By: Chase Merwin
If there is one thing that Dr. Jon Mandracchia has always known, it is that he was meant to teach.
Now a licensed psychologist in Missouri and Mississippi, as well as an assistant professor of psychology at Western, Mandracchia’s commitment to his field speaks for itself.
Dr. Mandracchia teaches psychology with specific interest in abnormal and criminal psychology as well as counseling. He explains that while every discipline is important, psychology stands out as a more relatable, tangible field for students to immerse themselves.
“All day, everyday, we’re dealing with our thoughts, our emotions and our interactions with other people,” Mandracchia said. “We get to teach about things that students really relate to almost every moment of every day.”
To reach this end, Dr. Mandracchia teaches a handful of classes in the psychology department, and while he can’t name a favorite, his psychology of communication class strikes him as the most “unique”.
It is the conversations, communication and relationships that he has with his undergraduate students that Mandracchia enjoys most about teaching at Western.
“My first academic job was at a school with 17,000 students, and while I worked with graduate students and got to know them, there really wasn’t an emphasis on undergraduate teaching,” Mandracchia said.
“Where, here, from the moment I interviewed
It became very obvious that our focus is the undergraduate students.”
Dr. Kelly Henry, professor of psychology and colleague of Dr. Mandracchia, highlighted his ability to engage his students.
“Students really respond to how personable he is,” Henry said. “He just is great at building rapport with students. He’s very positive and self-deprecating; the students really respond to his humor.”
Western senior psychology major Amanda Kephart shared Dr. Henry’s sentiments, adding that he is seen as the “dad” of the psychology department.
“He’s always cracking the dad jokes,” Kephart said. “And he really cares about his students. There are a lot of professors that can just be hard and not care to help you, but he is hard and he cares.”
Dr. Mandracchia even highlighted what he thought his strength was in how he impacts the department.
“I think for me, it’s just getting along with people…I value harmony, relationships and that intangible feeling of ‘It feels good to be here,’” Mandracchia said. “I think I help bring a sense of cohesiveness.”
Devotion to Western students isn’t the only thing this psychology professor has going for him. When he’s not engaging with students in the classroom, Dr. Mandracchia’s hard work continues.
One service Mandracchia provides as a licensed licensed evaluations for convicted people. His job is to interview the charged individual and his attorney in order to determine whether the individual is competent to stand trial.
Dr. Mandracchia also involves himself in extensive research regarding various facets of psychology. One topic his research has covered is suicide among prisoners.
“I think a lot of people have very much an ‘us-them’ dichotomy, that we’re the normal people and they’re the prisoners – they’re bad people,” Mandracchia said. “But they’re not! They’re just people who oftentimes have very tough situations, who’ve made some bad choices, who don’t have good role models, but for the most part they’re just regular people who want to change.”
From student to professor to counselor to researcher, Dr. Mandracchia’s story is a story of devotion to people of all shapes, sizes and colors. Through psychology, Dr. Mandracchia has been able to embrace his love of people while giving the gift of education, guidance and sense of family to every person he encounters.