Dr. Maya Aloni Wins 2020-2021 BOR System-Wide and Campus-Based Teaching Award
Congratulations to Dr. Maya Aloni!
Dr. Maya Aloni
Dr. Maya Aloni, an associate professor of Psychology and director of the Relationship Research Lab, has earned the top BOR Teaching Award honoring the faculty member at the CSCU system’s four state universities who best exemplifies excellence in teaching. The BOR also cited Aloni with a WCSU campus-based teaching award.
Aloni joined the WCSU Psychology Department faculty in 2013 after serving as an instructor at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. She earned bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Toledo and a Ph.D. in Social-Personality Psychology from the University at Buffalo, SUNY.
Aloni observed that teaching during a year of pandemic offered surprising and welcome opportunities to work with students and faculty colleagues in pursuing fresh innovations useful in both online and in-person instruction, supported by WCSU’s longstanding emphasis on quality teaching.
“I am so grateful to have been able to teach during the pandemic,” she said. “Three goals guide my approach to teaching — fostering a sense of community, fostering an appreciation for psychological science, and preparing students for citizenship and the workforce. My class structure and activities are all designed to meet these goals.”
Building community was an especially important goal during the pandemic, she noted. This focus provided the inspiration for a “flipped classroom” approach allowing students to watch lecture videos and complete assigned tasks prior to each scheduled class where they came together in online breakout rooms for small group discussions. “Interacting consistently with the same group of peers throughout the semester helped students to connect with one another and to me during this time of social isolation,” she said.
As part of her classroom instruction, Aloni replicates psychological experiments and incorporates hands-on activities to help students better understand the concepts taught in her courses. “I am lucky because social psychology is simply fascinating and students can easily gain enthusiasm for the subject,” she remarked. Emphasis on organizational, critical thinking and public speaking skills prepares her students as citizens and workforce participants, she added. “I believe that if I create a sense of community and a safe environment in the classroom, students gain more confidence to take risks and challenge themselves,” she said.
Aloni has been the coauthor of eight published articles and participated in 35 research presentations, workshops and public talks focusing on her research specializations in adult romantic relationships and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her Relationships Research Lab at WCSU currently is investigating how gluten-free and vegan dietary restrictions may influence the dating practices and romantic interests of those who follow such diets as well as of their prospective partners. Another current focus of research is how relationships in the classroom may be developed in a way that fosters students’ critical thinking skills through meaningful in-person and online discussions.
Students who work in her research lab gain extensive opportunities for experiential learning by conducting literature reviews, collecting data, programming studies on the computer, and presenting findings at professional regional and national conferences. With support from the WCSU Foundation, students majoring in theatre arts and graphic design have assisted Aloni in creating videos for research and in developing the lab’s website.
“I am highly invested in my students’ success and maintain contact with them even after they graduate,” she said. “It is a very rewarding experience to see them develop research skills, and it is especially exciting when they teach me something new.”
Past BOR System-Wide Winners
Dr. Neeta Connally Wins 2019-2020 BOR System-Wide Research Award