About Charlie

Academic Career

Here is Charlie’s Retirement citation from The University of Rhode Island’s One Hundred and Thirtieth Commencement program, May 2016:

Charles Collyer earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University in 1976.  He has had a 40-year career in the Department of Psychology at the University of Rhode Island, which he joined in 1976.  He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1981 and full professor in 1991.  He served as chair of the Department of Psychology from 1996-2000, and again from 2013-2014.

Professor Collyer is nationally recognized for his expertise and leadership in perception and cognitive psychology as well as sensitivity to violence and harm reduction.  He co-founded the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies in 1997.

He is an outstanding, award-winning teacher, beloved by both undergraduate and graduate students. He has collaborated on numerous grants and has published over 50 research papers, many in highly prestigious journals.

Professor Collyer is a fellow in the teaching division of the American Psychological Association and has served in numerous leadership and service positions at URI, in the community, and in his profession.

Professor’s Collyer’s Research Available at ResearchGate.net

Writing and Editing

Writing has two functions, one obvious and the other maybe not so much. The obvious function is self-expressionf. The less obvious function is working out what one has to express. Often I don’t know very clearly what I think until I try to write it down; and then my thoughts begin to organize themselves into something that makes sense to me. This is a magical aspect of writing that writers know about, but many non-writers do not. (It’s cognitive, really; but it feels magical.)

Roughly speaking, the process of writing involves two stages of work, first-draft writing and revision. For first draft writing, I’ve come to like the writer’s program Scrivener. I may write about Scrivener soon, and will recommend it to you if you are a writer. Revision takes up at least half of my writing time. I enjoy both stages, because both offer moments when I get this great feeling that I got it right, or came really close to getting it right.

I also like editing the work of others, which to me is very much like revising. I’ve had several decades of experience helping students to hone their writing, and have helped many colleagues to write clearer grant proposals and publications. That’s fun for me, as long as the first-draft author is not too wildly out there on the awkward fringe of comprehensibility.

Poetry is fun for me, in the way photography is. A poem is a way of capturing a moment and preserving it for future reflection.

I’m more comfortable with essays, and nonfiction writing in general, than with fiction, which is a new and strange frontier for me. I’m trying to learn about storytelling, and have some good folks helping me with that.

Teaching and Training

From an early age, I got a kick out of explaining things. My approach to teaching is always to steer toward “making sense.” That means making sense to the student as well as to me.

Ron Kinchla, my mentor from undergraduate days at McMaster University to the completion of my Ph.D. at Princeton, embodied “making sense” for me.  He showed me what teaching should look like: engaging, enlightening, challenging, fun, and memorable.

My friend the late Ira Zepp sent me off to read Parker Palmer about teaching. I recommend Palmer’s book The Courage to Teach for new teachers, because it will turn them away from the task of merely “covering material” and get them to listen, think, and steer over the learning landscape in a sensible way.

I learned to be a nonviolence trainer from another mentor, Bernard LaFayette, the civil rights activist, who in turn learned nonviolence from Jim Lawson and Martin Luther King. As a senior trainer (and co-director with Pam) of the Zepp Center, I do workshops and trainings for students, police, organizations, and basically anyone who is interested. Nonviolence to me is a “hidden discipline” that very few of us ever studied in school, but that almost everyone recognizes as something they need to know more about once they begin to learn. Nonviolence training is a very gratifying vocation, and has led us into some extraordinary adventures.

After a long career as a professor, I’m still teaching courses in retirement as an adjunct faculty member. In fact, Pam and I have been active in the formation of a union for adjunct instructors at McDaniel College. I’ll have things to say in the General blog once in a while about teaching roles and new approaches to them.

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