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Shared inspiration

Randy Lynn Newman: neuroscientist, teacher, WISE leader

October 1, 2018

Dr. Randy Lynn Newman’s face lights up when she speaks of students running up to show her an acceptance letter to medical school or a graduate program. She actively fosters a strong professional relationship with her students and loves to see them thrive.

“The thing that fills my cup is seeing my students be successful in their own lives and knowing I got to play a part in that,” says Newman, a professor in the Psychology Department whose specialty is cognitive neuroscience. “And that for me is honestly why I will stay up until two in the morning marking 130 exams.”

Newman’s teaching skill hasn’t gone unnoticed. She has received numerous teaching awards including the Associated Alumni of Acadia University Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016

“It’s no secret that I truly love being in the classroom and passing along my enthusiasm and knowledge for psychology and neuroscience. I’ve taught, supervised and mentored so many outstanding students,” she says. “I’m inspired not only by their academic achievements, but also by their commitment to volunteer work – to lift others up and leave this place better than how they found it.”

Newman credits her mentors, some of whom she met at Acadia, with helping to shape the scholar and teacher that she has become in her 12 years here. “I feel fortunate to be part of this community, one that values undergraduate research and teaching, and that has encouraged me to broaden my teaching and research skills,” she says.

The winding path to success

She particularly enjoys seeing her students grow from year to year. For students wondering where they’re going in life, she tells them the path to success is not always linear.

“Successful people often veer a little to the right, veer a little to the left, and finally reach that goal,” she says. Newman estimates that only 20 or 25 percent of students in psychology will have careers that relate directly to psychology. But, regardless of their career or field, she says, “They’ve learned something about people, about human behaviour, about relationships, and that’s really important no matter what career you’re in.”

I can’t imagine any greater gift than to allow someone to become educated.”

Many of Newman’s students have benefited from scholarships, including named scholarships. In her experience, those students want to honour the legacy of the people who have given that money. “I can’t imagine any greater gift than to allow someone to become educated,” she says. “Because it’s a transformative experience when you can educate young people.”

WISE leadership

Newman was one of the initiators of WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) Acadia in 2014. WISE is a group of female faculty, staff and students who gather to promote participation by women in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. WISE hosts events including three-day summer camps at Acadia for girls entering grade 7 or 8.

“My experience with WISE Acadia has been amongst the most rewarding of my career,” she says. “I’ve met so many inspirational Acadia alumni and have had the opportunity to work more closely with my colleagues from across campus to develop WISE initiatives, particularly our summer camp programming. Seeing our students mentor the camp participants, seeing them pass along their joy of learning, has been truly rewarding and inspirational.”

A course Newman has developed, called Women in Science, is the first of its kind in Canada. “The best part of the class is that I have students from all three faculties in the same room, sharing their unique perspectives. It’s the ideal learning environment, in my opinion,” she says.

“I feel proud to work at an institution that was among the first in the Commonwealth to have women graduate with bachelor’s degrees,” she adds. “And there is no shortage of amazing stories about our earliest Acadia alumnae like Lillian Chase, Bessie Lockhart, Esther Clark, and Amy Prescott (her great, great, great niece graduated in May 2018). I often think about these women when I walk across campus, and I whisper, thank you.”