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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog


Posted by Michael Urick on Mon, Oct 11, 2021 @ 09:10 AM

Since it’s now October, and Halloween is just around the corner, I decided to focus this month’s blog on things that are scary; perhaps not scary in the Halloween-ish “ghosts and goblins” sense, but more like “every day” fears and phobias.

I remember my earliest fears being somewhat irrational: though I rarely admit it, as a child I recall being oddly terrified of the Looney Tunes cartoon character Yosemite Sam as my family now likes to jokingly remind me. Whether our fears are rational or not, many of us are afraid of something. And even though there exist many faith-based perspectives on fear that suggest that individuals “be not afraid,” phobias can be very challenging aspects of life.

Though I’m no longer afraid of Yosemite Sam, I still have some other phobias. Spiders, snakes, bugs – most “creepy-crawly” things are big ones. With a fear of germs and illness, I’m also a germaphobe. I suggest that this is a “moderate” fear that I have, but colleagues and friends might believe this phobia to be more “extreme,” using my pandemic-era behaviors of frequently using hand sanitizer, wearing gloves, and regular masking even though I’m vaccinated as evidence. Although my family and I have not been negatively impacted to the same extent as many others during this pandemic, you can likely appreciate that navigating the Covid-era has been a challenge for me as someone with a fear of germs.

Often, fears can drive behavior. As someone who studies Organizational Behavior, I am fascinated by how this occurs, especially because fear can elicit behaviors that have positive or negative outcomes. As a personal, positive example, because of my germaphobia, I resisted getting a haircut during the pandemic for 15 months. Yes, I became that professor walking around campus with a scraggly beard (albeit mostly covered by a mask) and long hair in a ponytail. I really didn’t like having long hair though. So as soon as my hair got long enough and I was vaccinated, I braved my fear and got my hair cut and donated it to an organization that provides wigs free of charge to children suffering with hair loss. I like to think of this as a positive outcome of my germaphobia. Beyond this example, though, it is not uncommon that individuals work hard to conquer their fears, which can result in positive outcomes and behaviors.

On the other hand, I have also witnessed negative behaviors when fear becomes extremely difficult to overcome. Sometimes fear can be so great that it leads to negative behaviors or even a lack of behaviors, and that absence of behavior could be harmful to self or others. Since I study workplace behaviors, I have seen evidence that having fear related to one’s work can lead to decreased performance, motivation, satisfaction and commitment.

Though difficult, we want to channel our fears into positive behaviors. I have no catch-all suggestions for how to do this, unfortunately. But, I am interested to hear about any techniques that you’ve found helpful in channeling your fears toward positive behaviors.

I’m always excited to hear from you, and I’m interested to hear more about what you are afraid of. How has it impacted your behaviors?

Get in touch via email at michael.urick@stvincent.edu or on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dr. Mike Urick

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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