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Selfie Kickstarts Online Learning for Bellevue University Psychology Students

The first assignment in Dr. Jerome Lewis’ online psychology classes is a selfie.

“A simple selfie gives me a window into each student’s world,” he said. “During the first online class, I ask students to talk about their photo.  Often, they share where they do their homework and what is special about that place.” This simple exercise is the beginning of a relationship connection Lewis nurtures throughout the course and beyond.  

Dr. Lewis, Bellevue University Associate Professor of Psychology, finds relationship building happens naturally in face-to-face classes. But he wanted to kickstart relationships with his online students, too.  The selfie assignment works.

According to Dr. Lewis, not every school realizes the value of student-teacher relationships. “You can teach, but not reach,” Lewis emphasized. “Online, and even in-class students, can feel isolated at times. But, when students are part of a community, optimal learning is more likely.”

Dr. Lewis’ students know he cares about them and their success. “I am not a robot grading their assignments,” he laughed. Dr. Lewis said he has seen professors at other schools who were brilliant, but whose students were afraid to ask for help. 

Dr. Lewis always shares a selfie of himself with students, too. They might find out his area of specialty is understanding the victim’s role in our society.  Or, that he and his wife are foster parents, who are passionate about giving kids a chance.  “Once students get to know me, they are more comfortable reaching out when they need help with assignments, as well as guidance on their academic or career path,” Lewis added.

Dr. Lewis recalls when he realized the importance of knowing his students. In graduate school at the University of Alabama, he taught in large auditoriums packed with students. “I couldn’t see faces past the first two rows, let alone know students as individuals,” he commented. “In that environment, professors never stopped to see if they were really reaching their students. After that, I knew a smaller setting was best for me.”

Strong relationships between professors and students go beyond assisting students with coursework. If a student hopes to pursue an advanced degree, Bellevue University can make all the difference.

“Demand for graduate psychology programs has exploded because there are many career opportunities in various fields,” Lewis stressed. “As a result, master’s and Doctoral programs are extremely competitive.”

Lewis described that portfolios are often required for graduate program applications and frequently, schools request research examples and faculty referrals. “At Bellevue University, we bring undergraduate students into research projects,” Lewis pointed out.  “And because of our strong relationships with students, professors are well-positioned to write meaningful graduate program referral letters.”

Dr. Lewis has been on the Bellevue University College of Arts and Sciences faculty for six years.  He teaches five different courses in the undergraduate psychology programs. Psychology students have the option of a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the University will help them decide which is right for them.

All courses can be taken in the classroom or online, or a combination of which makes learning accessible for students with varied schedules. “Some students prefer the classroom setting but will take a course online if life happens and it’s more convenient,” Dr. Lewis commented.

 “At Bellevue University, we are teachers and scholars. We are teachers first rather than being an expert who happens to teach. Every day, I get to learn about the person behind the student and that’s why I am glad to be here,” Lewis emphasized.

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