Psychology professor tells audience to take risks at Last Lecture

This year’s Last Lecture Series kicked off Sept. 2 with a speech by Professor Dennis Schell, in which he revealed to his audience that he was once an ordained minister. The series gives professors the opportunity to address students as though they were giving the last lecture of their career.

In his lecture, Schell, a psychology professor at GW for the last decade, spoke about the importance of defining oneself and not wavering in one’s principles.

“Do not let others define who you are,” Schell said.

Schell presented anecdotes from his own life to illustrate both the risks and rewards for using one’s own principles and self-identity in all aspects of life.

“The risk is anger, pressure to conform, rejection,” he said. “But the reward is to be all you can be.”

Schell said that he took a risk when he decided to be a minister at a parish in the Baltimore area. He ended up meeting his wife there.

Schell also spoke about how he demanded a job as a cook with his work-study program in college. He became the lead baker in the kitchen for three and a half years.

Another risk Schell said he took is when he left the ministry to teach, despite his father’s threat to write Schell out of his will – something that did come to fruition when his father passed away.

However, Schell said he doesn’t regret his decision to teach.

“In one sense I won because I did not allow my father to dictate what I ultimately wanted to be,” he said.

Schell said that he uses principled thinking every day, from when he chose to work with death row inmates at a mental health center, to inviting his mother-in-law to live with him and his wife.

“Any human being has a right to be respected, regardless of what they have done,” Schell said.

Students were impressed with the social scientist’s lecture.

“I like how he applied a scientific procedure to life,” senior Christina Guliadis said.

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