Barry McNamara  |   Published February 22, 2018

New faculty profile

Sylaska in her element teaching social psychology to Monmouth students
MONMOUTH, Ill. – When psychology professor Kateryna Sylaska talks about “application, application, application,” she’s not preaching to Monmouth College seniors about the method needed to be hired professionally after they graduate.

Rather, Sylaska is referring to her teaching method, which she says is especially valuable in her main area of focus – social psychology.

“I call social psychology the psychology of your everyday life,” said Sylaska, who joined the faculty last fall after teaching most recently at Reed College in Portland, Ore. “It’s not just about learning theories. It’s about what we can learn from these theories to have better outcomes in our own lives.”

Sylaska said classroom discussions are a “huge” part of her application style of teaching.

“I get excited when the students come up with their own examples and make real-life connections to the ideas we’re discussing,” she said. “Everyone has a different background, so I really enjoy those times when the students roll with their own ideas, telling about their experiences and sharing their ideas with others.”

When the students do that, it’s almost like having a class full of teaching assistants.

“A student can hear another student speak about something and think, ‘Oh, OK, it isn’t just me who feels this way or has had this happen,’” said Sylaska. “I enjoy having those moments with students. They can teach each other.”

Sylaska said her interest in psychology started in high school, when she worked as a counselor for a teen suicide hotline, “talking with young adults who were having troubles.”

Sylaska studied psychology at Northern Arizona University, where she also received a master’s degree in general psychology. She then earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis on social psychology from the University of New Hampshire.

Sylaska said that during her first year at Northern Arizona she “fell in love with social psychology.”

“It really focuses on the highs and lows of humanity – the Holocaust, genocide, racism and prejudice,” she said. “But, on the other hand, we help people, often putting our own lives at risk.”

Sylaska experienced first-hand the kindness of strangers when she backpacked through Europe.

“I was amazed by the number of complete strangers who offered to buy me lunch, or who would give me a T-shirt out of their bag,” she said.

Sylaska said one of the driving questions in social psychology is: Does altruism really exist?

“I want to believe it does,” she replied, based on her decade of study in the field. “There’s a lot of evidence that the vast majority of what we do is self-motivated, so even if it’s something wonderfully nice, the reason we do it could be for reward or because of guilt. But I’m an optimist, and I really do believe true altruism exists.”

Sylaska, who knew as far back as middle school that she wanted to be a teacher, said she’s in her element when she’s in front of a classroom.

“I’m totally biased, but I think what I do is the coolest thing in the world,” she said.

When she’s not in her main element, the “big reader” is tackling a book per week. She also has a background in competitive skating and previously took professional cooking classes.

“I make a really good vegetarian tikka masala,” she said.
Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, two of the oldest sororities, were founded at Monmouth in the 1860’s. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Services</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/offices/global-engagement/" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Textbooks are included in the cost of tuition at Monmouth College. No need to try to plan for an additional expense, and our students start each semester fully prepared for classes. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/tuition-fees/" target="_blank">Tuition & Fees</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthscots.com/" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> While we have the Wells Theater on campus, the Theatre department also uses the block-box auditorium Fusion Theatre downtown Monmouth.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/theatre/" target="_blank">Theatre</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/academics/only-at-monmouth/educational-garden-farm/" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>