On Memory and Memories
David Elmes, emeritus professor of psychology, has made a habit of calling upon his former students as a resource for the next generation of psychology majors. During the spring semester of 2009, he put together a course called Applications of Psychology Sciences, in which 11 alumni and alumnae with graduate degrees in psychology and allied fields agreed to be part of an all-star teaching panel.
So it was not a surprise when Dave’s latest article in Teaching of Psychology was based on a fascinating interview with one of his former students, W&L alumnus Henry L. (Roddy) Roediger of the Class of 1969. Roddy is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in the psychology department at Washington University in St. Louis, where he runs the department’s Memory Lab. In May 2009, he was the Glynn Family Visiting Lecturer at W&L.
The article, “Remembering and Researching the Old and the New: An Interview with Roddy Roediger,” is a fascinating Q and A between a teacher (Dave arrived at W&L two years into Roddy’s career) and his former student. And while it explores the important research Roddy has done in the area of human memory function, the interview is often personal and, in many places, celebrates the distinctive value of a liberal arts degree and W&L.
Roddy’s recounting of his courses with Dean James Leyburn will resonate with many W&L alumni. “Leyburn was a great, inspirational teacher and a scholar of the old school — he was interested in, and knowledgeable about, a huge number of topics.” Roddy also credits the “small classes, many inspiring teachers, and personal attention” as keys to his success. And he notes that all the sociology and anthropology courses that he took made it possible for him to move into social psychology in graduate school even though W&L didn’t offer a course in the subject.