Professor Deborah McMakin headshot

Dr. Deborah McMakin

Professor, Psychology & Philosophy and Coordinator, Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Deborah McMakin

Dr. Deborah McMakin ’92 has been a professor in the Psychology and Philosophy Department at Framingham State University since 1998. She teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Psychology of Development, Abnormal Psychology, Group Dynamics and Research Methods. Dr. McMakin coordinates the FSU Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and the Inside-Out Prison Exchange programs. In addition, she is the co-advisor to the Psi Chi Honor Society.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at your alma mater?

The students, who work so hard, and the resources for faculty to pursue their passion for teaching and scholarship. I am a first-generation college student, and a lot of our students are as well. Students invest so much time and effort just to be here; they are working to finance their education and trying to do well by their families. In addition to our students’ commitment to their education, I appreciate the encouragement and flexibility to pursue teaching and scholarship interests, both within my department and across the University overall. The Inside-Out program is a good example. When I learned about it at a faculty retreat in 2014, I told the chair of our department that I wanted to participate in a training so I could teach a college class in a correctional facility. A few weeks later, I was on a plane heading to a weeklong training program.

Psychology has long been one of the most popular majors at FSU. Why do you think that is?

I think a lot of students enter college with a desire to learn about why people behave, think and feel the way they do, and are therefore drawn to theories and research about human behavior. When students participate in class and seminar meetings, internships, independent studies, as well as academic club activities, they encounter many opportunities to pose questions and then conduct research to explore answers. Within the Psychology department, faculty have worked hard to create many opportunities for students to pursue their research interests and present their findings at state conferences. As a professor and an advisor, it is most gratifying to see students develop their writing, analytical and interpersonal skills as they pursue their interests. It’s highly rewarding to see students develop those skills and confidence as they move toward their career and personal goals.

How does the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program work?

The Inside-Outside program is an international program for institutions of higher education. The program brings 10 incarcerated students (insiders) together with 10 students who are not incarcerated (outsiders) to take an undergraduate course together. Consistent with FSU’s mission, Inside-Out is grounded in the belief that people can learn from one another and that transformative education leads to social change. Classes are held within the walls of a correctional facility, and course meetings are held once a week. FSU has offered courses at MCI-Framingham, a women’s prison, and at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction in Billerica, a men’s prison. There are three faculty trained to offer Inside-Out courses.

What do you think inmates and our students get out of the program?

I consistently hear from all students that Inside-Out provides them with unique ways to learn outside of their comfort zones. Incarcerated (inside) students face their fears of being judged, as people and as students. They renew or begin a commitment to education, which in turn can yield a positive ripple effect on families and communities.  For example, incarcerated students talk with their parents and children about their studies. Similarly, outside students confront the stereotypes and misconceptions associated with living in an age of mass incarceration. Students often find they have more in common with one another than they originally thought. Incarcerated students, for instance, are often just as busy within the walls of the correctional facilities and work release programs as students who take courses on campus. Increasingly, our students are looking for experiences outside the traditional classroom, and Inside-Out offers a unique opportunity for transformative learning.