I grew up in a not so religious American Jewish household in a heavily Orthodox section of Brooklyn in the 1980s. I felt disconnected from my culture and outcast from the community, even though it surrounded me. Only a few generations removed from an Orthodox ancestry, I have learned more about my great grandparents’ Eastern European roots, their (cultural) arrival in the U.S., and in particular, my grandmother’s early life growing up on Lower East Side of NYC. She lived through the Great Depression, the fall of Nazi Germany, and was a staunch advocate for civil rights including women’s empowerment and community activism. She died not to long into 5776, and her 92 years can be characterized by the image of a physically small 85-year-old great-grandmother taking a city bus to diverse areas of Brooklyn to assist with campaigning on the street leading up to the 44th Presidential election.
In this age of global connectivity and technology-driven collective knowledge, what it means to be a human is fundamentally changing. We must work to understand how these changes are both a function of, and contribute to, our fastpaced, instant-access world. I never had the opportunity to fully understand my Jewish identity during my childhood, and I can only wonder how I might be different today if technology and connectivity were so omnipresent three decades ago.
Life can be chunked into stages and at this point, I exist in a reality that allows me to impact not just my three children, but also the next cohort of change-makers and leaders of the world. I have worked my way through a semblance of a lowlevel managerial career, into a world of counseling and crisis intervention for at-risk children, and now predominantly university research and teaching students at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels. To a flaw, I have a passion for this work that transcends the standard 9-5 job, and although it may sometimes appear as workaholism, that is an oversimplification that serves no justice regarding why I do what I do and to the extent that I do it.
I have the privilege of working at Norfolk State University as a professor of psychology. I teach introductory level psychology courses, oversee the undergraduate practicum students getting real-world experience in the field, and assist with coordination and teaching doctoral students in the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, a collaborative partnership between NSU, ODU, and EVMS. I conduct research into quality of life issues, resilience and coping, and more recently cyber-psychology, and I am a research mentor for incoming Doctoral students who share common clinical and research interests. My position has allowed me to create new new curriculum in the area of conflict analysis and the development and coordination of a new masters degree program to be offered at NSU in the area of cyber-psychology.
Engaging in these activities has allowed me to develop friendships with like-minded people across the globe. I have been inspired by my grandmother’s acumen for facilitating change, humbled by the realization of not being able to change the world—a lesson learned daily while working with children and families in crisis—and motivated by my relatively new-found connectivity within the Jewish community. This latter point became undeniable after completing the Hineni Young Leadership Mission to Israel this past June, which was simultaneously the best and worst experience of my life, but ultimately motivated me to become more involved in boards and committees that affect Jews in this area. As part of the Community Relations Council and a member of the NSU community, the goal now is to help connect these two worlds through campus events and outreach activities.
Dr. Scott M. Debb, Licensed Professional Counselor and assistant professor of psychology and practicum coordinator and CyberPsychology director at Norfolk State University.
– Dr. Scott M. Debb