O'Fallon Progress

Someone You Should Know: O’Fallon resident Boysen fixture at McKendree University

McKendree’s fight song is played at the White House

During the national champion McKendree women's bowling team visit to Washington, D.C., a band at the White House played the school's fight song.
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During the national champion McKendree women's bowling team visit to Washington, D.C., a band at the White House played the school's fight song.

Guy Boysen, a professor of psychology at McKendree University, is known for involving his students as research collaborators.

Boysen, who lives in O’Fallon, was selected for the university’s William Norman Grandy Faculty Award, which was given by the Alumni Association at the undergraduate commencement in May.

The annual award recognizes commitment to students and the ideals promoted by the university. It is named for the former professor of philosophy and religion, dean of students, academic dean and interim president from 1952-1968. The announcement may have surprised Boysen, but not really anyone familiar with his work.

“A signature characteristic of Dr. Boysen’s work is that he conducts much of his research collaboratively with students,” noted Alumni Association President Ryan Furniss, who presented the 38th annual Grandy Award. “He has co-authored several journal articles with students and co-presented or mentored students to give presentations at professional conferences.”

Boysen was recognized with the United Methodist Church Exemplary Teaching Award at McKendree in 2017. A prolific scholar, he has written more than 50 articles published in research journals and three books. He has taught at the university since 2012.

The latest award shocked him.

“It was so unexpected. It was a surprise! My wife knew, but I had no idea. It’s quite an honor. It’s very special to be counted among them,” he said about the previous 38.

While the commencement took place, a torrential downpour occurred. The tradition is for the students to be gathered on the grounds their first day of school and their last. Only this time, umbrellas and ponchos were the accessories.

“Commencement means a lot to the faculty, too. And this one was cold and wet, so it was definitely memorable. And I won’t forget it,” he said.

“McKendree is a special place. It has a sense of community. You get to know your students and they know you,” he said. “There is a family feeling.”

Overall, students say Boysen’s classes are efficient, well planned, relevant, challenging and rewarding. He teaches introduction to psychology, abnormal psychology, psychological testing and measurement and research methods. Boysen also is adviser to the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society.

His two primary areas of professional expertise are the study of stigma toward persons with mental illness and the study of effective teaching and learning techniques. Boysen has given numerous presentations to professional audiences.

His new study about the use of trigger warnings in education is being published in the American Psychological Association journal “Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.” He was assisted by three students — Raina Isaacs and Sydnie Markowski, recent graduates, and senior Lori Tretter, who conducted three experimental studies in which people learning about sensitive topics either received or did not receive warnings about the material.

They collected information for the database. Then, they learned how to collaborate and put it together.

Boysen said they found warnings did not reduce people’s negative emotional reactions to the topics, nor did they increase performance on tests of comprehension. However, trigger warnings did significantly increase people’s belief warnings are necessary for sensitive topics.

“It’s really a very interesting area,” he said.

This is Boysen’s fifth publication on the topic of trigger warnings. The students conducted the research as part of the research practicum course and presented the initial results at the McKendree Academic Excellence Celebration in April.

Boysen earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University, a small liberal arts college in Collegeville, Minnesota, and both master’s and doctoral degrees from Iowa State University.

Before coming to McKendree, he taught at the State University of New York in Freedonia, from 2006-2012. During his undergraduate years, he worked as a mental health worker in a group home in St. Cloud, Minn. Boysen thought he wanted to be a counselor, but then in graduate school, his interest turned to teaching.

“Everything about behavior was just fascinating to me,” he said.

Connecting with students

Boysen obviously connects with students, as he involves them early in the research process.

“That’s actually a good selling point (for class registration). It has real value in education, especially if you are studying a social science,” he said. “It’s a big part of my psychology classes. We actually do research their entire college studies. It’s a good experience for both researchers and mentors too.”

The students get a taste of various aspects of the field, and then can explore more in independent studies, he said.

And it’s not just research. Their communication skills are sharpened by developing better writing and oral presentation skills. Some of the students present at conferences.

Boysen’s research is ongoing. He thinks the students have been successful because of their diligence and their energy. They became as passionate about it as he does.

And that fires him up, too.

“It just gets better and better. I’m a psychology nerd. I love everything about the subject. If I’m not testing, I’m reading about it,” he said. “I will always involve the students in research.”

This summer Boysen is keeping busy. When he’s not teaching, he’s attending conferences or working on a research project.

Boysen’s work, additional biographical info

Below are additional links to his work:

To learn more about Boysen, people can visit:

Getting to know Guy Boysen

Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: “Life is grounds for being passionate. It’s a good reminder to be invested in the things in life that have meaning to you, whatever there are.”

Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?

A: “I would have loved to have gone out for a fine meal with Anthony Bourdain before he left us. I learned a lot about food and life from his writings and TV shows.”

Q: What is the last book that you read?

A: “I am in the middle of ‘The Path to Power,’ which is biography of LBJ that focuses on his younger years in Texas. He was quite a trouble maker in his youth, so it is a fascinating read.”

Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?

A: “I am a music fan, so I go to as many concerts as I can. I am going to see Beck, Vampire Weekend, Dave Matthews Band, the Avett Brothers, and more just this summer alone.”

Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?

A: “My desk is clean and tidy. It is like your kitchen, you should always work clean.”

Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?

A: “I wanted to be a pilot when I was small. But I have been saying that I was going to be a psychologist since I was in high school. I never came up with a better answer.”

Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?

A: “According to students, I am very organized. They appreciate that they always know what is expected of them and what we are doing when in my courses.”

Q: What irritates you most?

A: “People who drive the speed limit (or slower) in the left lane of the highway.”

Q: What type of music do you listen to?

A: “I have broad tastes. I listen to everything from punk rock to classical. My all-time favorite, however, is Bob Dylan. He represents my broad tastes well because he has done just about every type of music from folk, to rock, to standards.”

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: “I love having the freedom to learn about the topic that is most fascinating in the world to me — psychology. And I get to share what I learn with others in the classroom and in research publications.”

Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?

A: “Research shows that experiences give people more lasting happiness than things, so I would be going on a lot of fancy vacations with my wife.”