Teaching isn’t what Lisa Finkelstein does; it’s who she is.
The 2021 NIU Presidential Teaching Professorship award winner and professor in the Department of Psychology has been sharing her passion with Huskie students for almost 25 years.
“Coming to realize that teaching is not just what I do – but it’s who I am – has helped me become more aware of how much teaching happens outside the classroom,” Finkelstein said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to find and live my calling at NIU.”
Finkelstein earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Vermont, and her master’s and doctorate degree from Tulane University before coming to NIU in 1996.
A first generation college student, Finkelstein credits her parents for supporting and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.
“My parents, who adopted me as a baby, were the most supportive parents I could have hoped for,” Finkelstein said. “They always taught me that your education was something that no one could ever take from you.”
Finkelstein’s teaching philosophy and research focuses on the importance of support and mentoring. She is a renowned expert on the subject, having received mentoring awards, external funding for her research on mentoring, and written numerous articles as well as a book on the topic.
“Dr. Finkelstein has put this knowledge into practice in many capacities at NIU,” said Amanda Durik, chair, Department of Psychology. “She established a mentoring program that pairs new graduate students in Social/Industrial-Organizational Psychology with more seasoned students in order to ease their transition, and with that program success, she also created a program that pairs continuing students with alumni who can mentor them into the first phases of their careers.”
Finkelstein is known as a skilled and dedicated teacher whose “energy and passion for the subject-matter is infectious.” The professor holds students to high standards and commands respect, but not at the expense of being responsive and sensitive to their needs, and is committed to ensuring that each student in her classroom feels comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas.
“What I hope a student would gain from taking one of my courses is the realization that challenging classes can be the most fun and worthwhile,” Finkelstein said. “I try to set a high bar but then provide as many resources as I can to assist their climb over it.”
Finkelstein creates learning experiences that students can draw upon well beyond the end of a semester-long course. She is passionate about what she does and it shows.
“I have always believed that my job is not just to provide relevant material to my students in a clear, engaging way – though that is key – but also to convince my students why learning it matters and how working to comprehend material deeply will help them long after my course has ended,” Finkelstein said.
Finkelstein will be honored along with other faculty award winners during a virtual ceremony on April 22 at 4 p.m.
“I am so grateful to receive this honor and it is most definitely one of the highlights of my 25 years as a Huskie,” Finkelstein said. “I love NIU students; I love their diverse backgrounds, their work ethic, and their support for one another. I really saw this shine through during the pandemic.”