When he moved into MU’s Hatch Hall some 30 years ago, Brent Mallinckrodt aspired to be a crusading lawyer. The young man from a small Missouri farming community wanted to “turn the world upside down for poor people.”
But after one semester at law school, Mallinckrodt, now 47, determined that law wasn’t his life’s calling after all.
Returning to his undergraduate interest in psychology, he took three semesters of psychology classes at the University of Michigan and then attended the University of Maryland for his master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling psychology.
After a successful career in academia and a return to MU in 1999 as an assistant professor in the School of Counseling Psychology in the College of Education, Mallinckrodt now has earned the opportunity to have a major influence upon another group of people: readers and researchers in psychology.
In late May, Mallinckrodt learned he had been appointed editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology. The journal has the most individual subscriptions out of the 26 American Psychology Association research journals. It also has the fifth-highest rejection rate, accepting fewer than one in five articles submitted.
Mallinckrodt believes his classroom experiences have prepared him well for his new position.
“One of the most important skills to have in life is the ability to think critically,” he said. “People need to learn how to evaluate evidence and not just accept it uncritically, so looking at students’ papers and helping them shape their ideas has prepared me well to evaluate submissions.”
On the flip side, Mallinckrodt believes his position as editor will help his teaching. “As the editor, I’ll be seeing cutting-edge research some six to nine months before it appears in the pages of the journal, and I’ll be able to share that with my classes,” he said.
Mallinckrodt, who has served on the journal’s editorial board for the past 10 years, will be responsible for reviewing 120 of the 240 manuscripts the journal receives each year, as well as selecting three associate editors and a 50-person editorial board. His six-year term begins in January 2005.
He will not receive a salary for the position, but he will be given an honorarium — a small amount of money in acknowledgment of his service to the journal.
To accommodate his busier schedule, Mallinckrodt will teach only one course per semester, although he plans to remain a strong presence in the MU community by continuing to advise students and serve on university committees.
He initially chose to go into teaching rather than private practice because of the variety of opportunities teaching afforded him.
“While I enjoy counseling, I also enjoy doing research, and an academic job lets you do all those things in addition to teaching,” Mallinckrodt said.
Anne Scott, one of Mallinckrodt’s former students, regards him as a role model. “He regularly invites students to his home for a barbecue or dinner, and consistently offers every student in the department the opportunity to work on his successful research teams,” Scott said.
Throughout his career, Mallinckrodt has chosen to primarily focus on the study of relationships — specifically adult attachment, the bond between people within the context of romance — because of the important way it figures into all people’s lives.
“If you went out onto the street and interviewed random people on what brings them the greatest joy or pain, their answer would most likely be a relationship with a specific person,” he said.
“Through my research, I’ve been able to help people understand how a person’s early experience with caregivers lays the foundation for the quality of close relationships in adult life, and how the relationship formed with a counselor helps them to change and heal.”