USC Union Faculty Spotlight

Our third spotlight on our faculty is Emily Schafer! Dr. Schafer began teaching at USC Union in the fall of 2019. Prior to entering academia, she worked as a psychotherapist. Dr. Schafer has experience writing trauma-informed curricula and was the co-founder of a mentoring nonprofit for young children in poverty. Previously, Emily and her husband, Brandon, pioneered a program with the city of Virginia Beach for teenage girls in foster care with exceptionally high needs. Dr. Schafer was transformed by the experience of mothering ten traumatized daughters. She is the biological mother of two and speaks a little Russian from her time living and teaching in Ukraine. She enjoys being in nature, traveling, running, and celebrating every person’s journey toward wholeness and healing.

• What is your role at UofSC Union, and how long have you worked here?

I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology here at UofSC Union. I serve on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, the Student Care and Outreach Team, and am starting a new campus club: Bantam Health and Fitness. I also participate in the Research club and serve as a faculty advisor to students. I came on faculty in the Fall of 2019.

What brought you to UofSC Union?

As a Clemson PhD graduate, I was so glad to come back from the dark side. I attended the SC Honors College at UofSC Columbia for Undergrad, so being back in garnet and black feels like home.

I was excited to join a campus that is growing and contributing to the surrounding community. My mom and grandmother worked in the nursing field, so I am honored to be teaching human development to our future nurses at UofSC Union.

• What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is being a witness to the growth and expansion of my students. I love being a cheerleader for young adults and nontraditional students as they question and evaluate how they view the world.
I enjoy fueling curiosity and debate, as these are corner stones to critical thinking and civil discourse. I appreciate any small role I can play in moving someone towards health and wholeness and a balanced, happy life. I also love the encouraging atmosphere here among my colleagues.

• What is the most challenging part of your job?

The hardest part of my job currently is teaching primarily remotely. I really enjoy interacting with students and creating an engaging classroom experience. CoVid-19 has hampered that in-person experience, but I am looking forward to moving back into the classroom in the Spring.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is it important?

I have two primary research areas: Childhood Trauma and Resilience and The Impact of Racism. I want the public to know that childhood trauma and racism are both public health crises.

The stress that builds up in the brains and bodies of children experiencing neglect or abuse follows them for their entire life, especially when they don’t have a safe, caring adult to whom they can turn. Their developing brains can be hindered by the intense levels of stress hormones that prevent higher level thinking. This can lead to compounding issues of academic decline, mental health disorders, substance use or abuse, difficulty obtaining and keeping employment, and ultimately early physical decline and death. Children need our protection and care. By providing resources to stressed families, we are helping their children as well as our community. Consider becoming a mentor!

• What are your hobbies/interests (other than making UofSC Union great)?

I love to be outdoors – running, hiking, swimming, even camping if it’s not raining. Before CoVid, I loved outdoor community events, live music, comedy, restaurants, and theater. Now, the hobbies I participate in the most are running, reading, and an occasional outdoor, socially distanced live music event.

I love spending time with my kids. I’m here to tell you that middle schoolers and teenagers get a bad rap – they are hilarious, wise, kind, and insightful.

• What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?

My grandfather (who dropped out of high school) told me, “Education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you.” As a first generation college graduate, and the first in my entire family line to earn a PhD, I have taken that advice to heart.

The other advice I try to live by is, “You can’t take it with you.” This reminds me to live generously and to create experiences and memories rather than try to accumulate meaningless things.

•Which authors or books have influenced you the most?

I love reading so much. Some authors who have influenced me are:
Henri Nouwen (The Wounded Healer); Dr. Bruce Perry (Born for Love); Irvin Yalom (Love’s Executioner), Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score).

I really love a book that makes me laugh out loud and think:
Tina Fey’s Bossypants; Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime; Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

And I love classics:
Toni Morrison’s Beloved; Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre; Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

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