Corinne L. McNamara, PhD

Interim Department Chair and Professor of Psychological Science at Kennesaw State University
HERS Institute Alumna, Class of 2020

Dr. Corinne L. McNamara is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Science at Kennesaw State University. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Mississippi. After earning her MA in neuroscience from Baylor University, Dr. McNamara returned to the University of Mississippi, where she earned her PhD in experimental psychology. She teaches online and in-person classes on the introduction of psychology, research methodology, physiological psychology and the psychology of love. Dr. McNamara has also taught classes in study abroad programs in Scotland, Italy, and France. Her primary research interest is centered on interpersonal violence.

Dr. McNamara is a graduate of the HLI Intensive cohort in June 2020. As a participant of the first online cohort of the HLI during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. McNamara shares how her cohort’s camaraderie and connection were precisely what she needed. And how grateful she was that she didn’t postpone her leadership development despite her initial doubts about the online experience.


What brought you to the HERS Leadership Institute (HLI)? Did anyone encourage or support you to apply and attend? 

The first time I heard about the HLI was about ten years ago when I was at a conference. I met a woman who had attended, and she sang the praises of the training experience and mentoring network that she had developed as a result of her participation. Since then, I’ve looked for an opportunity to ask my institution to support my application, and I found the perfect chance to do so when I was asked to serve as Interim Chair.

My Dean was well-aware of the HLI, so he immediately saw the value of my participation. He supported my application, and thankfully, I was selected to attend.


What do you value most from your HLI Experience?

I carry with me so many valuable lessons that I garnered from my HLI experience, and it is truly is hard to pick just one. However, I would have to say that attending during a pandemic provided a unique opportunity to connect with other women leaders who shared some situational context with me. Hearing their stories was inspirational and gave me more tools to use when problem-solving within my role and institution.


“Knowing that I have such an amazing group of women and resources to tap into has given me the courage to face the unknowns of the academic landscape unfolding throughout the pandemic.”


As a participant of the June intensive cohort in the summer of 2020, how did the curriculum’s online delivery shape your expectations, overall experience, and ultimately what you gained from the program?

I was reticent to attend the online version of HLI because I was looking forward to being removed from my day-to-day environment and present with my cohort. However, I’m so glad that I didn’t postpone the experience. I didn’t realize how badly I needed the HLI- the connection, the brainstorming, the storytelling, the camaraderie, the resources- until I attended. Although a different experience than what I initially anticipated, the online delivery surpassed my expectations and provided a rich space for my learning and growth as an individual and leader.


Of the curriculum modules, which stuck out to you the most and why?

I learned so much in each module, but I have to say that inclusive leadership stuck out to me the most. We were challenged to hear each other, listen carefully, and question our assumptions about ourselves, our relationships, our roles as leaders, and our units’ policies and procedures. During a time of incredible social upheaval and unrest, we had meaningful and challenging conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion that integrated events that were making the headlines in the news each day.


What from the curriculum and experience at HERS do you plan on bringing back to your institution and colleagues? 

In addition to the resources and information regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, I found the module on self and institutional awareness to be most relevant to my day-to-day activities. Particularly regarding the budgetary decisions I make and the scheduling parameters I have influenced by the institution’s financial health.


When you attended the HLI, the year’s theme was Wom*n Leading Across Generations. How relevant have the lessons within this theme been to how you’ve been leading?  

Considering the pandemic and social upheaval taking center stage this year, the subthemes of intersectional identities, how women lead, and the importance of women supporting women have been critical for my development. The lessons around these themes have shown me how to lead effectively, take care of myself, and encourage others to find a healthy work/life balance. Highlighting the importance of that balance for upper administration and the faculty and staff in our units serves as my compass — and is directly tied to my values-based leadership style.


How did HERS impact your leadership trajectory?

The HLI reinforced the importance of finding a good fit with an institution, not just the position. HERS also facilitated developing a shared purpose and direction with my institution, resulting in a vision of various leadership pathways for myself.


How would you define your leadership style?

I embrace a values-driven leadership style that is rooted in three principles:

  1. self-awareness and reflection
  2. balance, which involves viewing a situation from multiple perspectives; and
  3. genuine humility by striving to keep perspective and valuing two-way respect.

I plan to use the strategies that have worked in the past and striving to be creative and innovative in devising other ways to meet challenges.


What advice would you give to a woman who wants to advance their higher education career but is uncertain about when and how to do it?

I recommend creating a horizontal and vertical network of mentors with whom to have this dialogue. Leadership paths are varied, so it’s helpful to ask many questions about the courses that others have taken, the hurdles they faced, and how they made their decisions. Learning from the stories of others helps you to see a path forward for yourself.


How would you describe your cohort of HERS sisters?

I would describe my cohort of HERS sisters as eclectic, strong leaders who recognize the value of staying connected to continue peer mentoring, who are determined to break barriers, pave the way for other women, and committed to implementing innovative change.