In this podcast interview, Dr. Tammi Walker shares how, and why, she decided to get her law degree at Columbia Law School before traveling abroad to get her M.Sc. in Social and Cultural Psychology in London. She then returned to the U.S. to receive her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Throughout our discussion a theme emerged regarding the importance of taking the time to self-reflect and getting out of your comfort zone. Self-reflection is important as it forces you to periodically evaluate where you are, what you want to do, and what is important to you. She states “…how I spend my time is really how what I value and what I care about at the end of the day.” She also points out that if everything around you “feels familiar and comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.”
Dr. Walker is currently an Associate Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Arizona. She was offered a joint appointment in the Law School and the Psychology Department and, at first, she didn’t want to accept the joint appointment. However, after finding out that the University has a long history of combining law and psychology she agreed to the appointment. She combines her legal practice experience as a litigation attorney at law firms in Washington, D.C. and as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee with her training as a trained research psychologist to address real-world legal problems.
Dr. Walker is the Director and Principal Investigator for the Walker Lab. She and her team focus on improving legal decision-making outcomes by combating bias in treatment and punishment decisions. Some of the recent research she and the Lab focus on include investigating the perceived fairness of the methods used by universities and colleges related to sexual misconduct cases. Dr. Walker also offers advice for those interested in law and psychology as well as specific advice for African American or black students.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Walker uses psychological theory and empirical research methods, both quantitative and qualitative, to generate evidence which can be applied to real-life problems in the legal field. She has examined abuse between romantic partners, disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system, and how universities adjudicate sexual misconduct claims.
Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Marketing and International Business (1999); Texas A&M.
Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.)(2002); Columbia Law School
Master of Science (M.Sc.), Social and Cultural Psychology (2009); London School of Economics.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Psychology (2016); University of Virginia.
Additional Sources and Links of Interest
|00:00:14 Bradley||Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Tammy Walker to the show. Dr. Walker is an Associate Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Arizona. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Virginia and a JD from Columbia Law School. Dr. Walker is also the Director and Principal Investigator for the Walker lab. The College of Education at the University of Arizona offers an M.A. in Educational Psychology and an Ed.S. and Doctoral program in School Psychology. In addition, the College of Science offers multiple doctoral programs, including those in Clinical Psychology, Cognition and Neural Systems, and Social Psychology. Dr. Walker…Welcome to our podcast.|
|00:01:13 Tammi||Thank you so very much for having me. I’m happy to be here.|
|00:01:16 Bradley||I am excited to talk to you, the stuff that we’ve found out about you even before we started recording here is magnificent. I’m excited to share some of your experiences with everybody on the podcast. Before we get started, just tell us a little bit more about yourself.|
|00:01:34 Tammi||So, I am originally from Bryan-College Station, TX. I went to Texas A&M for undergrad and so I feel like that’s one thing that you should know about me that defines a lot about my decisions, thereafter, because my parents told me that if I went to college in my hometown that I could go wherever I wanted to for Graduate School and there could be no discussion about, whatever I picked, so I stayed in my hometown. I basically grew up in the same house my entire life, but I kind of have a bit of a, a wanderer spirit and a lot of wanderlust and so. That’s why I chose…my subsequent decisions meant that I chose the most different, different places possible and kind of varied experiences to try to in my mind, make up for the fact that you know I didn’t get to do very much before the end of college.|
|00:02:22 Bradley||Well, it definitely shows in your Vita where you actually attended school and we’re going to get into that a little bit later on as well, and you know one thing that I wanted to highlight, first of all, I kind of go in chronological order whenever I do these interviews. I kind of talk about your undergraduate, graduate and then how you made those decisions. So unlike others who have studied psychology first, it appears you wanted to get your law degree first. At what point did you know that you wanted to get your law degree?|
|00:02:51 Tammi||So, my parents actually met in our local courthouse in Brazos County and my dad was a police officer, he was a detective, he was the first black detective in Brazos County in Texas and my mom didn’t work for the criminal justice system but her office, she was an account extension agent and her office was located at the courthouse and, as a kid, I spent a lot of time sort of around the courthouse hanging out. And I kind of was, I got to watch trials. I may or may not have watched a few death penalty trials when I was like 8 or 9. So I, I was always kind of intrigued by it, but one of the good things about growing up in a college town is I had a lot of opportunity to kind of be on campus and try to…try my hand at a lot of different things and so I tried a number of things. My oddest drop, it was probably, I worked at a forestry science lab, picking seeds out of pinecones one summer when I was like 13 or 14. All that to say that I tried and that kind of dabbled I had, uh, the ability and sort of the aptitude to do a lot of things, but I didn’t really know what interests me, and so I tried as much as many things I could possibly try.|
And after high school the, the thing that kind of got me thinking, OK, maybe law schools, the thing is I volunteered at my local courthouse where my parents basically worked for a local judge there and my job essentially was to help her go through all her files we were all paper back then and to basically hand her a law book if she needed one, all of these kind of things and the thing that stood out to the most to me about that experience was how much the law impacts people’s lives when they have no idea what’s going on around them. And it was kind of scary to me. So, I saw for example, defense attorneys who just met their clients a few seconds before and were kind of like shuffling through the files to figure out what was going on in the case and of course make a recommendation, and I thought to myself, Oh my God, number one, I don’t ever want to be in that position. I don’t ever want to be in the position of, you know, having such, somebody else make these huge decisions about my life and me not have anything or really not be able to understand what’s going on. But then also, I thought, you know, I want to be the person who, you know, can sit down with that person and explain everything and help them through the process. That was my kind of like 17–18-year-old brain thinking about that. So that was really my first idea or inkling that I might want to go to law school.
|00:05:28 Bradley||That…you brought up so many things I want to ask first of all, pinecones. I don’t understand why you were taking the season, I don’t want to highlight that, but that’s interesting.|
|00:05:36 Tammi||Yeah, well, I mean it, the reason to talk about it, just because that was sort of like it was a program to try to get more women in STEM and so I worked with a lot of female scientists in a forestry science lab and they were genetically engineering loblolly pine trees and the DNA is in the seeds and so what, what I learned from that experience was I don’t have the patience to do experiments that last 10 years for you to be able to figure out the results. And like sure enough, 10 years later they called me and they’re like, oh hey, you know like this, you know, this is what happened and, you know, I, I was like no, that’s not for me. Not, not that kind of long trajectory as far as that’s concerned.|
|00:06:18 Bradley||Right, well, that’s interesting. Now I, a lot of our audience may ask, how did you end up choosing to go to Columbia Law School versus some other schools?|
|00:06:27 Tammi||So, so my undergraduate major was in marketing. And I, I said that to me that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after undergraduate, I just knew I wanted to get out of Texas to have a different experience, and I didn’t really know like job wise, what I wanted to do. I thought it would be better to go to graduate school and that kind of was my plan from the very beginning. And as I said, the deal with my parents, I’m an only child, the deal with my parents was I get to pick wherever I want to go and there can be no discussion about it. And so in my brain at the time I thought, OK, well if I’m going to leave this state, I’m going to try to find a law school to go to that is, that are ranked higher that than the law schools that are the highest ranked law schools in my state. So, I think at the time the University of Texas was like 15. So, I just applied to like 11 schools above the University of Texas. I was like, OK, I’ll just do all these and from there I got into, you know, basically a good number of them and decided alright, well, what is it that I want out of this experience? What, what kind of life do I want to be leading for the next three years? And kind of what can this experience get me that I haven’t already had. So, I’d gotten into like Duke and the University of Chicago and schools like that, but I’d never lived in a city. I remember the first time that I ever saw skyscrapers and, you know, like I kind of, I’ve never taken public transportation, I’d never been North of Maryland when I applied to all of these schools. When I applied to both NYU and Columbia, and I just decided, you know, well, let me just try.|
At the at the very beginning, some of the schools I applied to you, I had a good friend who was a superstar and because she was a superstar she had so much more knowledge than I did, I didn’t realize that if schools really wanted you to come that they would pay for you to pay for your application fees or pay for you to be able to visit, and I was kind of like that. That sounds, you know, like icky to me, that doesn’t sound right, which is like, no, no, you can do it. And I said, OK, well, I don’t know about where I, I don’t know where I want to go. I’ve applied to places I’ve never been before. Kind of the deciding factor for me was well, OK, I’m just gonna ask Colombia if they’ll pay for my ticket to go to New York City and see what they say. ’cause if they say no, then I’ll be like alright. It’s fine, I don’t need to go there and, they did, and then I was like Oh no, I was like, Oh no, I’m gonna have to go that’s, alright, OK and uh you know I had a friend who said that she’d been in New York City before she had relatives there. She was going to go with me, ’cause I really just did not have any clue. But at the last minute she wasn’t able to go, and so I flew to New York City for admitted student’s day, Columbia and NYU have admitted students day around the same time. They don’t come get you at the airport, it’s nothing like that. So, I landed in LaGuardia. The only way that I knew to get to the apartment where I was staying with a student was because it was the restaurant the, the corner is the restaurant that’s in Seinfeld. And so, it was basically like can you take me to this block where this restaurant is? And you know that’s how I made it there essentially. I’m, I’ve never been on public transportation before, never been on subway, rode the subway that, that admitted students weekend, and ultimately, I found out about Colombia in terms of really the city of New York is what I wanted to try, but also, Columbia had three years of guaranteed housing, so after my visit at NYU when they said they only had one year guaranteed housing, I was like, OK, thank you that’s all I need to know. And, essentially, I decided if I’m ever going to live in a city, I’m going to pick the biggest one. And because the other things I also had never seen snow, and so people told me, and I’ve never been to Chicago. And so, people said, well, let this, let the wind hit you off the Lake and I was like I can’t do that so, so I chose NYC. As my first experience to kind of deal with snow and being in the Northeast and I had a blast. It’s kind of like being on vacation, every day.
|00:10:54 Bradley||It sounds like you had a lot of firsts, a lot of first experiences there, and I’m glad that you were able to experience that. I grew up in the Midwest, used to the snow, used to the wind, used to piles and piles, public transit, but it’s funny that you, you found the place simply because of the Seinfeld corner. That’s kind of interesting.|
|00:11:14 Tammi||Yes, yeah, and I will say that, you know, so most people that go to Texas A&M are from Houston, or Dallas, or Austin, and so they’re from larger cities. And so, I, I was kind of like a townie, and so even my friends from Houston and Dallas, where like I, I don’t think that’s a good idea. So actually, nobody really thought it was a good idea for me to go to New York City to go to Colombia. I mean, I had had some experiences that kind of convinced me that you know it wasn’t gonna be a problem when I could handle it. Uhm, and so I was like, you know, whatever I, I was kind of bound and determined and no one could talk me out of it essentially. And so, I, I moved there by myself. A friend of mine very kindly used her free ticket that she had to help me move. We were like the blind leading the blind. Yeah, it was, it was it was a lot of fun.|
|00:12:05 Bradley||And that you almost committed yourself as soon as you asked that question, will you pay for my ticket then that started everything.|
|00:12:10 Tammi||It did, it did, and the other experience you know, especially people from rural areas, was studying abroad. Studying abroad was the experience that kind of got me to have the confidence that I could do something like that, but also the, I think it was at least 40%, if not more of the people who were admitted to Columbia Law School had had studied abroad so it’s not an integrated thing.|
|00:12:34 Bradley||Well, you shared a lot of good information for our audience, I, I wouldn’t have even thought of people, I know people try to bring in the top contenders, so to speak, and they’ll do almost anything but it’s interesting that they were willing to do that for you. And I noticed that you had some time between finishing at Columbia Law School and then eventually going over to London to work on your Master of Science. What did you do in between the two?…before we start talking about your London, England experience.|
|00:13:06 Tammi||A few things, so uhm, so as I said I, I studied abroad in undergrad and I had a good experience doing that and the, uh, not most people but many people after graduating from law school will decide what they want to do is to clerk for a federal judge, and I’m sort of not one of those people who is a resume or CV filler. I’ll, kind of, talk about that later. I kind of accidentally did what you need to do in order to get these jobs, but I needed to have a good reason to apply and my good reason for wanting to apply for a clerkship with the federal judge was that it was the only opportunity that you would have to really kind of see behind the scenes with juries. And to kind of figure out how the process works in terms of being able to talk with people who are on juries. And so, once I kind of had that in my head, I applied to places all over the country. But ultimately the first person who offered me a job was Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in Alexandria, and I said, I accept, and he was kind of like, well, don’t you want to wait? And I was like no, no this is good I’ll take this; this works for me, so I did that.|
But the way the clerkship application process works is you kind of have to do it a little bit in advance. So, I essentially had a year between the time that I graduated from law school and the time I was supposed to start my clerkship. So, I had a choice between working at law firms or after I study for the bar, essentially, so I would have had to have started work at a law firm, quit, and then go work for the judge. Or I can go to Spain and study abroad again. So, I chose the go to Spain and study abroad option. So, I spent about 4 1/2 months in Seville kind of practicing my Spanish and then I also kind of did some things volunteering for some judges and studying for the bar, that kind of thing. And after my clerkship, I ended up staying in the DC area and I worked for two different law firms and that’s kind of what I was doing when I ultimately decided that I wanted to quit that job and go to London.
|00:15:21 Bradley||You bounced all over the place? Yeah, yeah, no that’s good. I, I like the fact that you kind of said, you’re not a CV filler, but you ended up doing the stuff that was needed to get done in order to get some of these positions as well. For those of us who aren’t familiar with the judicial system and clerkship, can you explain some of the typical responsibilities that you had when you were a clerk?|
|00:15:48 Tammi||Sure, so being a clerk for the federal court system is kind of analogous to what you might think of like a medical student in a resident. You…it’s, it’s, it’s really training, and they most often are sort of temporary positions that last about a year or two years, and your job is to essentially be the judge’s assistant, so you do all of the research. You may help with drafts of opinions. All of those types of things are the things that you would do when working for a judge. I accidentally ended up in a courthouse that is called the rocket docket. So, it is the fastest courthouse in the country. I did not know this at the time, and it is the courthouse where a lot of the terrorist cases are tried and so the judge that I clerked for at the time was the least senior judge which meant that he didn’t get the opportunity to deny like he couldn’t like reject any cases. So, it was the busiest year he ever had before or since and he had two trials going on at the same time twice, for example, in the year where I clerked there so in terms of asking me like what I did when I was there, literally just tried to stay afloat. Try, try and stay ahead of the game, you know, try not to work on Saturdays, but mostly it was doing a lot of research. What I really liked about it, and it’s kind of similar to what we do in psychology, is I really loved having to get to learn things really, sort of in depth in a short period of time and then forgetting it, and that’s kind of what this this was, and in many different ways because there were so many different types of cases and in, in the law particularly federal courts is very kind of geographic. And Alexandria is the geographical region where I worked, well in that region, you have the FBI, you have the CIA, you have Dulles Airport, you have the Pentagon, so the types of cases that we got were just all over the place and was a good experience as far as I was concerned.|
|00:17:50 Bradley||It’s almost like, and excuse the pun, I, I just thought of it, it’s almost like, trial by fire.|
|00:17:55 Tammi||Oh, it is.|
|00:17:56 Bradley||They threw you in, and you learned a lot, and then you forget it because you have to focus on other things. You can’t retain that memory for long term so.|
|00:18:00 Tammi||That’s right. Yeah, so I used to be an expert on night vision goggles, not anymore. Ha, ha, ha.|
|00:18:08 Bradley||Ha, Ha…at the time you were, at the time, you were.|
|00:18:10 Tammi||Yeah, yeah, OK I got it, yeah.|
|00:18:13 Bradley||So how did you find the opportunity to study abroad over in London I mean, you said you went there, but how did you uncover that opportunity?|
|00:18:20 Tammi||Well so. You know, I’ll, I’ll talk a little bit about working at the law firms as that kind of leads into the London discussion, which is to say that um, working at a law firm, you bill in six-minute increments and so that’s how you bill clients, that’s how you keep account of your time. And I found myself working at law firms kind of watching the clock go down and watching it tick because if you’re there until like after six then you can like order cart, you can order food you know, like you’ve kind of done what you need to do for the day to try to get things done. And I realized sitting there that I had worked really hard towards something that I didn’t like, and I had to sit there and think about how it was that I got there. And I realized that I had never thought about how I wanted to spend my day. I’d never thought about, you know what I actually wanted to do, because I was good at things. I thought, OK, well, this is what I should do, or people would say, oh well, you’re really good at that this is what you should do. My major. Undergrad, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but um, and I’m not a first-generation college student. My parents were both kind of like look, you need to get a job when you graduate like the purpose of going to college, is to get a job so you need a skill, so the funny thing is my college roommate and one of my good friends, we’re still good friends today, but they were both psychology majors and they were called me asking them what are you gonna do with that. I mean like that’s not, you know what are you gonna do? Like you don’t really know anything.|
So, all that to say that by uh started seeing a therapist and a particular a career counselor, and these were kind of the questions that she had me asked myself. And what I realized was that there are some things that I really liked about this job, but other things that I really didn’t like, and um and I needed to make a change and I’m kind of a person who jumped in the deep end, right? And so, I figured, OK, well, what I discovered about myself was, were things like I love project based. Work right like I love to work on multiple different products at the same time. I really like talking about things that really interests me. When sharing them with other people. And I also really. Like trying to ask questions and figuring out the answers to them and so there are a lot of things that are like that in the law, but basically every therapist I saw said, you know, you kind of sound like an academic to me and even though I grew up in a college town, my parents weren’t academics, but I, I knew a lot of academics, for whatever reason, it just never occurred to me that that would be something that I could do.
And so, I needed to figure out a quick way to figure out whether this was something that was in my wheelhouse and that I would like, and I chose psychology simply because the areas of the law that I liked and I thought I might want to write about what kind of more related to kind of social science related things. And I didn’t want to write about them without knowing anything about them. I, I got the idea of going to England because they had a yearlong master’s program. And I thought, you know, I, I didn’t, I had like one class in psychology in undergrad. If I would have gone to a master’s program in the United States, I would have had to pay for it. Not, there are not many master’s in psychology programs that are free, and so that would have been two years of a master’s program that I’d have to paid for and I thought, alright, well, but I can pay for a year in England you know, see if I like it, also be in England and see how it goes. So, I basically quit my job. Uhm, got admitted and left for England probably within like 7-8 weeks or something like that.
|00:22:06 Bradley||Wow, wow, you didn’t, you didn’t try to pull the stunt, “Hey, would you pay for my plane over there? My plane ride over there?”|
|00:22:13 Tammi||Ha, Ha…No, I didn’t try that, that time.|
|00:22:17 Bradley||No, so you know when you were looking at it, I, ah, a couple things came to mind during that discussion and, thank you for sharing. Number one was it was insightful advice on kind of reflecting, figuring out, even though I may be good at something, is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life or for the next 3-5-7 years? I like that advice. That’s very good. A lot of people just get caught up in what they’re doing and continue doing it, they don’t have time to reflect. The other thing that I liked that you shared was, hey, I could do this for a year and if I like it, great. If not, you know you compare it to what you would have experienced in the United States and you’re exactly right, most of the master’s programs are two years. You’re going to have to pay for it. You might as well travel and enjoy the world as well. So, I liked. I liked that story. Tell me some of the fondest experiences that you had while you were over there.|
|00:23:13 Tammi||Well, I’m, you know, I had traveled a bit that was kind of my ambition was to travel, certainly when I, you know, left my parents’ house and especially after being in New York. Um, London wasn’t really high on my list of places to go. I do like the sun like a lot and, and London is not very sunny, but my favorite part about being there is that essentially in the program that I did, the number of people from England, I think there were only like one or two. Everybody else was from some other part of the world and all over the world…Iceland, Turkey, Germany, Bogota and we’re still friends and like, I went to Bogota couple years ago to visit with a friend that I met there. Mexico City, I went to a Law Society conference and I got to visit with one of my classmates from LSC in Mexico City so that was probably my favorite thing. It, but it all but the other thing that about that particular, that program in particular, and I would say LSE as opposed to maybe like Cambridge, is that it there wasn’t really an emphasis on experiments. It was definitely more of an emphasis on theory. And, you know, psychology as a discipline began in Germany, and so I, I do think now, we kind of because we’re so, you know USA centric we think of psychology as something that’s you know, an American invention. Or, you know, we think of like US centric ways of thinking about what we’re going to do in psychology. But really, it’s a German, you know, began with German scientists, and there are also a lot of French scientists, so that was the opportunity that I had in London was to kind of get a decent grounding in theory and the benefits of doing qualitative research, that sort of thing that I don’t think you would get in the US.|
|00:25:03 Bradley||And, and that leads me up to my next question is, in retrospect, now that you and I’m going to talk about your Ph.D. and going to, you know from the University of Virginia and where how you got to where you are now but, in retrospect, now that you’ve gone through graduate school overseas and graduate schools in the United States, what were some of the differences or similarities? Or advantages and disadvantages of each? One you already mentioned, a culturally diverse group of students over there and that’s, that’s fabulous, so I wouldn’t have even guessed that you had a lot more, you know foreigners, attending that program than natives, so tell me a little bit more about what you think some of the differences between United States you know, graduate schools, and overseas over in London.|
|00:25:49 Tammi||So, you know, I can’t really speak too much about terminal master’s programs because the schools I was in don’t have, don’t have those, but I would say yeah, definitely more emphasis on theories and in particular European theories in addition to the US ones. I remember when I got to the University of Virginia, one of the professors said something about a theory and was saying, talking about it as if there was not a parallel in French psychology and I was like, well, but they’ve also been like, you know, they’re kind of parallel tracks. I’m like, interesting, because this Serge Moscovici also talked about this and you know ET cetera, ET cetera. I, I would say it is, most people in Europe have, like their college experience, is more targeted, meaning that you know, like our college experience, what we expect is you’d be able to try whatever we want. You can change your major multiple times. That’s less true in Europe, and that means that your graduate experience is also even more targeted than you would expect here in the United States. So, I mean by that is, for example, applying for PhD programs in the UK. I applied to the University of Edinburgh and got in, but the way you apply for that is you write up what you want your dissertation to be. And you apply with your dissertation and then your time is basically spent just writing that dissertation, whereas in the US, of course you take at least two years of classes, you get to, you know, float around in labs, work on what your advisor is working on, and then figure out OK, this is going to propose this is going to be for my dissertation, so it. There are some kind of major differences in terms of the orientation, and I also and I could be wrong, but I think that in terms of funding and like doing research that the European governments uhm, like if you do health psychology for example, they have a more sophisticated, they have a universal healthcare, so they have in some ways more built-in methods for being able to collect data for certain populations.|
|00:27:53 Bradley||Yeah, that’s interesting. I know that I, I told you before we started on the show here that I, I traveled abroad as well and I found that to be true as well when I was over there is that, you know, the funding wasn’t as big of a deal because it was available. You know, depending on where you went and what you wanted to focus on. I know some of our audience and that one thing that occurred to me that I wasn’t planning on asking is…Did you find it difficult to apply to schools and them recognizing your Master of Science degree from abroad, or was that no big deal? It was, oh, I see you got a Master of Science that’s great. Or how did that, you know, play out?|
|00:28:31 Tammi||It actually wasn’t a big deal, so I, I thought it might have been a bigger deal had I gotten a PhD in the UK, and especially if it was not from Cambridge or from Oxford or from Utrecht or Max Planck or something like that, right? So, I was more concerned about that. As far as the master’s, no matter what PhD program you enter into, you’re going to have to do their master’s coursework anyway. The one advantage or disadvantage, depending how you look at it, for me, having a master’s degree was that it meant that I could teach earlier than other, some of the other graduate students in my class.|
|00:29:08 Bradley||OK, no, good point. Thank you for sharing. Now, we already mentioned you received your PhD from the University of Virginia. How did you decide on going to UVA for your doctorate?|
|00:29:17 Tammi||So, I applied to a number of places I will. I will say that you know I didn’t have a ton of experience in psychology. I did not, I was not a psychology major in undergrad. The ah, as also as I mentioned, I really kind of wanted to get some experience in psychology and what I found was that as somebody who had graduated from Columbia and somebody who’d been working at law firms, absolutely nobody was willing to have me in their labs as a grunt to, to work in a research lab and to, you know, I, I was like, I’ll do it, it’s fine, you know you can order me around. Nobody was willing to let me do that and so that’s kind of also why one, it was a good idea which meant that I didn’t speak the language in the same way that people who had been an undergrad in psychology, had mentors in psychology, and then applied to grad school straight from undergrad, I didn’t think the same language that they did. So, when I contacted a people with whom I thought I might want to work, I found that we didn’t speak the same language either, but also it was sort of like they didn’t know what to do with somebody who was a lawyer. So I would say, for example, I would email somebody and I would say, oh, hi, I you know I see you have XY or so you do XYZ research, I’m interested in that, I’m an attorney, blah, blah, blah and they would say, oh, we don’t have a clinical program where we do forensic psychology and I’m like, but that’s not what I said I wanted to do right, like, like I, I don’t want to do forensic psychology, that kind of thing. So how I got to UVA was my advisor Dick Reppucci had actually mentored at least five or ten lawyers before I even got there, so he’d had multiple people who had previously been attorneys who he had mentored in PhD programs. So, I kind of felt like he could meet me where I was, and kind of help me get where I wanted to go.|
|00:31:09 Bradley||How did you find out? You just…threw digging? You’re just finding out that he had done that. I mean, that’s not, really, you know, they don’t have it on their website. They probably don’t have it on their about page. So how did you find that out?|
|00:31:19 Tammi||And it is a good question ’cause it’s not like he definitely did not have a website that had that element. I think I kind of figured out after talking to him, but I, I, ah, the so I, my area of concentration that you gave was the community psychology program. But really that’s the law in psychology, you know, kind of combination at UVA because we don’t have something that’s basically just law and psychology and so I was basically Dick’s last student, his first student was Carol Dweck, and so I say that to mean that he had a very long career where he did all kinds of things, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and so I think in in looking at his, um, work in particular, what I liked was that lab specialized in children, family and the law, but in particular juvenile justice and he wrote this essay about his father and um his father’s experience, kind of being a juvenile delinquent and how that affected his life. And I loved that essay so much that I thought, you know what, this is somebody who I want to talk to and who I want to work with.|
|00:32:25 Bradley||That’s great. I’m glad that you found, found him and, and he was able to help you. The next two questions kind of relate to advice and one of them is a little different because I wanted to ask you…what were the most important factors for you when you were selecting graduate schools? Now, I understand what happened over in London, but coming back to the United States, what were the most important factors? Geography, the staff, the type of research? They would recognize you; you know you shared that story about and I. And I’m a lawyer. It’s almost, would have been better, in hindsight, to not even mention that. And then yeah, then you probably would have got better responses. So, what were the most important factors for you when selecting graduate schools?|
|00:33:09 Tammi||Geography was among them. Just because I didn’t want to be someplace that was expensive, so I’d applied to schools in New York and kind of talked to them about whether I’d want to go there, and I was like I can’t have six roommates right like I was like that’s not, not going to be for me. I had already been living in Virginia and I also have relatives in Virginia and Charlottesville is just, you know, I have kind of see myself living there just because it’s less expensive. It’s a smaller town and was kind of less stressed as far as that’s concerned. So, umm geography definitely had a lot to do with it. But the other part of it is, as I said, I kind of had given a lot of thought to what I wanted out of a program and kind of what I would bring to it and what I thought I might need and was really just kind of, Uhm, for lack of a better word, very serious about expressing exactly who I am and what I know and what I can do. Or you know where I am to try to say like look this is it? There’s not gonna be any different than what you see right now, so can you, can you deal with this? Yes, No, OK great. And that’s, and that’s a little bit about how Dick is, he’s very um, very direct, you don’t have to wonder where you stand with him and if he doesn’t like something he’s going to tell you and I, I appreciated that very much so.|
|00:34:35 Bradley||Yeah, it sounds like…you know, more and more during my interviews, more and more people are saying that transparency, that honesty, and that guidance is really what helped them get through some of their academic career as well. Instead of just telling you what you think you want to hear and being real about it. Really, really goes a long way.|
One thing that I wanted to ask, and I know I asked this of everybody, what advice would you offer those seeking a master’s or doctorate degree in psychology?
|00:35:07 Tammi||It’s a good question I, I even working today with my colleagues, I have to say that it’s just true that I’m a lawyer first in terms of like the way that I think about things, so it is difficult for me to just say, you know anybody who’s just thinking about doing psychology, what I would say, but what I kind of tell people who are, you know, during recruitment weekends or things like, that is to really give some thought to what you think you need in terms of type of mentor that you need. Are you somebody who needs to have your hand hold like do you need somebody to give you actual real direction? If so, then you need to ask questions like well how many, how often do you have lab meetings? Right, ask if you can sit in a lab meeting if this is somebody who doesn’t have lab meetings at all. Then that’s probably not going to be the person for you, right? Like ask them about what they hoped, what sort of grants they want to apply for, like it’s, it’s more about thinking about things in terms of this is a finite period of your life, and you’re going to have to, and it’s going to go by way faster than you think it will be, you have to figure out how you’re going to get out of it, what you need so you can get to the next step.|
|00:36:14 Bradley||Very good advice. Uhm, I know that you also mentioned that hey, be true to yourself, realize what you want to do, we talked about that before…after you received your doctorate, you were a visiting professor, I believe at the…Professor of Law…at the University of Illinois, College of Law. How did you end up there?|
|00:36:33 Tammi||So, I decided when I was getting finishing up my PhD at UVA that I wanted to apply for law school jobs as opposed to jobs in psychology. Frankly, because the money is way better for doing the same job. And also you, there’s a less, there’s less stress to have to deal with grant. I mean, I still apply for grants, but the culture of applying for grants for grants and the law school is sort of nascent in a way that it is not in psychology. And the truth of the matter is there is a, I think it’s called PrawfsBlawg, but there’s a blog that talks about legal academia and kind of keeps track every year of who’s hiring and who gets hired and kind of puts together some statistics. And among statistics are things that like something like 85% of the people who got tenure track legal academic positions had gone to top five law schools, had PHD’s and had fellowships, and had clerked for a federal judge. So, I had gone to a top five law school, I’d gotten a PhD, I clerked for a federal judge and what I had did not have was the fellowship, and so the University Illinois, I began as a visiting assistant professor there, that was a two-year fellowship essentially.|
|00:37:53 Bradley||It’s interesting that you brought up some of those statistics and, and track that I wouldn’t have even thought about the impact. I would have thought that you know the difference in the, in the, in the salary would, would pop up, but that’s interesting that you brought that…and now you’re at the University of Arizona…|
|00:38:12 Bradley||…and so tell us how, how you got there and I, I jotted down some few things and I’m going to share a screen while you answer the question, but what events and decisions, you know, led you to move from Illinois to Arizona?|
|00:38:26 Tammi||Well, so as we kind of alluded to the very beginning, I, once I left Texas, I was like let me just try it all, like I can live anywhere, I can do a whole bunch of things I, I liked living in Illinois. What I discovered about myself is I need the sunlight. And the idea of spending, you know, 6 months to 8 months with no sunlight is not for me. But one advantage I will say of having worked there in, especially being on the job market, is that there are a lot of schools located in small towns or in rural areas or, you know, in in, let’s say, less desirable locations that are not like New York or LA that really don’t believe people would want to go there. And the advantage for me is I have a demonstrated record of living in a lot of small towns and being perfectly fine there, you know? So that enabled me when I’m on the job market to be able to credibly and realistically speak to people at various universities and talk to them about how. Yeah, I absolutely can live here. Nope, I’ve never been to, you know, I’ve never been to Kentucky. I’ve never been to Oklahoma. Lots of places where I ended up going to interview, but through going to conferences and through just some of my academic career, I know people in a lot of different areas, so I always met someone there in a place or have somebody meet me there. And so all that to say that I had a good, uh, you know, more than my fair share of options in terms of where I wanted to go um, to, to get a job.|
The only place that offered me a joint appointment in the Law School and the Psychology Department was the University of Arizona. The University of Arizona has a long history of combining law and psychology and, quite frankly, it had never occurred to me to, to even want to have a joint appointment. It was something they came to me with and said, you know, hey, we have a tradition of doing this. Would you be interested in doing this and, at first I was like no, it’s kind of, it’s kind of like you’re a glutton for punishment, there are, I’ve yet to meet, quite frankly, another tenure track, so a tenured professor with a joint appointment because it is exceptionally rare and, and, and it is difficult in the sense that you just don’t look like your colleagues no matter what. Like I’m not going to look like the average law professor and I’m just not gonna look like the average psych professor and I have to be OK with that, right? So yeah, I, I thought. It was an opportunity that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. There’s some definite advantages. One of them is that I get to have a graduate student. That’s something that I wouldn’t have opportunity to do if I was just a law professor at another University, and so I have a lot of graduate student with whom I get to mentor and will grant certain products, and that’s great. And then, as I said, University Arizona has a history of really being interested in the combination of the law and psychology and so within that I can kind of do whatever I want and that was really attractive to me as well.
|00:41:33 Bradley||Well, it sounds like it ’cause you led me right to my next question about and you already answered it. But I did notice that your primary appointment was at the University Arizona is law and then the secondary was psychology. I’m going to share my screen one more time and, and kind of note that on one page, yes, here you are under the James E. Rogers College of Law. And then you’re also under the College of Science under Psychology as well. And so, you even mentioned earlier that you’re first, and foremost, a lawyer at heart and you look at everything that way, and then you kind of apply psychology a little bit more. So, tell me a little bit more about some of your current work and, and past work, I looked at it already and while I’m doing…I’m going to bring this up and share with the audience as well, while you tell me a little bit more about some of your current work, that’s probably published. If you can still see the screen here, it, it shows, just a little.|
|00:42:32 Tammi||But that’s not that person from the UK.|
|00:42:35 Bradley||Yep, Yep. And so, tell me a little bit more.|
|00:42:38 Tammi||We have the same name.|
|00:42:40 Bradley||Do you really?|
|00:42:41 Tammi||Yeah, we have the same name, but she’s in the UK.|
|00:42:43 Bradley||Oh no, OK.|
|00:42:45 Tammi||So, what I will say is that I would say that my legal career is where I get the questions that I really want to answer and how I go about answering them is where psychology comes in. So, a lot of the things that I think about and how I think about things and the questions that I really want to answer are really based upon my legal background. So, for example, one of the first papers I worked on was on juvenile sex offenders and it was um, basically I’m talking about the proposed legislation at the time called SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) which was federal legislation that was intended to kind of standardize or nationalize things like sex offender registration. Among the things they really wanted to do was to standardize the process of putting juveniles on sex offender registries and so this paper essentially was saying that, that practice was not consistent with what we understood and know about the development of adolescence.|
|00:43:43 Tammi||So, where I went with that project, though, was to start with the legislative history, so I know how to do legislative history. Not many lawyers do, but so I went to the congressional record. I was able to look up the hearings. And for the, the legislation, the bill that ultimately was proposed. And to show that the congressional leaders actually didn’t discuss this law at all, it was like um less than 20 minutes of discussion. And so, it’s kind of a reactionary proposal that didn’t really have any basis in sort of logic or research or anything, and so that was sort of the basis of kind of talk about, hey look, this was what you thought what happened, here are all the ways that science shows us that what you think will happen with, with this legislation is actually not at all the results that you’re going to end up with. And so that was my first experience of interacting with editors, for example with psychology journals and the funny thing was they, I decided the congressional record and they said hey, shouldn’t there be a secondary cite here and I was like no. No, no, no, I’m good I, I, I’m able to do that. So, I would say like everything that I do, sort of the basis the original idea comes from my legal background and as I said, I tend to want to or the way in which I try to answer those questions is the psychology.|
So, more recently, with my dissertation work, what I study is how universities adjudicate or handle sexual misconduct cases. So, I was at UVA, where a number of things were going on and one of the things that I did was just to take a look at the student conduct policy and kind of look, look at how the University might handle things if you report sexual misconduct on campus. And what I saw especially, you know reading like a lawyer would, my immediate reaction was oh, absolutely not, there’s no way I would report like, knowing this, there’s no way I would ever want to report anything about what’s going on in, in, you know, as far as sexual misconduct is concerned. So, my next thought was OK, well then what would make me want to report? What, what kind of things would the University need to assure me of in order to get, make me comfortable wanting to report and so that was really kind of the basis of the research that I’ve been doing for the past few years. So, the idea there is that I’ve basically operationalized fairness, so we have this idea of justice and fairness, and especially in litigation, right? But the question is, what is it? How do we evaluate it? And then what ultimately does it mean for our willingness to participate in the system and so that group of products that I’m working on, basically has to do with that. What kinds of things constitute fairness in the context of how universities handle sexual misconduct cases, and then ultimately, can you change the way that students perceive fairness in ways that encourages them to want to participate in system?
Because unlike the, the basis of my work is basically procedural justice theory. And so, unlike the police, though, universities and civil cases and courts don’t have armies, they don’t have ways to, to coerce you to want to do things. The only way that they’re going to be able to get you to participate in the system is by your own willing cooperation. And, and if you don’t, if they don’t have that, then the system doesn’t work if people won’t be held accountable. And so that is kind of the basis of my largest group of projects, but I’m starting a new group of projects with my graduate student and, at some point, I’ll figure out a way to tie them altogether subject matter wise. Haven’t figured out what that is, but what we’re trying to do now is, uh, apply social cognitive theories to the problem of addressing the lack of diversity within legal profession. So, my graduate student is particularly interested in a race and gender and diversity of prejudice and stereotyping, and certainly being at a law school and in a state like Arizona that is diverse in some ways and not diverse and others, we just had an interest in, OK, well, what can psychology tell us about how we might be able to increase diversity, particularly in a profession, where access to justice is really important.
|00:48:10 Bradley||You mentioned earlier about the fairness, the idea of fairness, is that…I was…one thought came to my mind is what’s the most challenging part of trying to get at what is fair? What have you found during your research? I mean, what is fair for one region or area or within the academic field versus outside is going to be different, so what have you found in terms of what’s the biggest challenge of trying to determine what is fair.|
|00:48:39 Tammi||It’s a good question, so I mean. Definitely we’re talking about perceived fairness and not necessarily actual fairness, right? Those are two different things, and definitely things are context-based, but procedural justice theory essentially says that we, as humans, kind of evaluate the fairness of decision-making processes by looking at the quality of the decision making and then the quality of the treatment. So, there’s kind of like fundamental things that we think o and they’re kind of memorializing the Constitution with due process, so it’s the idea, for example, that I should I before the government can deprive me of life, Liberty or property, I have the right to an unbiased tribunal like that’s part of the, the idea that I’m judging the decision makers by the extent to which they may be biased towards me or against me, right? Like I have the opportunity to be heard, I have the right to an attorney, all of those things are kind of related to how you might go about trying to operationalize fairness. I wouldn’t say that operationalizing fairness is the hardest part, so the kind of the idea of a more or the model that I look at as essentially says that students will be more willing to cooperate and voluntarily assist University officials when asked if they have trust and confidence in the University’s ability to make decisions because they believe that the way they make decisions is fair, right? And so, I really think it’s actually not so much the fairness or the perceived fairness that’s the hard part. It’s the legitimacy, the trust, and confidence that we have in somebody else’s ability to make decisions, particularly because I came to looking at this issue actually shortly before it hit the news with Rolling Stone and with a lot of these kind of famous cases, that kind of colored how we think about how universities handle these sorts of procedures. And so, we kind of have this built-in way of thinking about whether universities are going to be fair or not fair even if we don’t know anything about the processes themselves, and so I think the hardest part is really trying to figure out how do you manipulate, how do you, how do you change somebody’s perception of confidence, or any ability of universities to handle these decisions.|
|00:50:47 Bradley||And it might even, you know, some of the ignorance may come in as well. I’ve never even thought about that. I, I respect the University, but I’m not sure if I really respect the process involved might come into play. You mentioned that one of your grad students, it might be one of the grad students that you have listed on your Walker lab as well, and so ahh, that’s a good transition to talk about the Walker lab. How did it get started? And, you know, what do you guys focus on there? It looks like, or sounds like, a lot of the current projects that you’re working on in some of the areas are coming from the Walker lab as well. Tell us a little bit more about the lab.|
|00:51:22 Tammi||That’s right, so as I said, I really had intended to apply for jobs at as an academic and law schools and not law and psychology, so I actually had no idea about setting up a lab. Had, certainly terrible at names, I mean in terms of like, as far as that’s concerned, but, uh, essentially, uh, our focus is, as I said, the, we want to try to use our psychology background and in order to be able to address real-world legal problems, and essentially my favorite thing to do, and what we kind of do, a lot of the time is to kind of take people’s underlying beliefs kind of like the common sense notions of things, and to challenge the validity of those things and actually put those to the test using experimental methods. And yeah, that’s my graduate student, Ellen, and she is the one who is um, kind of a driving a lot of the projects that we have going on in terms of diversity.|
|00:52:20 Bradley||So, my next logical question here is how did you decide on who you were going to accept to be a part of the lab and tell us a little bit more about that process ’cause we have some audience members that say “I love the labs, I want to get involved. Give me some advice on how I can actually get involved in the labs.”|
|00:52:37 Tammi||It’s a good question. I would say that um, be, be patient, but also persistent. The number of emails especially I think as female psychology professors I, I heard at one time that in terms of things like reporting or help-seeking, people are most like, students are most likely to go to female psychology professors. And looking at my inbox, it certainly feels that way, a lot of the time. So most often what happens is somebody takes a class with me. So being somebody with a joint appointment, I teach both in the law school and in the psychology Department. So usually what happens is somebody takes my class in the psychology Department and they you know ultimately decided really well and say, oh hey, you know, I’d like to work with you in your lab or they just email me. And generally speaking, I pick people who are persistent who are clearly self-motivated. Meaning like if I say hey, I’m busy right now, but could you follow back up with me in a couple of weeks? And if they do it, I’m going OK, great, like ’cause I don’t like, I can’t, I kind of know what I need out of people that I work with and one of the things that I can’t do is I can’t chase people. I can’t um, you know, manage your time for you and, and manage mine also. So, I think it really, really works well for me to be able to work with people who can kind of kind of do what they say, and say what they mean and that kind of thing. The other thing I’ll say is, um, but it’s OK to be honest and you should just take the chance like so most people who work with me say I have no idea, I don’t know whether I want to go to law school or psychology. Great, neither did I, right Like that, that’s fine. And I think as long as you’re willing to kind of work on what needs to be done, and realize that you know we’ll do our best to try to make it a good experience for your one that you learn from, then there’s pretty much no downside to reaching out and trying to get to know somebody like that in order to be able to work in their lab.|
|00:54:36 Bradley||Great advice, great advice. Some of our members always ask about scholarships, grants, fellowships. Do you have any advice for them regarding those types of funding as well as any alternative types of funding?|
|00:54:50 Tammi||I wish I, I could say more about that. I mean, I think that. Well, a couple things. You know, in my Graduate School experience, I was coming from working for a law firm, so I quit a very high paying job to be a student again, which was not easy, but that also meant that I had savings. I had several advantages that other people don’t have, um, and for my PhD programs, I was just given a package. So, I didn’t really know or have to discover that many, you know that much about like an alternative funding and so that’s not, not that’s not something I know really a ton about, but I do know that it is out there. You have to search for it, and it takes, it’s almost a full-time job, um, applying for it.|
|00:55:34 Bradley||Yeah, I agree with you based on all my other guests and, and feedback and in going through Graduate School myself. You do have to do the due diligence and take all the time to find out ’cause there are so many different things out there but the other thing that comes to mind really quickly for me is find out if you can become a TA or a GA or you can, you know be, you know, get involved in a fellowship, other than you know the free money and the grants. Scholarships are great as well and then it really depends on your area that you’re really interested in as well so.|
|00:56:07 Tammi||Well, and I will say this, this is actually true for both law school and psychology graduate programs is and actually getting academic jobs, tell them where else you’ve gotten in, and you know, like I say that because people, you know, academics we’re just like everybody else, right? And schools kind of move and operate like everybody else. If somebody else has it then you want it, right? And so, you know, fortunately or unfortunately, if they find out that you have an offer or a package at a school that they consider to be their peers, school, or even a better school, then they’re more likely to give you additional benefits without you even having to ask.|
|00:56:45 Bradley||I’m going to switch topics a little bit here and switch gears I should say, and based on my research nationwide, the vast majority of psychology faculty are white…between 70 and 88%. Why do you think there is such a disproportionate number of culturally diverse psychology professors in the academic field?|
|00:57:03 Tammi||So I can really talk about my experience and I will tell you there, there is a real reason why I did not major in psychology and I didn’t even think about going to psychology Graduate School and that was that in my Psych 101 class so I would say as I said, I went to Texas A&M undergrad and I think at the time there were certainly more than 40,000 students, but I think less than something like 3% of the population were African American or black. And what’s true about Texas A&M, especially for those of us who grew up there was Texas A&M didn’t admit black people until the 1960s and then didn’t admit women until the 1970s. So, the vast majority of people, that’s because it was a military institution before. But the vast majority people that I went to college with had parents who could not have gone to that school as undergraduates. And so, I’m, I’m not a first-generation college and my mom went to college. My mom had a master’s degree. Neither one of my parents ever attended integrated schools, even though they were educated after the Brown versus Board of Education decision. And so, I say that to mean ’cause that’s kind of like, you know, it is what it is. But, at Texas A&M and my first psychology course, I was one of I’m sure less than a handful of black students in a class that had probably like 150 to 200 people in it, and the professor said something about how black and Hispanic students have lower IQ’s and then didn’t really qualify it. And at the time I knew I had the highest grade in the class, and I was kind of like, Yeah, no thanks, I’m good. You know like, like I don’t…|
|00:58:37 Tammi||Like I don’t need, you know, like I don’t, I don’t need to. I mean you know I think that most my professors like me, I got good recommendations and that’s kind of how it got to Columbia. But I didn’t want to be in an environment where I felt like I was going to have to defend my right to be there or my intellect or to, to, to, have to convince somebody that I’m capable of doing something that I clearly know that I’m capable of doing, and so that was my experience. It said to me, well, you know that’s not for me. I go do something else. Uhm, and it’s a shame really. And I and I certainly think that the professor, um, thought nothing of it, because on some level that you know, they think, well, that’s a fact. But then the question is, what are, what’s the information behind that fact?|
The other part of it is it just doesn’t make a lot of money, and I think there are real good reasons why people would not choose this career. Being an academic, in particular, is not for everyone. It is one that you certainly do not turn off. It is not a nine to five, I mean. As I said, I’m not first-generation college student, but I don’t really have many other academics in my family. I actually do have a cousin that works at a medical school as a professor, but even with her experience, I still have relatives who asked me like what time do you get off work and I’m like, well. Well, that’s never been my career. That’s never been my life. You know, like that it’s, it’s definitely the kind of thing that. Uhm, it, it, most people who you interact with have no idea what your life is like or what your day is like. Nothing like that and, um, it ,it is, it is difficult in ways that I think it would make sense for somebody not to want to do it, but for me and for a lot of my colleagues we wouldn’t want to do anything else. I get paid to think. And to me that there’s nothing better than that. There’s nothing better than me getting to, the privilege to think of whatever I want and try to figure out how to answer it, and then that’s act, my actual job, you know, and I think that that is a privilege that not everybody has the opportunity to, to take advantage of and I think in many ways, it’s because of the money. Like I, I never had to worry about not being able to pay my bills on time or to pay my rent. Or, you know, even in Graduate School, you don’t get very much money as in Graduate School, and it’s not that I had enough on my own. I didn’t, but I had parents who I knew were not gonna let me starve. Or who you know would let me be homeless. And I think that that’s. An advantage all people just don’t have.
|01:01:10 Bradley||No, great points.|
|01:01:10 Tammi||That is one way to explaining putting people who whose family members don’t know what the experience is like. It’s kind of hard to justify ’cause it’s basically like what’s the next best alternative. You can make a lot of money, spend it, you know, in a shorter amount of time than or you can spend 6-7 years in Graduate School to go make you know not very much money essentially, so it’s kind of a hard ask, I think.|
|01:01:33 Bradley||And I, I’m going to bring this up again, but I liked your advice earlier. It really makes you think and reflect what do you really want to get out of your, you know, job out of your occupation? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? I, I think it’s fair to say ’cause I was in the academic world as a teacher for a long time as well. And you’re exactly right, uh, being in the academic world, you’re kind of in a bubble. It’s kind of nice to be in that bubble in some ways, but it’s kind of not nice because you’re not as connected unless you force yourself to get out there and, and do some more research outside of the academic into the real world, so to speak as we’re talking.|
|01:02:09 Tammi||And I, and I think a lot of the people that I see, particularly in Arizona and some of the, so Arizona, I would say, on average, is a, a less wealthy state than Illinois or Virginia or even Texas. And I would say that a lot of people that I see are kind of more like my parents meaning, um, my parents had no backup. There was no backup plan. They both had lots of siblings. They grew up in, on farms and it was, you know, they, they had only themselves to depend upon in terms of figuring out how to make it work. And so, their goal was really to try to make as much money as possible so that they didn’t have to feel insecure about food, or insecure about housing, or, you know, like the idea that they could kind of do what they wanted to do with their time, right? And, uh, they never really understood me, being like, you know, I’m good, I don’t need to make the six figures you know, like, like, like that was, I mean, just. I said that I quit my law firm job. There was an actual intervention. My family really was like what’s happening. What’s going on?|
|01:03:17 Bradley||What are you doing?|
|01:03:17 Tammi||You want to, yeah, like this doesn’t make any sense, like the purpose of college, is to get a job that pays, you have a job that pays. Like what do you want to be a professional student and I’m like, no, I gotta goal like this is, you know this is all doesn’t work out to be fine, so I don’t want to pretend like it is an, it is an easy thing, it’s just for me, I had the sense of this is what I’m doing. You can’t really tell me that I’m not going to be able to do it and what the advantage that I see that I had that other people don’t was, you know, at the end of the day, they just were not going to let me starve.|
|01:03:49 Bradley||Good, good, I do wanna share one thing with you. I’m going to share my screen one more time here. Maybe, maybe more than one more time, I’m not sure. If you can see this, I did some research and I have about four or five websites, I’m not going to go through all of them, I’m just going to highlight this one. This one was actually a good website if you can kind of read this, I was interested because based on my previous guests I’m I, it opened up my eyes to realize the discrepancy in in, culturally diverse, not only within the academic world, but outside as psychologists as well. And you’re, you’re in a unique situation because you have the law and psychology background. And, again, that dual appointment ship at a where you’re at now. So, what’s, what’s interesting about this, I’m just going to scroll down, and here’s kind of the highlight. It falls right within that range that was saying and then you have Asians less than 10%, Hispanic or Latino 9.3%, Black or African American 7%, Unknown, makes me wonder what that is, and then American Indian and Alaska Native, if you combine all these together, it’s time and time again when I was looking at all this, this is about three years old.|
But even when I looked at last year’s information, it didn’t change that much. However, there was a slight increase in certain areas. Black actually did go up a little bit. Hispanic stayed about the same, and American Indians stayed about the same. Asian was about 10 to 10 1/2, so slight, slightly up. A couple years ago, and of course it’s only as good as the information that you look at, but the trend is still there, and so I, I guess I’m leading up to. You know I, I want to be a proponent and advocate for trying to get more and more people into the psychology field. So, what do you think can be done to help increase these numbers? Some of them? It’s just not for you. I understand that.
|01:05:45 Bradley||But for others, any ideas on what can be done to help increase some numbers?|
|01:05:49 Tammi||Well, that’s a good segue into the research that we’re doing right now, and that is applying several social cognitive theories that have to do with how people perceive certain high-status positions. And, in particular, people who on average tend to be in members of underrepresented groups and the idea there is that usually women and, and often people who are from unrepresented minority groups tend to be socialized in ways that lead them to have values that conform more to communal sources of values more, more things about like benefiting the community and as opposed to seeking things out that are more individualistic like, um, money, power, or status, those types of things. And so, like, kind of like I said at the very beginning, I for whatever reason I didn’t really see being an academic, even though I was around them as a kid, I didn’t really see that as something that was for me and so one of the things that we’re trying to do is to try to gather more information, um, about how people who are currently in college and then applying or going to law school, how did they define what their values are and then do, do those values reflect more agentic things? Or they saying are they going to be saying that what I care about is status? What I care about is to make as much money as possible? Or they kind of say, well, you know I feel pressure to help my community, I feel pressure to, you know, be able to support my family, that kind of thing. And to really see if what we can do is try to help people, particularly underrepresented minorities, find aspects of some of these careers that are more consistent with their values. I feel like the thing that I was missing was I had never, until I was at the law firm and kind of miserable, basically, I’d never collected the idea, connected the idea that my goals and values should match how I spend my time. Like the idea that how I spend my time is really reflection no matter what I say I care about, right? Like how I spend my time is really how what I value and what I care about at the end of the day. And so, I guess that’s true in the legal profession, in particular, because it’s one industry where there is a entire separate industry designed to help you get out of it. That the number of career counselors, particularly in the DC area, is huge. There, their whole there’s a whole engine to kind of help lawyers get out of the profession. And what I found, for me, was that I didn’t need to leave the profession. I needed to find something that worked for me and I think the same is kind of true in psychology. There’s so many different ways of using your psychology degree, but most usually what we see is something that we don’t want or aspects of it that we don’t particularly care for, and we don’t want. And so, I think it’s really more about like asking people at younger stages, at younger ages get them to think about what their goals and values are and then being able to expose them to aspects of these careers that may be more in line with those values.|
|01:08:46 Bradley||I like all your answers. The other thing that I’d add is, as a parent, I would enable my, my kids and future students to, hey, if you’re interested in this, let me help you and maybe introduce them or suggest, well, why don’t you go visit or why don’t you call? or why don’t you zoom? or why don’t you talk to somebody in the field and get a feel for what they do every day? What they like, dislike? It just opens up your mind a little bit more and, and makes you realize hey, I didn’t really think about that.|
|01:09:15 Tammi||Yeah, so my co-clerk, so usually in a federal court system you have more than one person work for the same judge and that person is your co-clerk, my co-clerk and I are still really good friends, his name is Michael Whitlock and, um, he, I discovered we worked together had started writing letters to just random people when he was in high school and like got to know people who work for the New York Times, and like all of the, and I was like, you’re, you’re kidding me, right? Like so I started calling them Whitlock letters, but the idea essentially is that people are always willing to talk about themselves on some level, right? Especially if you’re not asking them for anything. If what you and I, and I did this in the process of trying to figure out what I wanted to transition to, I would just say, hey, I think I might be interested in, let’s say, family law for example. You know you do family law I’d really love to be able to talk to you about what the kind of pros and cons are and what I might be able to do in order to try to get more experience trying to figure out whether this is something that I should want, you know, could do for a living essentially.|
|01:10:10 Bradley||So, my last guest was, I might have mentioned it earlier was Native American, and he proactively offered some specific advice for Native American students. I got to thinking, well, what could I ask you for, if you had any specific advice and I actually thought of two different groups. One is specific advice for those interested in combining law and psychology, and then the second group is any black or African American students who are interested in psychology as well. So, any thoughts on either one of those?|
|01:10:41 Tammi||Uhm, I guess. What’s true about my trajectory is, uhm, I tried to pay attention, but I didn’t necessarily follow what everybody else was doing. And so, to that I kind of meant like listen to what your inner voice is telling you, especially for people like I said, you know, my parents were pretty supportive with the idea of education, a lot of people’s parents aren’t just because it, it is, it is a sacrifice. You are not making as much money as you could be making. If you were, you know, not in Graduate School. But if this is something that you want to do. Basically, don’t let anybody tell you anything different and the other part of it is, I, I, I, especially as somebody who is black, I can’t imagine an environment where you aren’t going to run into things like micro-aggressions and some things are going to be difficult, and so for me what matters for me is that I know why I’m here and I know what I want to get out of it, and I have figured out ways that I have a level of autonomy that academia provides that I don’t necessarily always have to care about what’s going on over there. It’s not to say that it doesn’t impact my life, I think that, um, certainly my parents, they, as I said were, my dad was the first black detective and for a long time the only black detective in our, in that Department. My mom was a county extension agency, a County Extension Agent who was the head of 4H in our county and certainly the only black woman and first black woman to do that. I think that their mindset was very much like OK, we’ll just be better than everybody else. And you’ve heard that a lot, and I think that there is some truth to that, but I think that what is difficult to overcome is the idea of how much cognitive space you have to take up with people who are not familiar with your culture or how you operate or what’s good for you essentially, but, um, I, I think that that’s something that you kind of have to deal with, no matter what the career is, and so I feel like it’s about those other aspects of how you spend their day that are really important to kind of help you overcome those potentially negative aspects of what may be involved in your career. And then to try to get as many people as you can to, kind of, join you along the way.|
|01:12:58 Bradley||Mm, Hmm…very good advice. The other thing I know that you mentioned earlier that one professor who was I, I suspect, a little older and thinking that it was factual with dealing with the IQ stuff. I think one of the things that is changing since I was in Graduate School is the nation as a whole in the United States have made some progress in terms of accepting, recognizing and, and becoming advocates for culturally diverse and, and, and helping people throughout many different fields. I’m not even talking about psychology, but the other thing that I’m leading up to is the real fact of the older professors are getting closer to retirement are getting replaced by the younger ones, and you’re getting the fresh views, the fresh values into the system, and I think that’s more beneficial as well.|
|01:13:53 Tammi||Yeah, but I would say that so, uhm. One thing that I think has kind of really helped me a lot, not just my career in my life is, a believe it or not, so I attended this program with the George Bush School. Not, HW Bush, not W George HW Bush was the head of the CIA at one time, and he had kind of like this cultural program at Texas A&M that I participated in. One of the things that we did that was kind of kind of their version of diversity training, which I thought was very good was, um, via the Anthropology Department and they essentially made up a culture and, you know, presented this culture to us in a big room and we had to figure it out and we had to try to like interact people with whom we did not speak the language and try to interpret what we thought the behavior was of these people who were doing things that were foreign to us where, kind of, some things were, kind of like, what we thought there would be, but other things weren’t and the whole point of the exercise was to help us understand that what we thought, the lens that we were looking through, was just not the way that other people would be able to see things right? Number one, and then number two was that you are absolutely going to make mistakes and you are going to be wrong. How do you try to remedy that and make apologies for it as quickly as possible? Because if you’re not willing to be wrong then you’re not going to grow at the end of the day and it, and it does feel very scary. And it does feel very vulnerable, but I feel like that is one thing that has kind of helped me the most in terms of not just working with, um, people who are American and white with just everybody who doesn’t look like me or doesn’t eat the food that I do. It’s more like you know what I’m gonna try the food I, I don’t know what it is, I can’t pronounce it, it doesn’t matter, you know, like am I am I gonna I feel like what the, the thing that distinguishes a lot of people who are more successful in terms of inner people who are not themselves is just the willingness to put themselves in a position where they are the only person. That’s certainly more common of people who are, you know, in minority groups, but how many particularly white Americans purposefully put themselves in positions where they are the minority? Not very many.|
|01:16:09 Bradley||And not only that, but those who don’t travel outside the United States really are seeing, you know, life with blinders on, I believe.|
|01:16:17 Tammi||Oh, absolutely, and I will tell you the biggest eye-opener for me, particularly as a Texan, so like both, I like a 4th or 5th generation Texan, depending on how you calculate it, right? And everybody else knows you have Texas history. So, I studied abroad in Mexico and took Mexican history, and I was like, huh? Like it’s literally like to, to, be, to grow up in a place where you have monuments for the exact same wars to go see the other side of the war.|
|01:16:44 Tammi||Like to see like the actual other side. Oh, you know we stole their land. Yep, that sounds about right. It‘s literally the same information told from a different way, I thought was very eye opening and it’s, it was kind of like I said you have to consider the fact that you could be wrong and it’s certainly wrong about somebody else’s culture and I think that you at least what I try to tell my students is there is such thing as true ignorance. It could be true ignorance and the thing is you just have to figure out how to quickly overcome it, and I think we have to just be OK with each other’s ignorance, you can’t stay in it right? You can’t, you can’t feel like that’s a comfortable position, but if you don’t have exposure you don’t know, you don’t know and that has to be OK on some level.|
|01:17:23 Bradley||I’m going to share one quick story and I only have a couple questions left. I appreciate the time. One quick story related to going down to Mexico and, and studying their history. I recently went over to Vietnam and I visited a site that actually talked about the Vietnam War from their perspective. I was the only white person there. I was the only tall, I’m 6 foot 4 and so I not only literally stood out, but you know in terms of my color but we saw this video and we saw the history and there were certain points during the video where the native Vietnamese would turn around and try to look at my reaction to what I was seeing to see if I was getting mad, upset, I was just sitting there watching and then we, we talked afterwards about it from my perspective and their perspective, and that’s how you actually go outside of your comfort zone and learn a little bit more and become you know, a little bit more down to earth and and, you open up your eyes, and, and I had, a I had an advisor in my Graduate School who would always say you should always push back the frontiers of ignorance and if you think about that for a second, that makes a total sense. Get out of your comfort zone and I, I just wanted to share that because as soon as you said, shared your story, I thought of that exactly right away, so.|
|01:18:42 Tammi||Yeah, and I think that’s really what it’s about. Getting outside of your comfort zone like if you, if you have, if you just lived in the idea that everything around me feels familiar and comfortable, you’re probably not doing it right.|
|01:18:53 Bradley||Right, definitely. Now, the last few questions are kind of fun questions I ask all of my guests, so the first one is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why?|
|01:19:03 Tammi||Well, I really want to talk about my favorite curse word, but I’m not gonna. But I would say, uh, my favorite kind of, ah, term slash theory is really, you know, kind of Procedural Justice Theory, but really kind of this idea of legitimacy, and trust, and confidence. I kind of am really interested in kind of obsessed with the idea that on some level you have to be able to convince people that they can trust you. And what are the kinds of things that you can do, say, how can you operate in ways that are honest and true and transparent, but in ways that can actually, you know, build somebody’s ability to be able to trust you. Especially in this environment, I think about it a lot in the news when people talk about the Supreme Court and like stacking the Supreme Court or you know who appointed the Supreme Court. Really, what it boils down to is, do you believe this person is going to be fair? Do you believe this person is going to, to, to listen to both sides and to, to make a decision to the best of their ability? Is there is the quality of their decision making good and are they biased in any way? And I think we hear people talking about that a lot, but not talking about like, well, how do you change that? What is what does something look like that you could sort of signal and demonstrate that you are somebody who is making an effort to try to be legitimate?|
|01:20:23 Bradley||And it all, and it all comes down to perception as well.|
|01:20:28 Tammi||Yeah, yeah, I think we’ve seen, what we’ve seen is basically like not very many efforts being made to change perceptions or perceptions for certain groups of people and not others.|
|01:20:28 Bradley||Mm, hmm, I agree. What is something new that you have learned recently?|
|01:20:44 Tammi||I don’t know. I was thinking about this. Usually, um, the new thing for me has to do with food. You know, like trying new foods or something like that. And I, you know, I, I guess it would be one thing that is true about me is I will try it because just because I feel like people work hard. And, uhm, you know if they’re going to offer it to me that I’m going to take it, and I feel like probably the new thing is, I’ve just tried a lot of different types of Chinese food and then here we have lots of Mexican restaurants and reservations. So, I like, you know, Indian fry bread like those types of things I think are new and different and I like that a lot.|
|01:21:22 Bradley||Good, good. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?|
|01:21:30 Tammi||So, I didn’t think about that anyway, like I used to say things like if I win the lottery, I’ll get a PhD in psychology. And so, I did that. So probably what I would do is just fund a lot of work so that we don’t have to spend all of our time applying for grants and things like that. But other than that, I still like the new and the different. I still like the different experiences and so I kind of like the idea of just picking out a place on the map and trying it out and, and seeing what happens. So, I probably do something like that.|
|01:22:01 Bradley||There was one last question. Is there anything else that you would like to discuss or bring up in this podcast?|
|01:22:08 Tammi||No, I mean I, I uhm wish people good luck. I think that, I hope that they have taken what people say in this podcast to heart, but not as if it is the defining feature of their own lives. We all have our own experiences, right? And we can only tell you from our perspectives. And so, um, but I hope you can take from it what is beneficial to you and leave the rest behind.|
|01:22:33 Bradley||Tammy, I really appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and your experiences. Thanks again for taking the time. I really enjoyed our discussion. I’m going to go back and, and actually I transcribe all these as well and so I’m, I’m going to relive this whole thing again, but I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your life and your academic journey.|
|01:22:55 Tammi||Thank you, my pleasure.|
|01:22:56 Bradley||Alright, have a good night.|