Spencer A. McWilliams
I was born in Oakland California, when my father was in the Navy stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station. After his Navy service we lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for a few years. Both of my parents were born and raised in northern Colorado and we moved back there when I was four years old. I grew up in Greeley, Colorado, which is 50 miles north of Denver and 50 miles south of Cheyenne. My father worked as an aircraft machinist for Continental Airlines in Denver and once I was in Junior High School my mother worked as a store clerk. In addition to his "day job," my father raised cattle and farmed so I joined 4-H and learned to feed cattle, irrigate and mow alfalfa, and make hay stacks. I even won a trophy for my cattle-raising (although I adopted a mostly vegetarian diet many years ago).
Following graduation from Greeley High School I attended Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado where I particularly enjoyed my classes in psychology, literature, and art (drawing and painting). I received an associate degree in liberal arts. I then attended California Western University on Point Loma in San Diego (It's now the Point Loma Nazarene University campus; Cal Western moved to Scripps Ranch and became U.S. International University, which is now part of Alliant International University) for my junior year and held jobs as an assistant to the clinical psychologist at the San Diego County Juvenile Hall; a counselor at the Boys and Girls Aid Society, a residential home for adolescents; and a research assistant on Sea Lab II, a Navy project based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where social psychologists studied behavior under stress. I then transferred to California State University-Long Beach where I received my B.A. with a major in psychology. I took most of my major courses there and worked with a faculty member doing research on gender differences in cognitive styles.
Following my B.A. I worked for a year as an epidemiologist for the US Public Health Service in Baltimore, Maryland, and then traveled in Europe for the summer before starting graduate school.
I did my graduate work at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, New York, where I earned my Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology. I interned in Veterans Administration hospitals at Syracuse and Canandaigua, New York. My dissertation research, under the supervision of the late Emory L. Cowen, studied the role of paraprofessional mental health workers in the schools.
I then joined the faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where I worked for fourteen years teaching a variety of courses, conducting research, and earning tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. While at Arizona, I directed research at a local community mental health center, directed the clinical psychology doctoral program, spent a sabbatical year at the University of London, and coordinated the undergraduate psychology major. I then moved to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, and then served for a year as Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with the entire range of arts and sciences disciplines and so I devoted a total of 15 years to liberal arts administration. From Winthrop I went to Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. In addition to the opportunity to contribute to an innovative liberal arts program at college with a very distinctive mission I enjoyed living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I then went to Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado as Vice President for Academic Affairs. Naropa University was founded by a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and has an innovative curriculum emphasizing a contemplative approach to education. I next served as Dean of the School of Human Sciences and Humanities at the University of Houston--Clear Lake before coming here to California State University San Marcos as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I served as a Professor of Psychology at Cal State San Marcos until my retirement at the end of May, 2014.
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