Author Spotlight: Joseph Cuseo - Marymount College

October 2, 2017

Name: Joseph Cuseo

School: Marymount College

Academic Title at School: Professor Emeritus, Psychology; Director, First-Year Seminar at Marymount College

Author of Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development, Thriving in the Community College and Beyond: Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development, Diversity and the College Experience: Research-Based Strategies for Appreciating Human Differences, Humanity, Diversity, and The Liberal Arts: The Foundation of a College Education, Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Transforming Student Culture, and Infusing Diversity and Cultural Competence into Teacher Education.


  1. Joseph Cuseo’s Educational Background

Joe received his Masters in Experimental Psychology (Verbal Learning & Memory) and his doctorate (Educational Psychology & Assessment) from the University of Iowa.  His original plan was to become a dentist and open a practice in San Francisco to chase his team, the San Francisco Giants.  He discovered that his fear of blood and poor visual-spatial skills were a poor fit for his dentistry dream.  He noticed that is friends relied on him for advice and discovered that his true passion was in helping people – thus the change to psychology. 

He began teaching as a Psychology instructor at Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) . His first job out of college was at Marycrest College in (Davenport, Iowa).  There, he was a professor in the Psychology department.  A few colleagues from the Office of Student Affairs welcomed him when he first came to campus, invited him to dinner, and asked him to join their softball team.  Initially, he designed the student success course as a favor to his softball-playing, Student Affairs’ teammates.  He then discovered his passion through this generosity.  During the ensuing years, he created courses for another college and began sharing some of his work on the FYE ListServ.  Colleges and universities began requesting him to visit their campuses  to help them promote student success.  That led Joe to his alternate (and current) career as a consultant for student success courses.

PS - Ultimately, Joe did fulfill part of his dream by moving closer to his Giants team in California, where he accepted a position in southern California, where he still lives and works.


  1. What was lacking on the market that led you to create this product?

The First-Year Experience has been, and continues to be, challenged as a legitimate academic discipline. Many student affairs and academic support professionals, as well as some professors, teach the course without receiving the recognition or validation they deserve.  Joe created a book that was research-based to strengthen the credibility of the first-year experience course and the dedicated instructors who teach it.


  1. Describe your experience with Kendall Hunt publishing’s editors and support staff.

Joe has had a wonderful relationship with Kendall Hunt.  Originally, he was writing a book with a very large publisher.  He found that he was losing the ability to control his content (from images, to research to use of humor).  What drew Joe to Kendall Hunt was that the company had an author-centered philosophy and didn’t micromanage its authors. He views his relationship with Kendall Hunt as a true publishing where he works with the company not for the company. He feels empowered to make decisions that capitalize on his strengths and passion and, ultimately, are in the best interests of today’s students.


  1. Please describe what, if any, technology accompanies the text?

Internet resources at end of each chapter. Website links. 2 self assessment resources included. Do What You Are. PEPS

  1. Describe some of your student’s and colleague’s comments and success in the classroom with the use of this publication.

“Everything we learned will apply in our lives.”

“This is the only course I’ve ever taken that’s been about me.”

“I could really relate to everything we talked about. It is a great class because you can use in all your other classes.”


  1. What you’ve done to make switching to your book easy

The Instructor’s Manual supplies detailed, step-by-step strategies for using the book and teaching the course.


  1. Please share any funny, humorous, or interesting stories regarding your experience in the field, progress of writing the publication, or experience using it.

Two of the features of the textbook are actually created from interesting scenarios. 

Joe was once advising a student (Laura)—a business major. While helping her develop a plan for graduation, he informed her she needed to take a course in philosophy. After he made this point, here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

     Laura (in a somewhat irritated tone): I’m a business major. Why do I have to take philosophy?

     Dr. Cuseo: Because philosophy is an important part of a liberal arts education.

     Laura (in a very agitated tone): I’m not liberal and I don’t want to be liberal! I’m conservative and so are my parents; we all voted Republican in the last election!!

This experience led him to create a chapter in his book devoted to explaining the meaning and value of the liberal arts (general education).

Again, Joe was an academic advisor working with another first-generation college student.  The student mentioned to Joe that he had never been in a place with so many people whose first name was Dean.  On another occasion, while looking over the course schedule with a student, the student asked: “Who is this Dr. Staff? Seems like he’s teaching a lot of courses this semester.”

These experiences led Joe to the conclusion that many college students, particularly first-generation students, lack familiarity with the language of higher education. For this reason, he decided to add a Dictionary of College Vocabulary Dictionary at the back of his Thriving in College textbook, which contains over 200 college-related terms.