HCaP Psychology professors host Twitch stream
HCaP Psychology professors host Twitch stream

What happens when you mix gaming, academia, and a global pandemic that forces a switch to virtual learning?

A Twitch stream called Prof_Talk, featuring two HCaP psychology professors chatting with special guests about careers within and outside of psychology.

Alicia Swan

Alicia Swan

Alicia Swan and Monica Lawson, both assistant professors of Psychology, developed the stream almost on a whim.

“I’ve been a gamer most of my life,” Swan said. “And I really love the give and take nature of Twitch.”

A casual conversation between Swan and Lawson about missing student interaction during the pandemic turned into a glimmer of an idea: maybe there was a way to boost that interaction while also talking about the dearth of opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to learn about careers?

And so, the idea of a Twitch stream was born, with special guests each week to talk about career paths.

The stream began with UTSA colleagues and professionals Swan and Lawson knew personally. Within weeks, however, it blossomed outwards and has included professionals from all disciplines.

“The main goal is for us to show students a pathway directly from people with titles or positions they may idolize,” Lawson said. “We’ve talked a lot about humanizing science and humanizing these different careers. Hopefully to show these students that at one point, these people were like them.”

Monica Lawson

Monica Lawson

“We love doing this at UTSA because of our demographic,” Lawson said. “We have so many students that need representation. They need to see a person who has a similar background and to know there’s a path for them.”

In the vein of humanizing professions, Swan and Lawson hope that the stream also humanizes faculty and makes them more approachable. “Once a student said to me that they were afraid to come bother me,” Swan said. “I want to dispel that notion. We are literally here to talk about this stuff.”

In addition to UTSA faculty, guests appearing on Prof_Talk have included a clinical psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs, a philosopher, an FBI intelligence analyst, and more. Future streams include a chemist with the US Army research lab, as well as guests in neuropsychology, behavioral neuroscience, sports psychology, social work and an FBI special agent panel.

The breadth of careers is important for Swan and Lawson. Although Lawson knew from a young age that she wanted to be in psychology, Swan had a much different path to academia.

prof_talk

A shot from the most recent Prof_talk

Swan had no idea what she wanted to do in her undergraduate studies. She started her undergraduate career in a pre-pharmacy program, but it wasn’t until she assisted neuroscience studies with horseshoe crabs that she realized that she loved the dynamic nature of research. During graduate school, she studied brain injuries in rats, and set on the path of behavioral neuroscience. “I was one of those people with a psych background that was doing molecular neuroscience, which is part of our passion for reaching out beyond psychology in the traditional sense,” Swan said. “I’m not really that psychologically trained. I worked with animal models. I was called the rat whisperer because I was very good with rats and mice.” She now applies her behavioral neuroscience background in her research on functional outcomes following mild traumatic brain injury (AKA concussion) among Post-9/11 Veterans and service members.

Lawson, on the other hand, majored in psychology as an undergraduate. As she worked in the research lab, she found mentors who were researching the intersection of psychology and law. “At the same time, my family was having a baby boom,” she said. “My family had 13 great grandchildren within the span of four years. Because of that, I got really interested in what happens when children witness crime, or when children are victims of crime.” Today, she researches methods for conducting forensic interviews with children and for fostering healthy development among abused and neglected children

A major driver in beginning the Twitch stream was because both Lawson and Swan missed working closely with students.

“Something that’s really special about UTSA is the student population,” Lawson said. “The students here are so motivated and take ownership of their education, and it’s really exciting to work with students that have that characteristic.”

“I love the mentorship piece,” added Swan. “I love advocating people to take ownership in their own professional growth. I’m very fortunate to be where I am and I want to give back.”

As the stream continues to gain traction, the benefits reach beyond mentorship and student connection. The FBI stream in February was so successful that a follow-up stream is scheduled for April 20. “Within a couple days [of the stream], we were connected with a handful of field agents that want to come on to our stream to recruit bachelors holding students for FBI positions,” Lawson said.

Check out Prof_Talk at twitch.tv/prof_talk and on Twitter at @prof_talk_utsa. The stream goes live every Tuesday at 8PM CST.

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