myself that need attention and development. And I'm looking forward to a new and different adventure."