Starting out her own college journey as an engineering student, Associate Professor Rachel Dinero made a switch after her second year to study psychology. She realized that understanding why people do the things they do fascinated her more than knowing how mechanics work.

After obtaining her bachelor's degree, Dinero continued her educational journey by getting her doctorate, conducting research and teaching. "When I was looking for a teaching job, I looked at only small teaching schools. I went to a very large college, where there were no advisors. My classes had 200-500 students in them. That wasn't the kind of college experience I was interested in being on the other side of - I really wanted to be in an environment where I was going to interact with students, be a part of the campus community, and where teaching was a top priority. That doesn’t happen at a lot of schools," comments Dinero.

Choosing to Teach at Caz College
Visiting Cazenovia College during a Central New York winter in February, Dinero was a little surprised by the amount of snow and cold weather she encountered. The frigid temperatures outside, however, were countered by the warmth the college offered during her visit.

"Seeing the warmth of this campus and the relationships the faculty have with the students was like nothing I'd seen at any other of the small schools I looked at," says Dinero. "It really wasn't a question for me when I was looking at which college to choose. It was pretty clear after I was here, that I was going to come to Caz!"

Dinero also appreciates the collaboration among faculty, especially because this carries over to the relationships faculty have with their students. "I think it makes the programs better, it makes the individual classes better, and it makes the students' experience better," says Dinero.

For Dinero, Cazenovia's size also contributes to a positive experience for students. "Because we have a small campus – small classes, high faculty to the number of students that we have here – it's very easy for every student to be treated like an individual, to be treated like a person," explains Dinero.

Teaching Philosophy
When asked about her teaching philosophy, Dinero replies that it's imperative for students to be excited about the material. For every class, Dinero's goal is to make the material as interesting as possible for students so they want to be in the class and are motivated to learn.

"Teaching today's students is great! I love the fact that when we're having a discussion in class and we have a question we aren't sure we have the answer to - we can look it up!" said Dinero. "The connectedness students have to the world is so much greater now than it was before. As professors, we can use this to our advantage, and teach them how to evaluate all of that information that they are inundated with every day."

The Importance of Advisors for Students


Faculty Spotlight - Rachel Dinero Advising

Advising plays a major role in student success at Cazenovia College and most faculty members serve as an advisor to students. Students communicate their vision of what they want to do after college, and faculty work with them to recommend the classes and internship opportunities they can pursue that will help them learn the skills necessary for their chosen career path.

"My role as an advisor here is a very big part of what I do. I think having faculty who are also advisors gives our students a huge advantage because faculty know their strengths and have a good sense for who they are and what their goals are. Every semester when we meet with students for advising, it's really a continuation of conversations that we're having with them on a regular basis in the classroom," comments Dinero.

"Cazenovia College provides a phenomenally unique educational experience for our students. We offer so many pieces that many colleges offer some of – but not all. The fact that we have all of them is really amazing," says Dinero. "Everything from our First Year Program – which provides students with an introduction to college, the commitment to one-on-one advising, assistance with internships, and the rigorous senior projects."

Senior Capstone
The Senior Capstone provides Cazenovia College psychology students with the opportunity to choose a research topic that interests them and apply everything they learned throughout their four years into one overall project. Many students then present their research at conferences, use the experience on graduate applications, or use it as a starting point to continue research after graduation. Senior capstones are an incredibly unique and valuable part of students’ experiences.

When asked about an experience that solidified her desire to teach, Dinero responded that every experience she has with a student strengthens why she loves to teach. One such experience that she remembers is from when she first started at Cazenovia College. "I was working with seniors on their senior capstones, and I had a student who was initially terrified at the idea of doing a senior project. He did not believe he would be able to conduct research - it seemed too advanced."

Dinero worked closely with the student throughout his senior capstone project. In the end, the student not only completed the project, but did exceedingly well and even presented his work at a regional conference. "Seeing him on the other side of it - feeling so proud of what he accomplished and talking to professors and other researchers in the field about his work – reaffirmed why I've always wanted to teach. Seeing that those kind of things happen here is the icing on the cake," beams Dinero.

Message for Parents
"As a parent, speaking to other parents – your child is going to get a good education here and they are going to be taken care of," adds Dinero. "This is a place where parents can send their children and know they are going to be okay. No matter what starting point your child is at, they are going to thrive here. They are going to be successful and they are going to excel beyond anything that they could have imagined, and anything you could have imaged."

Learn more about Rachel Dinero through our Faculty Spotlight video.