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Dr. Sara Goldstein

Professor, Family Science and Human Development

Posted in: Spotlights

Dr. Sara Goldstein

Sara Goldstein is a Professor in the Department of Family Science and Human Development, and the new Doctoral Program Director of the PhD program in Family Science and Human Development. Dr. Goldstein’s research focuses on the development of peer relationships and relational aggression during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.

What was your college experience like?

I attended college in the 1990s…grunge music was all the rage and flannel shirts and overalls were the things to wear. Friends made each other mix tapes (on cassette players) instead of playlists and email was relatively new! I worked part-time as a preschool teaching assistant and volunteered at a suicide prevention helpline and at a local animal shelter.

Did you go to college with the intention of being a professor? If not, how did your path bring you here?

When I started in college, I had no intention of becoming a professor. I wanted to be a therapist and work with adolescent girls who were having difficulties with self-esteem, eating disorders, and other mental health challenges. I was just an okay student in high school, because I honestly did not relate the material to my later life goals (which I now know is really typical – in fact I later spent my postdoctoral fellowship learning about this very issue). However, in college this all changed when I started taking my research-focused classes like research methods and statistics. Then, I realized how much I really loved the research process and how I thrived on the order and precision of scientific methodology. I became a much more dedicated and inspired student (and my grades went way up too).

Around my junior year in college, I became especially intrigued by the idea of applying scientific methodology to study the human experience in a way that could promote positive human development. When I took the class “Adolescent Development” I was hooked – I knew that I wanted a job just like my professor’s job! I wanted to make a living teaching about, and studying, adolescent development. I was specifically interested in studying gender issues in adolescent development. In the 1990s, much of what we knew about human development was still based on research with male participants – and I wanted to be part of the change so that girls’ needs could be better served! I was super fortunate that, after obtaining my BA degree, I received a scholarship to attend Bowling Green State University to earn my MA and PhD degrees in Psychology – and in Fall of 1998 I moved to Ohio and started my graduate work and my formal path to becoming a professor!

What is one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate/graduate career? Why?

I wish that I had discovered yoga earlier! I didn’t start until about 8 years ago, and I think that if I had discovered yoga while I was in college I would have been way less stressed out! Students – try out yoga – there are so many online resources today for you to give it a try, and when studios are back open please go!! Our student recreation center has excellent options for you to try as well!

What is the best part about being an MSU faculty member?

The best part is the students! I am so honored to be a part of my students’ education. We have dedicated, hard working, brilliant students who will one day change the world. I love working with them and teaching them skills that will help them in their careers one day. I really miss seeing them during the pandemic!

What does a typical day look like for you?

This is a really difficult time to answer this question since we are in the middle of a pandemic, and my kids’ school has moved completely online! But I’ll try:

I wake up, and feed my dog, two indoor cats, and the new three outdoor cats who recently decided to call my yard their home. I wake my children up and feed them too (I have a 9 year old, a 12 year old, and a 14 year old). I have breakfast and coffee with my husband. On a good day, I will also walk the dog and do about 30 minutes of yoga on my back deck. I used to go to yoga classes about 4-5 times a week in the morning but currently yoga studios are still closed. Then the day really starts – my kids are all homeschooled now due to the pandemic – their school is fully remote. So I make sure that they are all set up with their academic work. Then, I sit down and start working – this semester it is usually either remote teaching, remote meetings, remote advising, or writing articles, chapters, or reviews. As nice as it is to see my students and colleagues over zoom, I really miss seeing them in person.

During the course of the day, I am interrupted numerous times by my children for a variety of remote-learning and stay-at-home-due-to-the pandemic concerns like, “I am so bored,” “I wish that I was in school,” and “My sister is typing too loud.” After working all day and breaking up sibling conflicts all day, making sure everybody is fed and making sure that my children get some type of screen break/exercise, then the evening activities start. Some evenings one or more of my children will have a baseball/softball game or a soccer game. I am so grateful for these outdoor sports, children need contact with their peers and they also need fresh air and exercise. Then, I have dinner with my family, I feed the pets again – and I sit down to work again! I usually do a second work shift from about 9 or 10pm until midnight or so. If you get an email from me at 11pm or midnight it is because I have had disruptions in my work during the day due to taking care of my family during the pandemic. I really miss life before the pandemic, and my ability to see my kids go to school and be with their friends. This said, I am trying to be optimistic. I strive to be a good role model for my children and my students in this regard.

What are a few of your recent accomplishments?

I recently had a peer-reviewed paper accepted for publication with a former graduate student, and another peer-reviewed paper accepted for publication with a current graduate student. They were first-authors (lead authors) on each paper respectively so I was really proud of them! I am currently working on a chapter for publication in a book, and also am working on writing a new journal article with two of my current students. I consider being a working parent during this pandemic an accomplishment too! Parents, making it through each and every day with no childcare and no in-person school for our kids is a major accomplishment!

What is your favorite class to teach at MSU? Why?

This is a tough one because I truly love teaching each class. That said, probably “Adolescent Development” is my favorite class. The developmental period of adolescence is a turning point in the lifespan, and so much change and transition is happening psychologically, socially, and biologically. I hope to instill an appreciation of this in my students to help them more effectively work with the adolescents in the future! It was also my favorite class to take in college, so I am probably biased!

What advice would you give to incoming students in order for them to succeed?

Believe in yourself! Remind yourself that the current pandemic won’t last forever, so be patient! Try to find a school-work-life balance –make sure to set aside time for self-care and mental health promotion. Find a career path that will inspire you and follow your dreams. Use our campus resources like the counseling center, the career services center, and the student health center – we have a lot of great options right here on campus for you that are still open during the pandemic. Get to know your professors and your fellow students!

Right now, the world is drastically different than anyone could have ever imagined. If you are frustrated by what is happening in the world today, put your efforts to changing that in your personal life and in your career. Also, please vote in each and every election – please don’t let people my age and older make the decisions for you!! Advocate for causes that you believe in. The planet and its future is in your hands now. Stay optimistic during this pandemic – we need you more than ever to make the world a better place!!