I think my early experiences as a dancer first primed my interest in body image and eating issues. I danced with the San Francisco Ballet and had to audition to move up a level in the company. After my audition (when I was twelve years old, and of perfectly normal weight) I was told that I was not going to be accepted because I did not have the "correct body type." Receiving such direct feedback about my body at a young age made me sensitive to dysfunctional body-image issues. Perhaps I have always been more aware of body-image issues than the average woman -- and I think that unfortunately the average woman is well aware enough as it is!
When I went to college I thought I would be a teacher. I started student teaching and found that I liked teaching but I didn't like the disciplining aspect of it that takes up a lot of time in the classroom. At the same time I was enjoying my Psychology classes that were allowing me to explore a variety of topics that were interesting to me. I decided to do an Honors project that explored attitudes towards eating. That was my first real research project and I fell in love with the process of having a question and trying to find an answer. I realized that teaching and research could be combined and that led me to pursue an academic career as a psychologist.
As an undergraduate, I had a professor who helped me through my struggle about whether to pursue graduate training. When I started my Honors thesis, Bill McCormick was very reassuring and supportive. I don't know that without such a push that I would have attempted to undertake the many years of graduate school.
I loved the research aspect of the PhD program but overall, I found graduate school challenging. I think I enjoy what I do a lot more now because I have a greater sense of control over what I'm doing. However, the births of my two children, pre-tenure (now 3 and 4 years old), diminished my growing sense of professional autonomy. The challenges of balancing career and family life have not escaped me, even in a relatively evolved professional setting. Fortunately, my husband is also in academia and we try to arrange our teaching schedules so that someone can be home with the kids. That is more than most parents are able to do but we still wish there were more hours in the day. Rutgers is very supportive and I am grateful for the work environment that I have, because I know many women who have had no choice but to give up their careers when the strain of balancing home and work lives became too much.
I am also glad that Rutgers Camden is an institution that really values both research and teaching. The Camden campus is not a competitive environment and people here place a lot of importance on teaching their students. I always say that day-to-day, teaching is the most rewarding. If you have a good class or inspire a student to understand something that might be valuable to them, then that has immediate rewards. In research the rewards are spread farther apart but definitely worth the wait. I'm proud of the research lab I have set up and the undergraduates and graduates I've worked with over the years. It's satisfying to see an article come out in print that you think is important for people to read, but perhaps it is even more satisfying to see students go on to graduate school and rewarding careers, knowing that you might have played some small part in helping them succeed.