By Wendy Jo Moyer
Professor of Psychology Melonie Sexton is inspired by her students’ interesting backgrounds and captivating stories. “They encourage me to be a better educator and are constantly teaching me new things,” she explained.
Melonie, who joined Valencia in 2015, hit the ground running. “She has embraced our active learning culture and implemented new strategies in her courses to engage students at all levels,” raved her supervisor Molly McIntire, dean, behavioral and social sciences. “She has been actively involved in professional development, participated in the Canvas Destination group, integrated undergraduate research in her classes and genuinely seeks to improve her practice as an educator. We are fortunate to have her on our Behavioral and Social Sciences team on West Campus.”
In addition, Melonie is part of the Institutional Review Board, Undergraduate Research Advisory Board, the Part-time and Annually Appointed Faculty Engagement Work Team, Undergraduate Research Initiative Committee, Gateway Course Success Committee, LifeMap Environmental Campaign Committee and Literary Assessment Program. She also volunteers with Valencia Promise. What a list of accomplishments in a short time!
However, Melonie says her greatest accomplishment is every time she gets a student interested in psychology. “Even if a student doesn’t plan to major in the discipline, I think it’s still pretty significant when I pique their interest in the subject, and they begin to recognize all of the ways psychology is present in their lives,” she said.
Melonie’s also proud of a recent accomplishment — introducing robots into her classroom. “I went to a Teaching in Psychology conference in January, and one of the speakers discussed ways to teach neuroscience to our intro to psychology students,” Melonie explained. “He demonstrated how these little robots, called finch robots, could be used to illustrate neural networks.”
Since she’s adamant about finding ways to integrate technology into the classroom, she researched the robots and the accompanying computer program. After explaining their potential and purpose, the Honors College purchased five robots that she now uses in three classes for students to work in small groups to create neurons and neural pathways. Essentially, they build a brain that reads input and provides output, and the robots respond based on the arrangement and responsibility of the neurons that the students design.
“One of my classes had the robots running away from bright light and ‘crying’ (beeping) when it hit a wall,” Melonie noted. “It has been a really fun way to apply a sometimes complex concept.”
Melonie has enjoyed her time at Valencia and says that her favorite part is, hands down, the people. “The students, the faculty, the administration — everyone here gives me that sense of family and community,” Melonie shared.
She added, “Valencia is a beacon of opportunity. It is a place of higher learning that is welcoming to everyone. Students get the chance to pursue their academic and career goals; faculty and staff get the chance to develop their careers at a well-respected institution.”
Melonie earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida and a Ph.D. in psychology from Vanderbilt University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, especially visiting the theme parks.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.