The “self-talk” going through Middle Tennessee State University psychology professor Tom Brinthaupt‘s mind was clear on his face as he walked among his applauding colleagues Thursday, Aug. 18, to accept the university’s highest teaching honor: “This is great, but whew, it’s embarrassing.”
Now an internationally recognized expert on the phenomenon, he’s the 2022 recipient of the MTSU Foundation’s Career Achievement Award.
University President Sidney A. McPhee and alumnus Ronald Roberts, MTSU Foundation president, presented Brinthaupt with his award in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, the traditional site for the Fall Faculty Meeting held as each new academic year begins.
The self-described childhood cutup, who peppered his brief speech of thanks with jokes and self-deprecating wit to the audience’s delight, said he’s realized that being in front of a classroom affords plenty of opportunities to use humor to ease communications.
“Maybe to call attention to myself as a kid or to stand out in a large family, I was a class clown in elementary school, and that got me into a fair bit of trouble,” Brinthaupt said, “but when I reversed the tables and became a teacher in front of the class, it actually turned out to be fairly effective for me … or at least I like to think that. My students often roll their eyes or sometimes face-palm with my efforts to try to be funny.”
Brinthaupt, who thanked those students alongside his mentors, colleagues and family for their continuing support, has taught at MTSU since 1990, leading undergraduate and graduate courses in personality psychology and research methods as well as his department’s seminar on psychology careers.
He’s earned numerous on- and off-campus awards for his work, including two of the MTSU Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Awards and a Distinguished Research Award, and has mentored more than 100 students from high school to doctoral levels and supervised more than 170 student research presentations.
Since 2010, Brinthaupt also has served as director of faculty development for MTSU’s Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technologies Center, which brings faculty together for workshops and other professional development to help them better guide students.
“Those of you that I’ve worked closely with over the years know that I maintain that being a professor is a helping profession,” he said. “Whether that’s our teaching, our research, our service — all of those involve us helping others. And at some point, I started to think of my job that way … and it created a different mindset in me.
“I’ve come to assume that it’s actually my responsibility to help others — to help students, to work with colleagues, to collaborate. My realization was that’s what people in helping professions do.”
MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes also recognized 10 more faculty recipients of MTSU Foundation awards during Thursday’s meeting for their accomplishments in and outside the classroom. Before the honors, McPhee presented his 2022 State of the University address; that story is available here.
The five recipients of the university’s 2022 Outstanding Teaching Award are:
• Jennifer L. Caputo, Department of Health and Human Performance.
• Shannon Harmon, Department of Elementary and Special Education.
• Alyson Muenzer Lynn, Department of English.
• Ashleigh E. McKinzie, Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
• Lucy M. Matthews, Department of Marketing.
The five additional Foundation Award recipients for 2022 are:
• Outstanding General Education Award — Christina M. Cobb, Department of University Studies.
• Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Awards — Stuart E. Bernstein, Department of Psychology, and Erica M. Stone, Department of English.
The university also honored 21 new faculty emeriti, a dean emeritus and 58 newly promoted and/or tenured faculty members across campus.
The complete 2022 MTSU Foundation Awards program, which includes more details about the award winners and other honorees, is available here as a PDF.
Video of the award presentations, which includes Brinthaupt’s acceptance remarks, is available at https://bit.ly/MTFallFaculty2022Video beginning near the 1-hour, 33-minute mark.
MTSU’s 112th academic year begins Monday, Aug. 22, with the first day of fall 2022 classes.
— Gina E. Fann (firstname.lastname@example.org)