Focus on Teaching


MCLA's focus on excellent teaching and its small liberal arts environment drew Dr. Ben Wood to join the College's faculty this fall.

An assistant professor in MCLA's psychology department, he comes to the campus from the Center for Psychological Services and Development at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., where he earned his Ph.D. in counseling psychology.

Wood wanted to teach at a liberal arts school because he very much enjoyed his undergraduate experience in a liberal arts college.

"I think that the liberal arts provide an excellent foundation for intellectual curiosity and engaged citizenship. I was excited to be a part of that process," he said.

Wood specializes in therapeutic relationships and conducts research on this focus within child and group therapy.

"This area of research typically focuses on how the therapeutic relationship influences therapeutic outcomes. In contrast, my focus has been on helping clients describe the experience of being in a therapeutic relationship," he explained. "For instance, in my dissertation I explored how group members in a college counseling interpersonal group felt about their relationship to their therapists."

He also is interested in how psychology and religion attempt to answer difficult questions. As an undergraduate at Harvard Divinity School, Wood served as a counselor at a conflict resolution camp that brought together youth from warring nations, which threw him into an environment in which he helped youths to try to trust each other and build relationships.

"This got me interested in being a therapist," he explained. "I took a counseling theories course and I didn't look back.

"One question I am exploring now is how people explain the origin of evil," Wood continued. "There are many religious narratives about where evil initially originated from (e.g., original sin, fallen angels, etc.) but there has been less focus in psychology in examining how people explain the origin of evil from a psychological point of view (e.g., it is a learned behavior)."

He wants his students to become more curious about themselves and the way they perceive and make sense of the world around them.

"I also hope that they will learn the benefits of critical inquiry through our work together," Wood said. "I think that the liberal arts provide an excellent foundation for intellectual curiosity and engaged citizenship. I am excited to be a part of that process."

Wood's goals include expanding his teaching abilities, exploring his interest areas through research and teaching and being involved in the campus community.

"I have found the campus community to be very warm and accepting," he said. "Faculty and staff members have made an effort to introduce themselves, my psychology colleagues have been very helpful with me settling in to the area, and the students have been a lot of fun to work with."