Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Elizabeth Gates

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Pioneer Spotlight
Dr. Elizabeth Gates
January 23, 2015

Dr. Elizabeth Gates, professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has been at the university since 2000. She currently teaches General Psychology, Psychology of Human Sexuality and Abnormal Psychology. Gates received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, in 2000. She is a licensed psychologist and practices part-time at the Platteville Family Resource Center.

In her free time, Gates enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, as well as training for and participating in triathlons.

What do you enjoy most about teaching your classes?

I love my job. Some days, I can’t believe I get paid to teach the classes I do. The best part about teaching is helping students in my classes apply psychological concepts to the “real world” and their own lives. I also enjoy sharing case studies and examples from my own life to bring concepts that we discuss in class alive.

What impresses you most about your students?

I am impressed by how much students work in addition to going to school. It’s not uncommon for students to work two or three jobs to be able to pay for school. I’ve had many students tell me that they work more than 30 hours a week and go to school at the same time. It takes incredible time management to pull that off.

What do you want students to take away from your classes?

The ability to think and make independent decisions on controversial topics based on scientific research, not on what they’ve heard from friends, family members or unreliable “news” sources.

What is most difficult about going into a career in psychology?

The jobs can be low paying, especially if one does not pursue a master’s degree.

What is most rewarding about going into a career in psychology?

Careers related to psychology and human services are inherently interesting.  And of course, one does have the opportunity to help people make significant changes in their lives.

What types of internships and research do your students participate in? How does that help students with their careers after graduation?

Students participate in a wide variety of internships in fields such as social work, school psychology, guidance counseling, residential treatment, geriatrics, women’s health, domestic violence, corrections and substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Students also have the ability to do independent research under the guidance of faculty members in our department. Because of students’ involvement in research, volunteer work and internships, students graduating from the department of psychology have been very successful in gaining acceptance into graduate school.

What are the different careers available to psychology students after graduation?

If students don’t pursue graduate degrees, they can work at many different types of jobs, such as entry level social workers, residential treatment care providers, “line therapists” for children on the autism spectrum, early childhood teachers, entry level substance abuse counselors, psychiatric care technicians, etc.

Students pursuing graduate degrees can work as social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, mental health counselors, school psychologists, industrial/organizational psychologists, etc. Some students also use their undergraduate degrees to branch out into fields not directly related to psychology. I recently talked with two graduates who are currently working with educational software companies. It is also important for psychology majors to go to graduate school in order to get higher paying jobs.

What causes or issues related to the field of psychology are you most passionate about?

I’ve become increasingly concerned about the number of prescriptions being written for benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications). These medications can be addictive and, most of the time, there are better treatments for anxiety than these medications.

You were named the university's Outstanding Academic Advisor for the 2012-13 academic year. What is most challenging about being an advisor?

The most challenging aspect of being an advisor is just finding enough time during the “advising season” to meet with advisees. It’s a busy time of year for faculty and students. There’s always pressure to make sure advisees have the correct classes for the next semester and give them their PINs. But an advising appointment needs to go beyond this.

What do you think are the two most important qualities that an advisor should possess?

The two most important qualities are being able to advocate for students and taking the time to discuss their career options or plans for after they graduate.

What is most rewarding about being an advisor?

Helping students make decisions about their future.

Interview conducted by Connie Spyropoulos, College of LAE​. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact


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