Piedmont Has Been the Right Fit for Psychology Professor Cynthia Vance
Note: This series spotlights the people who educate Piedmont University students. We ask them about their childhood, their first jobs, and why they love what they do.
Dr. Cynthia Vance, a psychology professor at Piedmont University, was born in Southern California and moved with her family to Oregon when she was 4 years old. The third of four children, Vance remembers there being “lots of kids” to play with during her childhood, especially in the summer.
While she always looked forward to going back to school each year, Vance never thought about teaching until she was a teaching assistant in graduate school.
Vance got her first job at a McDonald’s when she was in high school. She stayed for more than two years and was promoted to head trainer at the store.
“I remember that I used to tell the new employees not to worry if they messed up, because I had made about every stupid mistake there was while working there — including putting my hand in a deep-fat fryer, knocking over an entire rack of French fries, and slipping and breaking a toe,” Vance said.
After achieving a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Oregon, Vance chose to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It had the program that fit her interests, and she was offered the teaching assistantship, which was a guaranteed job. That is where she earned her Master of Science and Ph.D.
As a teaching assistant, Vance taught “several small sections of a class in a semester,” which she really enjoyed.
“But one semester, I was the instructor for a large lecture class — 300 students. By the end of the semester, I didn’t know the names of my students, and I hadn’t made a ‘connection’ with them,” Vance said. “I knew then that I didn’t want to teach at a large university.”
When Vance came for her interview at Piedmont, she “just felt like I fit here.”
It’s been a good fit. Vance has been with the university for 30 years.
The small class sizes allow her to get to know her students. She especially loves the pride students show in their discoveries as they work on psychology research projects.
“The best part of being a college professor is the students,” Vance said. “I love to see the interest in their faces when they learn about something that intrigues them. I love the after-class discussions when they tell me an experience that relates to what we discussed that day in class.”
Beyond teaching psychology courses, Vance is also the coordinator for human subjects research. She likes studying why people do what they do.
“I’m an experimental psychologist, and I love the idea of applying knowledge of human behavior to all types of problems. Psychology is such a huge field of study, so there’s always something new to learn and contribute to the field.”