Maria Bermudez, an assistant professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, aims to help individuals and families overcome adversity and other life challenges through her research and outreach.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in Spanish, with an M.S. from Purdue University and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in marriage and family therapy and human development. I am currently an assistant professor in the department of human development and family science and the marriage and family therapy doctoral program. I was recently granted tenure and promotion to associate professor at UGA, effective fall 2013. My work is centered on strength-based, feminist-informed approaches to research, teaching, clinical practice and clinical supervision.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I began working at UGA in the fall of 2006. I was especially impressed by the national reputation of the doctoral program in marriage and family therapy, the diversity initiatives at the university and the amazing Institute for Women’s Studies.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I like teaching any course that relates to diversity, such as HDFS 4330, “Human Diversity across the Lifespan,” the Institute for Women’s Studies course 3110, “Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality,” and “Clinical Practicum in Marriage and Family Therapy,” “Clinical Supervision” and “Couple and Sex Therapy.” I love teaching and learning about our complexity as human beings in relationship to one another.
What interests you about your field?
The field of family therapy is unique in that it focuses on understanding the patterns, relationships, processes and contexts in people’s lives. As a therapist, I am interested in how people develop and change across the lifespan and how to help people navigate the complexity of their identities, contexts, relationships and life cycle transitions. I offer a strength-based approach to my work that helps people understand the nature of their problem while moving toward a more positive and healthy way of thinking and being. I always strive to find points of resilience that help others overcome adversity or specific challenges.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Getting tenure at UGA has been an honor! I am so proud of this university and being surrounded by such outstanding students and colleagues. I can’t imagine a better place to be.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
This is an easy question and I am always mindful of the bi-directionality of giving and receiving knowledge. I never know if I learn more from my students or research participants or if they learn more from me. Acquiring and co-constructing meaning and knowledge is a thrilling process for me!
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
By the end of the semester, I hope my students feel that they have grown personally and professionally. I hope that they feel validated and supported and encouraged to keep learning.
Describe your ideal student.
The ideal student/person is submissive to learning. Having the ability to be confident with what one knows, but at the same time being humble and willing to suspend that knowledge to acquire new perspectives, is critical to growth. I want all my students to be life-long learners who understand that learning is always on the way. We never fully arrive in knowing. We have to let go and be willing to receive and evaluate what others have to give.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is …
… the outdoor patio at the Georgia Center and to work with my colleague and friend Dr. Denise Lewis for our writing time together. I am looking forward to another beautiful spring in Georgia, especially on the UGA campus.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to …
… hang out with my family and watch too many shows on TLC and HGTV, travel whenever possible—especially to visit family and friends—and to be in nature.
Community/civic involvement includes …
I practice as a couple and family therapist at the Samaritan Center for Counseling and Well-being. I mostly work with couples and families going through difficult transitions, and I especially enjoy working with Latino couples and families.
I love the book “The Lost Art of Listening” by Michael P. Nichols. It’s a book everyone should have handy. It is the type of book you can read in small bits at a time, and each page offers precious nuggets of wisdom that will undoubtedly enrich your relationships; all of them! I think it is the perfect gift for anyone.
Proudest moment at UGA?
My proudest moment at UGA hasn’t happened yet. That day will be when I hood my first Ph.D. students at UGA, Morgan Stinson and Bertranna Abrams, at their graduation ceremony.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am originally from Honduras and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 2. I am a mother of three beautiful girls, and my husband is an artist and also teaches at UGA. I am very proud of my Latino heritage and every day I feel compelled to move research forward so as to improve the lives of Latinos and their families.