Memphis grad finds start at SDSU

Drue Aman

New psychology instructor Nickolas Benesh’s office needed some maintenance before he could fill it with books, thesis papers and a computer. His Scobey Hall cubicle in room 342 had cracks on the walls that needed repair – an opportunity that arose while Benesh and his wife, Mariah, moved into Brookings from Memphis, Tenn.

Benesh has begun a new job teaching general and cognitive psychology this fall, his first job after completing graduate school at the University of Memphis. His resume was nationwide, up to 40 or 50 different schools, he said.

He applied at SDSU in February, hearing back in April, then again in July asking if he wanted a temporary teaching position.

“I had no idea I would get another call,” Benesh said. “I was getting ready to go to work  at school and so I was like, ‘oh wait.’ … At the time I applied it was one of the top three places I was looking at, I would say.”

Question: You’re new and pretty young, what did it take for you to get here and land a teaching job at a university?

Answer: I grew up in Stillwater, Minn., that’s where I went to high school and things like that. For undergrad, I went to UW-River Falls (University of Wisconsin-River Falls) and I majored in psychology there. In high school I took some psychology courses. I knew I wanted to do science but I didn’t really like physics and chemistry, and so I thought ‘Well psychology is pretty cool and interesting to me’ so I went in as a psychology major. Then – I think this was within the first couple of months I was there – all the professors came in and said ‘this is what I do, this is why I did it, this is why I chose to go into psychology’ and stuff like that. I thought that sounded really cool and so I decided that I’d like to become a professor or do things like that, which meant graduate school and do all these pre- things to get there.

Q: Was there any moment where you decided you’d get into teaching? What brought that thought together?

A: I really liked my professors. I hung out with a couple of them. Two of them, my roommate and I went to a Dropkick Murphy’s concert at First Ave. And saw them there with their kids who were 19 or 18 or something like that. We just hung out with them the whole time.

Q: So by observing these professors you had, you saw that you’d like being a person like them?

A: Yeah, it was also that working at a university looked like an appealing environment to work in, because you’re surrounded by a lot of cool, interesting people who do interesting things. You’re always expected to learn new things. That’s the kind of thing I want to be surrounded by.

Q: So you had a couple months to prepare for everything. What was your July and August like?

A: I was running experiments and writing my dissertation during those months, and I defended my dissertation July 17. I didn’t have my Ph.D until July 17. I’d have to send them things saying that I’ve got my Ph.D and so on. I also have a 17-year-old cat, so we had to make arrangements for her as well. We were pretty light while living (in Memphis) so we packed pretty tight. My mother lives in Hastings, Minn. and we came down for a day and found a place. It’s hard to find a place that allows cats.

Q: You’ve only been here a short time, but what are your first impressions of Brookings and of SDSU so far?

A: Moving from Memphis, the pros are there’s lots of different food and entertainment. A lot of things are nearby so you can get just about anything anywhere. The cons are its really high homicide rate. There’s a lot of theft and property damage there. Here, the homicide rate is really low, basically insignificant, but the variety of foods and places to eat and things like that is also really low. It’s been kind of hard for us to say, ‘oh we’ve tried pretty much everything here,’ and everything is kind of the same. Most restaurants have most of the same fare, they might prepare it differently, but it’s subtle. But it’s foods  me and my wife grew up with. As for the people, everyone in our apartment is really nice. People are genuinely nice here, that was a big difference. When you go into a store here, people actually want to help you, as opposed to just being there.