We want to congratulate Dr. Robert Beshara for his appointment as Director of the Bachelor of Integrated Studies program.
Dr. Beshara is in his fourth year with the Integrated Studies program. During that time, he has introduced two new courses: Psychology & Film and Media Psychology. He has also led an effort to create a new Media & Art emphasis (just coming to fruition), which will provide a bachelor’s path for students who have attained their Associate of Art in Film and Digital Media Arts.
In congratulating Dr. Beshara on his new appointment, Dr. Ivan Lopez Hurtado, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs wrote, “His credentials, experience and talents will be instrumental in moving our academic programs to new frontiers.”
Dr. Beshara is originally from Cairo, Egypt. He earned his B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Music from American University in Cairo and his M.F.A. in Independent Film & Digital Imaging from Governors State University in Illinois. His interest in psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology began during his undergraduate work, and came to the forefront after he completed his M.F.A. He went on to obtain his Ph.D. in Psychology (Consciousness & Society) from the University of West Georgia.
Dr. Beshara was drawn to Northern because of the interdisciplinary nature of the Integrated Studies Program. In addition to taking courses in their own emphasis in Humanities, Crime and Justice Studies, Psychology or Self-Design, students participate in a series of core seminars based on the Socratic method known as “The Dialogues.” In Dialogues courses, instructors function as facilitators who pose questions, lead discussions and help students construct their own enlarged understandings of foundational texts in different disciplines. The goal is to teach students to investigate ideas and solve problems that are too broad or complex to be dealt with from a single tradition, point of view or discipline.
“Obviously, dialogue is the central value. That’s what guides us in terms of the philosophy and ethics of what we do,” Beshara said. “The dialogical approach is something that we value in all our courses. It is about valuing multiple voices and not being afraid to speak.”
This approach helps students develop critical thinking skills, as does a class in critical thinking, which is required for some Integrated Studies majors.
“Critical thinking involves thinking through difficult material and being able to articulate your thoughts in relationship to this material,” Beshara said. “At the end of the day, we don’t tell our students what to think. We provide them with the tools to think for themselves. And that’s what’s important.”
Beshara is looking forward to helping to shape the Integrated Studies program and making sure it meets students’ needs, as well as implementing new initiatives like the Media & Arts degree. He is also excited about efforts to collaborate with different institutions. The department recently signed an MOU with Southwestern College in Santa Fe which will facilitate a smooth transition from Northern to Southwestern’s clinically oriented graduate programs.
“I’m excited about making sure that we offer exciting programs for students, which would be reflected in the courses we offer as well as the instructors that work here,” Beshara said. “What we’re interested in is making sure that the program meets the needs of students. That’s ultimately what it’s about. So decisions are made to streamline the courses being offered and scheduling courses, to make the whole process flow in a smoother way.”
After this semester, Dr. Beshara will be teaching fewer classes to accommodate his new responsibilities as program Director, but teaching remains a priority for him.
“I’ll be teaching less because I’ll be doing more administrative work, but that’s where my heart is,” Beshara said. “I love the fact that you can have a positive influence on someone’s life, and that they can learn and use that knowledge in an empowering way moving forward in their lives.”