Blue Tiger Bio: Kurt DeBord

Lincoln University | May 13th, 2022

For the past 27 years, Dr. Kurt DeBord has been a welcome fixture as a professor of psychology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In that span he has left an indelible impression among his many students, but he very nearly didn't get the opportunity.

DeBord had wanted to find a local job given he was finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he was in a long-term relationship, and his partner was still finishing grad school. He had heard that Lincoln's psychology department would not consider hiring any MU graduates because they'd had a bad experience with one. He applied anyway -- and ended up getting hired.

"One of my professors at the University of Missouri told their psych department, "You really need to consider this person!" So they did," DeBord said. "I got the interview and came (to Lincoln). I met some really good people, and they invited me to come, and it all worked out well."

DeBord, who also has a private psychology practice, credits his students and colleagues as the main reason he has continued his career at LU. One relationship in particular that started his first day on campus has since blossomed into one of DeBord's closest friendships among his fellow professors.

"I started the same day that Mara Aruguete started at Lincoln University," DeBord said. "We just became fast friends. We talked every day carpooling from Columbia to Jefferson City about what that whole first year of teaching was like, how we could make it better, and we both motivated each other to really improve our teaching and make it fun."

Although those car rides to and from campus together have been scarce in recent years, DeBord and Aruguete are still finding ways to motivate each other toward self-improvement. Given they both love to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, they walk together nearly every other day -- and always talk about teaching.

"(Dr. Aruguete) motivates me to keep walking. Because otherwise, I might just stay home and watch TV," Dr. DeBord said. "Even during COVID, we didn't want to be near each other (to keep each other safe), so instead we'd just put on our earbuds and walk at the same time."

In addition to his friendship with Dr. Aruguete, DeBord said he has been fortunate to be surrounded by other outstanding faculty and staff members who have helped him in his success as a professor.

"The people who hired both Mara and myself were really good colleagues," DeBord said. "I'm still in communication with all of them. My department chair was Tony Holland, my dean was Rosemary Hearn. We just had a lot of really good people. We still do; I've always had good experiences with my colleagues."

In terms of the ways he has mentored his students over the years, DeBord said it's hard to come up with one notable moment. Instead, he is proud of the many times he has been able to help Lincoln students achieve their educational and professional goals.

"Seeing students present and have professional accomplishments or the number of students I've helped get into grad school, it's just really fun," DeBord said. "(I love) when a student comes back and talks about how their life's good or even shares about it on Facebook these days. I'll see posts that this person got a job as a therapist, or this person has gone into this line of work. It's just really fun to see (my students) grow up and enjoy life."

Throughout his time at Lincoln, DeBord has noticed many changes. Technological advancements, especially the advent of widespread internet use, are among the changes he has witnessed since starting at LU in the mid-'90s. These advancements, DeBord said, has brought unique challenges to teaching that has required adaptation.

"Because you don't want (students) on their phones, but you do want them engaged in conversation, it takes more effort now," he said.

As in many other fields, psychology requires the ability to engage others in conversation. DeBord has found that cultivating discussions in the classroom has been instrumental in his success.

"If you can start students off at the beginning of class by having them talk to each other, they are then much more likely to talk to me and to the whole class," DeBord said.

As a result of his willingness to continue learning so he can help his students learn, DeBord continues to serve as a mentor to generations of Blue Tigers.