In the fall of 2003, while most of Northwestern’s current students were babies or not even born yet, Dr. Laird Edman walked into his first days of teaching at NW. Now after 20 years, his teaching days are winding down.
Edman, a professor for the psychology department, is finishing up his last days of teaching and getting ready to transition into retirement. For this research fiend, though, retirement does not mean cold beverages and walks on the beach. Instead of relaxing, Edman is planning on continuing in the psychology field through performing further research.
Along with teaching at NW, Edman has also been spending his time researching a range of different topics. At the start of his career at NW, he began research on components of critical thinking with the goal of teaching students how to think well. After spending six to eight years on that, he transitioned more towards research involving religion.
Edman dove into the challenging and complicated question of why anyone would believe in God. He did this by looking at many different aspects such as how the brain processes information, quick uninformed intuition and theory of mind. All this led to the idea of how people communicate with God from a psychological standpoint. This then transitioned into the work that Edman is currently focusing on.
In his current research, he aims to investigate how the rituals that we engage in affect cross generational transfer and how it affects the way we treat outsiders in the context of religion. Edman has taken up an interesting task with this research. Rather than generating research for other scholars, he is more interested in bringing this new information to the church. Edman is planning to spend more time working with the church through avenues such as workshops, missions, marriage and family counseling, church leaders and even through podcasts.
These hopes for continued research are being made possible by a research grant Edman was offered, which would take him out of the classroom for two years. This spurred on Edman’s choice to retire now, allowing the psychology department to hire new faculty and move forward without waiting for him to finish research.
Prior to receiving this grant, Edman had been seeking God to determine what his next steps should be. He turned to God, saying “Ok God, if there is something else you want me to do, I lay myself at your feet. Tell me.”
Through all this Edman reflected on his time working at NW. On a picturesque snowy day during finals week while walking around campus, Edman said, “I just sat there and had this overwhelming sense of gratitude.” He thought to himself, “Boy I love what I do, and I have been so fortunate to do this. What I dreamed about in college, I got to do it! And now it is time to do something else.”