Every student at Gannon has a number of electives available to take whatever classes they want.

  • To get a minor
  • To get a second major
  • To investigate new interests

But the question for everyone is: “What class should I take?”

My recommendation is Psychology of Human Development with Barbara Townsend. Not only was this class entertaining and informative, taking it helped affirm my love for psychology, the major I would switch to a year later. I’ve also gotten to know the professor much better through her role as advisor to the club that I am president of, Love is for Everyone (LIFE). I consider myself lucky because not only is she an amazing professor, but a role model, advisor and confidant.

Other students agree too. Townsend is the highest rated professor at Gannon on ratemyprofessor.com, with glowing comments such as, “She not only taught the class about psych, she also shaped us into better individuals,” and “Hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had. She’s extremely helpful and will not only help you with the class but with everything else in your life.”

So who is the professor behind this class?

Barbara Townsend began teaching at Gannon in 2000. Since then she has taught many classes, mainly Introduction to Psychology and Psychology of Human Development. She also has taught those same classes at local high schools. Teaching these classes for 14 years has allowed her to fine tune the class into what it is today. But surprisingly, Townsend never planned on being a teacher; according to her, “it just sort of happened.”

“…I was not prepared as to how to teach.  I did know what I thought comprised a ‘poor’ teacher so I used negative modeling to propel me initially. I realized early on that the students were receptive to my efforts of personalizing the study of the lifespan. In my evaluations they would comment almost universally how much they enjoyed my ‘stories.’ My life experiences continue to be a valuable resource in my course.”

Townsend encourages students to share their stories as well. For the final project of the class each student is required to write about their life up until that point, detailing the developmental milestones along the way. Part of Townsend’s impetus for the project is to spend time, “focusing on the emotional domain of life.” Townsend said, “This is the part of life which is often under educated, and in many ways it is the most important part. The students seem to really appreciate this effort.”

And appreciate it they do. Speaking from personal experience, students walk out of the class with a renewed compassion not only for themselves, but for those around them as they better understand what it means to be human.

But the students aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards.

Townsend said, “I love teaching Human Development because I think that it is important information for life. The students come to class. They are attentive, respectful and seem to really enjoy being there, a thing of beauty for me as I feel greatly rewarded for my efforts. Teaching is a gift to both the students and to the teacher.  I gain a great deal from my students; I love looking out upon a sea of young faces every day.  It is a gift to have the opportunity to possibly have a positive impact on young lives. I want to help my students have more ‘tools’ to navigate their developmental journey ahead.  ‘Knowledge is Power.’”