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Psychology Assistant Professor Instills Value of Work, Earns MC’s Young Faculty of the Year Award

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Drake Terry has spent a significant amount of his young career in academia investigating the psychology of work, seeking to understand why so many people seem to be dissatisfied in their chosen occupations.

He dove deeply into the effects of job demands and work-recovery guilt on employee occupational health while crafting his doctoral dissertation. He endeavored to uncover how individuals and organizations can thrive at optimal and sustainable levels of performance. He published articles analyzing workplace stress among clergy and gave presentations centered on factors that influence individuals’ job performance.

The Mississippi College faculty member has concluded that the antidote to a lifetime of workplace malaise is finding purpose and satisfaction in one’s career.

“In American culture, you have so many people who are burned out in their work,” Terry said. “Initially, they had a desire to try to help other people. That was a joy for them to begin with, but somewhere along the way, it became a burden.

“I’ve been trying to understand why so many people seem to hate what they do for their work, which seems really sad. Work is something you do for 40-plus hours a week for the majority of your life, and it’s something you should enjoy doing.”

Not only does Terry enjoy his work at MC, but he endeavors to instruct others about the benefits and pleasures of serving others. His commitment to instilling in his students a sense of duty that will help them flourish in their respective professions has earned the popular assistant professor in the Department of Psychology the 2024 Pittman Young Faculty of the Year Award.

He received the honor during Mississippi College’s Central Commencement May 2 in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.

Established in 2004 by the late George Pittman ‘59, former longtime MC English Department chair, and his wife, Alicia ‘60, to encourage young faculty at MC, the award honors professors no older than 35 who demonstrate strong Christian values, possess a doctorate, and are recognized by their peers for their accomplishments and potential as a teacher. Nominees must have taught for at least two, but no more than five years at the Christian University.

The award is named as a tribute to the deep commitment the Pittmans had for the Baptist-affiliated university. The Pittmans were founders of the annual Shakespeare Festival at MC, and the George and Alicia Pittman Conference Room in Jennings Hall is named in their honor.

Michael Mann, professor and chair of psychology at Mississippi College, said Terry is well deserving of the honor.

“The very first semester he arrived, Drake became intimately involved in the MC community,” Mann said. “His courses are some of the most highly rated by students in our department. He is student-centered in his teaching, and well-liked by students, faculty, and staff.

“Drake teaches our research courses in psychology and expertly mentors our students in the research process. Often, the students present their research at state and regional conferences. Drake upholds the values and mission of MC in his teaching and advising. I cannot imagine a better young professor.”

Daniel J. White, a seasoned assistant professor in the Department of English and Philosophy, calls Terry an “ideal colleague.”

“This spring, he was willing to offer a guest lecture for the Honors College’s first-year students on research methods in psychology,” White said. “The students found his enthusiasm for the content and willingness to work with them on their projects very rewarding. Later in the spring, he consulted twice on an ongoing honors thesis exploring loneliness. His expertise opened pathways for the undergraduate’s work that would have otherwise remained closed.

“Dr. Terry has served with distinction on the Core Working Group that is actively revising MC’s core curriculum. His contributions have been insightful and guided us to success. Dr. Terry is the type of faculty we want at MC – sound scholars who are open to collaboration.”

As a graduate of MC – he earned his B.A. in English writing and psychology summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA in 2016 before obtaining his M.S. in industrial and organizational psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and his Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from Old Dominion University – Terry said the award bears special significance for him.

“It meant a lot to me to have the opportunity to come back and be a faculty member at MC,” he said. “I was very honored to receive this award. We have many great young faculty at MC, and it means a lot to be recognized for my efforts in teaching students and for my committee service.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what you do.”

His instructional style includes a Christ-centered focus. Terry begins every class with a short scripture reading and prayer.

“As a Christian university, it’s important for us to keep the main thing the main thing, especially when we are studying human behavior,” he said. “We as people are made in the image of God, and we need to know His word in order to know the purpose of us being on this Earth.

“I try to make the material interactive and ask questions of the students, then I like to end class with a hands-on activity, typically getting them into small groups and having them present something to the class about the material we covered that day. Many of the students have said they appreciate those activities because they force them to process the material more deeply. That’s a big part of any success that I’ve experienced in the classroom.”

Terry was drawn to Mississippi College as a student by the relationships many undergraduates enjoyed with their instructors.

“I liked the fact that I wasn’t going to be just another number, that faculty members know your name and are invested in your future,” he said. “The opportunity to be around students who cared for you, who are also looking to honor Christ with their lives, was the college experience I wanted most.”

He became interested in psychology as a means to better understand other people – and himself.

“I went into industrial and organizational psychology, which is not what people typically think of when it comes to psychology,” he said. “I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do in life. My professors seemed to really enjoy what they were doing, so I decided to emulate them.”

His fascination with occupational health, work as a calling, and recovery from work developed from his understanding of Biblical principles.

“Work is part of our purpose here on Earth,” he said. “It’s part of why God put us here in the first place – to work and to have purpose in what we’re doing. My interest grew into a more focused study of how people can thrive in their work.”

He said multiple factors can contribute to one’s dissatisfaction with their work – from staffing issues to improper work/life balance to an unhealthy job environment – and he’s found there is no “magic bullet” to resolving the issue.

“Much of the solution is making sure organizations are properly staffed and that no one becomes overwhelmed by the demands placed on them,” he said. “Encouraging people to actually be ‘off the clock’ when they’re off the clock – learning to recharge and re-energize so that when they return to work, they’re better able to accomplish their duties.

“The Scriptures teach that we need to take rest, we need to take breaks from our work, so that we will be much better in our work.”

Outside the academic arena, Terry recharges his batteries by engaging in student life at MC. A member of Shawreth as an undergraduate, he is now an active sponsor of the men’s service club at MC.

“That has been a huge blessing to me,” he said. “I know what these guys are going through. We bond over similar experiences, like going through the rush process, attending formals and swaps. It allows me to connect with students outside the classroom in a mentorship role.”

He also serves as a sponsor for the Psi Chi Honor Society at MC and is a faculty member of the Honors Council and the Institutional Review Board.

“Being a part of those committees helps you connect with colleagues from other departments and other parts of campus,” he said. “That’s important because we all have different perspectives on how to address challenges the institution may be facing.

“When we share our perspective, we’re a lot more effective as problem-solvers, and I benefit personally from hearing those different viewpoints.”

Despite his success as an assistant professor, Terry said he continues to look for ways to improve his individual lectures.

“I’m always looking for ways to grow as an instructor, incorporate helpful examples and helpful activities for these students,” he said. “I’m trying to push our students into the research component of psychology.

“Last year, a number of students shared their research at the Mississippi Academy of Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. They all had a positive experience, hearing research that others are doing and explaining their work to those who weren’t familiar with their research.”

Terry will soon be expanding his presence within the department. He is shadowing David H. Magers, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, to learn more about the Office of Research and prepare to succeed him as chair of the Academic Research Council. He will also be stepping in for David Miller, professor of English and philosophy, on the Honors Council, coordinating the honors thesis process moving forward.

“I’m going to be looking for more opportunities to push students and expose them to research opportunities and ways they can make their research known here on campus and at outside conferences,” he said. “It’s been a blessing how these students have welcomed me, even from my first year at MC. A lot of them have become not just my students, but I consider them my friends.

“I’ve learned a lot from them and, in many ways, I’ve received much more from them than I’ve given them. I appreciate being around such a great group of students as we have at Mississippi College.”

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