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Embracing Empathy — Elgrie Hurd Teaches Practical Lessons in Psychology

Last updated on July 26, 2023

Elgrie Hurd has been sharing practical, real-world lessons with Dallas College students since 2016 when he was hired at the Brookhaven Campus.

Hurd imparts on his psychology and sociology students the importance of having empathy for other people’s experiences.

“We live in a very polarized country, and I think one of the reasons our country stays so polarized is we don’t understand other people’s perspectives outside of our own,” he said. “In my classes, regardless of what I’m teaching, my hope is that students will — while they may not agree with a different perspective — have better context as to why that other perspective exists, and why we may embrace that perspective.”

From Middle School to College Classrooms

Hurd completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees first in sociology before returning to school to study industrial organizational psychology. Currently, he’s working on his doctorate in leadership studies at Dallas Baptist University. His experience spans industries: corporate, nonprofit and higher education.

But his teaching career actually began in the middle school classroom of his hometown in California.

“If you could pack the college experience into a middle school experience, I think that would be the perfect storm for me,” he said. “I think middle school students are awesome. And to be able to teach where I grew up, and even to have a relative of mine in my class, was real full circle for me.”

From there, Hurd relocated to Texas and taught high school. His classes included everything from psychology to sociology, reading, U.S. history and English. After working as an adjunct at other local colleges and universities, he was hired at Brookhaven — teaching a 7:30 a.m. class.

But his students showed up every morning, a testament to Hurd’s ability to engage them in the material and meet them where they were. For Hurd, the first step was not assuming everyone who was taking the class was going to be a psychologist.

“I tried to be as intentional as I could to create a learning environment where we talk about how psychology can be applied in real life in the real world,” he explained. “That’s been my selling point for the duration of teaching classes: How can this be applied to someone who may never take a psychology class ever again?”

Dallas College Proud

In his classes, Hurd is also a strong advocate for the community college experience. Community college is important, he believes, because it makes education accessible to everyone.

“What I love about teaching at Dallas College is anyone can come here,” he said.

There’s value in Dallas County residents — regardless of their background — being able to take classes designed specifically for the local community, he says.

“Community colleges are one of the most underappreciated jewels in higher education. You have small class sizes, you get the chance to know your instructors, you get the chance to really be part of the community if you so choose. Going to a community college shouldn’t be seen as an insignificant or less prestigious experience in higher education.”

His goal is for his students to take pride in their Dallas College experience.

“I think it’s important that students be proud that they go to Dallas College. And I think it’s important that as employees we give students a reason to be proud to be part of Dallas College. That we give the community a reason to be proud of supporting Dallas College. And I think our everyday challenge is to make sure that we are doing our best work to support the students, to support the community and to support each other. That’s what makes us a community college.

“I have one of the most privileged jobs in higher education. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its challenges, but I get to encourage students to think critically, to engage in current events, and I think that’s a powerful thing that everyone does not have the opportunity to do.”

This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.

Published inFaculty Profile