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Release Date: 
Friday, February 3, 2023

Get to Know HFC: a willingness to change brought Alison Buchanan into teaching

Alison Buchanan surrounded by her family.
Alison Buchanan (center) has taught psychology at HFC since 2007. She and her husband, Dr. Sean Buchanan, are pictured here with their family.

Like so many people heading off to college, HFC psychology instructor Alison Buchanan wasn’t sure what field she wanted to go into, then she took the required psychology course.

Not only did she enjoy it, Buchanan excelled at it. Her career path was set.

“I knew then what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I planned to become a therapist.”

A native of Ohio, Buchanan – the eldest of three – graduated from River Valley High School in Marion, OH. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH and her master’s degree in clinical psychology from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. Buchanan later earned another master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology and human resources from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She completed additional coursework at the California School of Professional Psychology in Fresno, CA.

Buchanan is married to Dr. Sean Buchanan, a dentist, whom she met at Appalachian State. The couple lives in Saline and has three children.

Pivoting toward teaching

During her time in Fresno, Buchanan took a human resources class that changed her direction.

“I’m not sure why I did that, being a clinical psych major. Afterward, however, I questioned my decision to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psych and become a therapist,” she recalled.

Instead of pursuing her doctorate, Buchanan moved to Columbus, OH and became an HR assistant for Deloitte for two years.

“I really enjoyed the HR field,” she said. “That’s when I decided to pursue another master’s degree at Appalachian State.”

Once she completed her graduate work at Appalachian State, Buchanan decided to apply at Cleveland Community College in Shelby, NC, which had advertised an opening for a full-time psychology instructor.

“I had taught when I was a grad student and enjoyed it,” said Buchanan. “I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’ Can you believe that I got that full-time job teaching psychology with only one year of experience teaching as a grad student? I have always enjoyed teaching.”

A last-minute application

When her husband attended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, Buchanan taught psychology part-time at Washtenaw Community College, Schoolcraft College, and Monroe County Community College.

In 2007, a colleague informed her about a full-time opening at HFC.

“I didn’t know that much about HFC,” said Buchanan. “I drove my application materials to HFC on the very last day the job was posted. I interviewed, and here I am.”

As much as Buchanan enjoyed her time in the corporate sector, academics is a much better fit for her. She is in her 19th year teaching.

Collaboration, and introducing new students to psychology, is fun

During her time at HFC, Buchanan has been involved in the Henry Ford II Honors Program and serves on the Honors Council.

This semester, she is teaching the following classes:

“I love teaching all three of them. During the semester, I’ll say, ‘This chapter is my favorite.’ I’ll say the same thing with the next chapter too,” said Buchanan, laughing. “The intro class is the first time many students take psychology. It’s fun and challenging to introduce them to what psychology is all about. You get to cover so many different topics. Students who take my intro class usually take my other classes, so it’s fun to have the same students in class.”

She continued: “I also love doing directed studies with students. It’s an opportunity to work with them on a more intimate level. I can help them learn more about the topic they’re interested in. Collaboration is fun. I also enjoy going to the Honors Symposium and hearing their presentations.”

Finding your flow

HFC honors student Jay Elias, a United States Marine Corps veteran and psychology major, has fond memories of Buchanan’s classes.

“Alison Buchanan is one of the instructors at HFC that really puts in the extra effort to fully engage her students,” said Elias. “It was an amazing experience to have her for my directed study program, as well as the lifespan development course. Her classes fill up quickly, so make sure you register early!”

One of the best parts about her job is the ability to experiment and try something new.

“There’s a term we talk about in my classes called ‘flow’," said Buchanan. "It’s a concept where we do something we totally love and get fully engrossed in it. You find a career – not a job – that provides flow; it’s so engaging that you lose track of time. It doesn’t feel like a burden or chore. My job puts me in a state of flow. I love my job.”

She continued: “I get to teach a subject that I absolutely love. I get to share it with students. I get to know them, get to collaborate with them – it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m just lucky because it doesn’t feel like a job, and I get paid well for doing it. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be at this College and to work with such wonderful students and such wonderful colleagues.”