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Meet Trailblazer Bethany Fleck Dillen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bethany Fleck Dillen.

Bethany, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I always just wanted to be a mother. I say “just” because I have learned what motherhood entails and I now recognize it is the hardest job of all. I had no idea! There is no “just” about it. Motherhood was my personal goal though, not a career goal… or was it? Can motherhood be intertwined with one’s career? I am and always have been totally fascinated by children’s abilities and perspectives. In high school, I thought the only real career option working with children was to become a teacher. In college, I took a child psychology course and realized I could investigate children using empirical research techniques and in doing so could better understand them and better their lives. I changed my major from education to psychology. Somehow though I still ended up teaching, not little kids, rather adults. To become a fulltime college professor, I attained two master’s degrees and a doctoral degree. My schooling was long and difficult, but enriching. My hard work paid off as I am certain I have the best job in the world. As a professor at MSU Denver, I get to teach students who are brilliant, motivated, who have real-life experiences, who are engaged, and who teach me as much as I teach them. As a college-level educator, I try to infuse psychological thinking and the scientific method into everything my students do. Psychology has the power to inform all aspects of our lives. Together, my students and I examine the content in developmental and educational psychology to become better parents, teachers, citizens in our community and in our democracy.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been winding but not necessarily bumpy. When I first looked down the barrel of 9 years in higher education, I knew I needed to be motivated, determined and headstrong. Especially because in high school I was just a so-so student. I took on graduate-level work when I was 21-years-old and in the midst of all the challenges that early adulthood had to throw at me. It was a difficult time of finding and losing love, living away from home, having a sick parent, and learning who I really was (and was not). Young women out there, stay focused on your goals. Take things one step at a time and try to remember that sacrifice and delayed gratification really can pay off, though it might not seem like it at the moment. It has helped me to think about my life based on seasons. There was a season for intense scholarship, one for partying with my friends, and now one for being a mother. You cannot be everything all the time, so let the seasons of your life change as you do.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I received my Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of New Hampshire. While there I also earned a Masters in the Science of College Teaching. My research centers on cognitive development in childhood education and university classroom contexts. Both lines of research draw on developmental theory with the overall goal of enhancing the learning environment for students of all levels. Recently, I have been working on a project that measures academic self-handicapping and other motivational constructs in urban middle school students with hopes of applying this work to closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color. In the university classroom, my research as of late focuses on the effects of service-learning course design and promoting civic engagement in my students and at the University. I am being promoted to full Professor in fall 2019 at MSU Denver and I teach courses in the human development and family studies and psychological science majors. In my courses, I am committed to an active, learner-centered approach to teaching. I have received national and university level awards for my work in civic engagement and I am an active writer who has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. I encourage my students to apply psychology to their lives to be better parents, teachers, citizens in our community and in our democracy.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Follow your passions and interest. Your intrinsic motivation and persistence can take you further than you think possible. If you are not sure what your passion isthink hard about what you most value in this world. For me it was children. For you, it could be fashion, music, climate, business or anything under the sun. Set goals for yourself that are achievable and that are sequential to lead you to the bigger opportunities.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
For the photos with my daughter and husband only: Sara Lazio, Lazio Images,

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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