Faculty Spotlight Series – Professor Gail Sahar

Name: Gail Sahar
Position: Professor of Psychology
Years at Wheaton: 26
Hometown: Sequim, Washington
Education: BA from University of Southern California (though I also attended the University of Rochester and University of Washington, each for a year); MA and Ph.D. from UCLA

What one thing do you miss most from campus?
I mostly miss interacting with my students and colleagues in person. Though my spring semester students did an amazing job of keeping our discussions going, there is nothing that can replace being in a room together, batting ideas about, talking about psychological theories, or reflecting on how they fit with our own experiences and philosophies of life. I also miss laughing in the hallway with my colleagues.

What are you currently watching on TV or reading?
I just finished binge watching Dead to Me, which I found really engaging and pretty creepy. Like a lot of Wheaton faculty, I’m reading two books to prepare for reading group meetings: White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo) and How to be an Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi). For my research, I’m reading Neither Liberal nor Conservative (Donald Kinder & Nahan Kalmoe). For my own enjoyment, I’m reading Sula (Toni Morrison), which was a gift from my daughter.

What is the best thing about being in quarantine?
Forgive me for getting a little philosophical here, but it has reminded me of the essential things in life. I am not a homebody. I really like going out, traveling, and just being in different places. But since that’s not been possible, I am appreciating the small things, like the sounds of birds singing in our yard, the pleasure of baking a good loaf of bread, long phone conversations with my daughter or a friend, and enjoying the beauty of nature. Being in quarantine has reminded me that there is a lot we want that we don’t really need.

What is your favorite event to attend at Wheaton College?
Graduation! I have attended well over 20, but I still love them. There is so much excitement in the air. I love meeting the families of my students and seeing the pride on their faces. I love the yearly rituals, such as the students proceeding between two long rows of faculty, stopping for a hug and congrats. My favorite part though might be the bagpipes!

What living person do you most admire?
Angela Davis

What do you enjoy outside of work?
My favorite way to spend a day is to pack a picnic and head to the woods for a long hike with my dog or to the beach. I do yoga, and though I can only take remote classes right now, I can take more of them than I normally do. I also love to cook. I cook a pretty serious dinner nearly every night. It’s an outlet for creativity and provides immediate gratification, unlike most of my work, which takes a long time to come to fruition. I like gardening too.

Do you have pets? What are they?
I have a 16-year-old cat named Siegfried that I have had since he was a tiny kitten. If he could talk, I’m pretty sure he would say a lot of sarcastic things. I also have a mixed-breed dog named Ellie. She looks like a very long black lab. Both were rescues. Ellie’s full name is Eleanor Rigby because she came from a litter of puppies all named after Beatles songs. She is the perfect dog in every way except that she does not like other dogs. Fortunately, she does like cats.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Belize. I’ve gone twice and am dying to go again. A beautiful place with great beaches, good food, and lovely people. We often take trips in which we are spending a lot of time sightseeing, going to museums, etc., but in Belize, all you need to do is pick your beach chair for the day and bring a good book.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I really enjoy music and wish I had learned to play the piano or guitar. They say it’s never too late, but I’m skeptical.

What is something surprising about you that most people don’t know?
I grew up in a rural part of Washington state with lots of animals. I was a 4-H kid and spent a lot of time caring for and riding my horse both recreationally and in horse shows. I have always been crazy about animals. When I was a child, I wanted to be an animal psychologist to help them with their problems. Then I discovered social psychology and decided to work on human problems–in my opinion we have a lot more of them!