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Mandy O'Neill

I first met Michele as an undergraduate psychology student at University of Maryland. I was a student in her “Intro to I/O Psychology” class, one of those large lecture classes you hear about at big schools like UMD. I sat in the middle of the huge auditorium and soaked up the brilliance and humor of Michele, then a young assistant professor. Halfway through the semester, I turned to the girl next to me and sharing—probably for the first time out loud—that I wanted to be a professor someday. And that’s what I did.

One of my favorite memories of Michele took place at the conclusion of her I/O Psychology Honors Seminar. Michele invited all of us to her house for the final class. I remember the afternoon quite well. It felt like what I dreamed college courses would be like, a small group of highly motivated students sharing and learning with a charismatic and engaged professor in an intimate environment. Kind of a Dead Poet’s Society learning experience.

Michele invited me to join her lab group as a research assistant when I was a junior undergraduate student and she was a young assistant professor. It felt like a family, with Michele as the head of the family and the older graduate students (Lisa Nishii and Jana Raver) like older sisters. A highlight of our lab meetings was the day Michele received notification of her first major NSF grant award. It was a joyous moment, the first of many signs that Michele was on her way to academic rockstardom. I felt lucky to know her, then and now.

At Michele and the I/O group’s encouragement, I applied for an NSF Graduate Fellowship as a senior undergraduate student. Inspired by Michele’s work, I wrote about my desire to study gender and cross-cultural psychology. I was amazed when I received the award, which I owed in large part to the experience working with Michele at Maryland. The award supported me financially for several Ph.D. years at Stanford (which Michele now knows well is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.!).

Seeing me graduate from college was a big deal for my parents, especially my mom, who had never attended college. On commencement day, the Psychology department hosted a reception for the graduating Honors students. Michele, Paul, and several other professors attended. My parents were so thrilled to meet Michele and Paul, whom they had heard so much about and to whom they attributed much of my college success and happiness. I recall my mom beaming when she met Michele. I was beaming, too. Now as a professor myself, I know how busy professional lives can be and how it’s hard to make time to attend all the student events that take place in a large, busy department. Michele, Paul, and I took a photo together that day. I still keep that photo on my shelf as a reminder of the kind mentorship I received at UMD. I am grateful to Michele for making that time for me that day, and so many other days of my undergraduate years.

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