Talking with your professors outside of class can lead to much more than getting your questions about a term paper or exam answered. For Kira Hudson Banks ’99, stopping in her psychology professor’s office to chat was the first step toward graduate school and, ultimately, her career.
On her first day at Mount Holyoke, Banks was inspired after her introductory psychology class to go meet the professor, Beverly Daniel Tatum. (Tatum, formerly a professor of psychology and education, now serves as president of Spelman College.) “I thought Tatum’s work sounded interesting,” Banks says. “I went and told her as much after class. I was a little nervous and not sure what else I had to say, but I also knew the chance to interact with professors was the reason I had chosen MHC. She encouraged me to come to her office hours, and the rest is history. I did independent research with her my entire time at MHC. She was the advisor for my honors thesis. And she remains a mentor today. I still call her when I need academic, and sometimes personal, advice. It’s that sort of student-faculty relationship that makes MHC special."
Banks went to graduate school for clinical psychology at the University of Michigan. She’s now an assistant professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University, where she conducts research and teaches first-year writing seminars, abnormal psychology, and 300-level seminars on mental illness and the psychology of racism. She’s also licensed to have a clinical practice.
She encourages Mount Holyoke students to get involved in research opportunities. “Those are the experiences that got me into graduate school,” Banks says. “When I served on the admissions committee at University of Michigan, the students who stood out and succeeded were those who had research experience and a clear sense of what they were getting into."