The next Woman Who Wows is Dr. Catherine Sanderson, a professor of life sciences at Amherst College.
Professor Sanderson has published more than 25 journal articles and book chapters in addition to four college textbooks, middle school and high school health textbooks, and trade books on parenting as well as how mindset influences happiness, health and even how long we live (The Positive Shift). In 2012, she was named one of the country’s top 300 professors by the Princeton Review.
I met Professor Sanderson at the 2018 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference where she served as keynote speaker. I was so moved by her talk about why happiness is significant, what truly makes us happy and practical ways that each of us can incorporate happiness into our everyday lives.
Why did you choose your profession?
I basically chose my profession by accident. I was going to be a doctor, but after one semester of college chemistry, it became clear that the pre-med path was going to be a pretty hard one! Then I took a class in psychology (taught by the famous Dr. Zimbardo) and loved it.
Initially I thought about a career as a therapist, but quickly came to see that it would be hard for me to find work-life balance in that job. I just didn’t temperamentally have the ability to talk to someone about the serious problems they were facing and then let it go. Over time, I realized that I loved doing research, and writing and teaching – so being a professor was a great fit.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love talking about psychology with students – both when I’m teaching a class and also when I’m writing textbooks. My goal in both is the same: to help students understand how they use psychology all the time in their lives, no matter what they do: when they’re teaching their dog to shake hands, or trying to help their kid learn to use the potty or trying to stick with a new exercise routine.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I’m super bad at this one – but it’s in part because I actually love my job. So, I work a ton, but in all honesty, lots of my work is writing, which I love – and I can do that at home in my sweatpants … so it doesn’t feel so much like work!
What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
A thick skin. I get rejected all the time. I submit papers that never get published, I turn in manuscripts to editors who tear them apart, I ask people to review my books and they never respond. It can be easy to get demoralized and give up, so finding ways to let rejection go and not fixate on it and give up is really essential. I’ve gotten better at this over time, but it still isn’t easy!