By Molly Igoe
Elm Staff Writer
Assistant Psychology Professor Amanda Sommerfeld loves teaching psychology. She said, “The most interesting thing to me is the fact that, because I’m a psychologist, I have the profound privilege of hearing people’s stories—to try and understand what their lives are like. And I get to teach people how to do that so that they have the chance to hear those stories as well, which is beautiful.”
Sommerfeld initially thought she wanted to be pre-med her freshman year at Allegheny College but she soon discovered her love for psychology after seeing a psychologist. She said, “Psychology made sense to me, and it fascinated me. I was particularly interested in how stereotypes about race and class end up affecting how we view one another, treat one another, and our access to resources and opportunities.”
Growing up near Detroit, Sommerfeld said, “My parents placed a huge value on education and wanted my sister and me to go to school where we not only learned academic skills and content but also where we developed our own voices and identities.”
The importance of education has stayed with her. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college similar to Washington College. She also received her master’s degree in counseling psychology at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York. She then earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating, she became an assistant clinical professor at Boston University where she directed their master’s programs and became a fully licensed psychologist.
Sommerfeld has come to love living in Chestertown, but like many other people, in the beginning she was a little wary about being in a totally new environment. “To be honest, I was a little uncertain about Chestertown before I got here,” she said. “I have only ever lived in bigger cities-Detroit, New York, Madison, Denver, Boston-so I didn’t really know what to expect. As soon as we moved here, though, I figured out pretty quickly that I loved it.”
Sommerfeld is currently teaching psychopathology, theories and processes of counseling, and a special topics course called multicultural competence. Next semester, she will be teaching behavioral modification and co-teaching general psychology with Professor Chris Beasley.
“Students seem genuinely curious and interested, which means that they’re also willing to grapple with hard ideas and be uncertain and take risks-which is always what I want my students to be doing. That kind of engagement makes me excited to go to class every day,” Sommerfeld said.
“Because I’m a counseling psychologist, most of the classes that I teach are more clinical, meaning that they’re more about counseling and psychotherapy, which are topics that I think are fascinating; that is definitely part of the reason why I’m having such a blast teaching here so far,” she said.
So far, she is loving WC and all the interesting events happening in town. She said, “There always seem to be really interesting events on campus, and I like the fact that as I walk around I actually see my students. That never happened at the other schools I’ve worked at. The added bonus is that we’re living in a place that has tons of space for the dog to run around and since we’re about five miles away from campus, I can either run or bike to work, which is fabulous.”
As Sommerfeld continues her journey as an assistant professor here at the College, she can take what her professors have taught her about teaching and apply it to her own teaching style. Sommerfield said she “had the most incredible coaches and professors—people who helped me learn more about myself and figure out how I wanted to be in the world. They were my first models of the type of professor I want to be.”