The Path to Professorship
Simon Howard, Ph.D. candidate in Psychology, has landed a job at Marquette University
This coming fall, Simon Howard, Ph.D. '16, will join the faculty of Marquette University as Assistant Professor of Psychology. Howard will teach social psychology, research methods, and psychology of prejudice. Howard will continue research that he began as a Tufts graduate student as an empirical social psychologist, focusing on how sociocultural beliefs associated with race influence our interactions, memory, perceptions and judgments.
As an undergraduate at San Jose State University, Howard was selected to participate in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholars program, which prepares first generation and underrepresented college students for doctoral study. “The program helped us develop cultural capital with the ultimate ideal of moving us into professorships,” says Howard.
When he arrived at Tufts as a graduate student, Howard envisioned a career in academics, but he credits his mentors in the psychology department—Professor Sam Sommers, Director of Tufts' Diversity & Intergroup Relations Lab, and Associate Professor of Psychology Keith Maddox — with solidifying his goal of becoming a professor. “Seeing the impact they had on their students made me want to be a professor that much more,” says Howard.
Professor Sommers helped shape Howard’s interest in psychology and law, specifically, how race influences legal processes. Sommers guided Howard when he was struggling to find a direction for his first year research project. Ultimately, Howard decided to examine how race can influence eyewitness memory; by showing subjects videotaped reenactments of crimes in which the perpetrators race was the only variable. “We demonstrated how eyewitness memory is already faulty, but becomes even less accurate when race is involved,” explains Howard.
To extrapolate this to a real world context, someone could potentially be incarcerated for years of their life because of their race.
Howard is passionate about his current research and the subject of his dissertation: exploring the relationship between religiosity and anti-black attitudes. His experiments have shown that when white participants view images of white religious iconography, their anti-black attitudes increase. “White portrayals of Jesus consciously/unconsciously reinforce the ideological belief that whiteness is superior, whereas blackness is inferior, which increases anti-black prejudice.” says Howard. His research is under review for publication.
Teaching a seminar at Tufts’ Experimental College, Social Psychological Dimensions of White Supremacy, was also a pivotal experience for Howard. The students used psychology literature to explore how white supremacy influences the psychological processes of groups who hold power and status as well as the behavior of marginalized groups. “The class had a tremendous impact on me,” recalls Howard. “Some students expressed that this was the first class in which they had participated in these types of conversations, while others expressed how it made them consider the ways they and their families produce and maintain white political, material, and cultural power.”
Howard says his Tufts experience has shaped the role he will play as a black professor at a predominately white campus. “I will be a resource and support system for black students,” says Howard. “I understand their concerns and have learned to address needs of first generation non-traditional college students who will navigate a landscape that is not always inclusive. He is also looking forward to teaching at a Jesuit institution. “The principles [at Marquette] are social justice oriented, and that resonated with me,” says Howard. “The idea of service to your fellow person is why I went into education.”