"Raise your hand if you've never experienced anxiety," Psychology instructor Andrew Shatte tells a packed lecture hall of students on a recent Thursday morning. A single arm shoots up hesitantly. "We call people who never experience anxiety sociopaths," says the Australian-born Shatte, 37, delivering his punch line nonchalantly as the students in Stiteler Hall Room B-6 erupt in laughter. But then again, laughs are more common than snores during Shatte's Abnormal Psychology class, which meets from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. By the beginning of the semester, all 280 spots in the class were taken. Arrive 10 minutes late to a Tuesday morning lecture and risk not finding a seat -- even up front. Still, it must be more than learning about people who talk to themselves, wash their hands 10 times a day or never step on cracks on the sidewalk that reels students in and gets them out of bed before 9 a.m. In fact, as students and colleagues can attest, Shatte -- a research associate in the department who specializes in depression prevention in children -- might very well be the main attraction himself. There's the Andrew Shatte whose past -- and most bizarre thoughts -- are accessible to each student he encounters. There's the Andrew Shatte who played in a comedic rock band named Funky Nigel as a college student in Australia. There's the Andrew Shatte who looks forward to his daily dose of nostalgia on Y100's Eighties at Eight in the morning. And then there's Andrew Shatte the teacher, a man who shows an airplane crash from the hit film Fearless to induce fear and anxiety in his students, a man who shares his own personal phobias -- he fears sharks -- and a man who asks his students to "raise [your] hand if you're so bored shitless that [you're] ready to explode." As it turns out, though, his students hardly ever seem bored. Instead, they respond to his enthusiasm -- and self-proclaimed oddities -- by participating in class regularly. For Shatte, that's precisely the point: to have even just a small impact on a large group of people. "The class never becomes dull for me," Shatte says from his office overlooking Walnut Street. "I understand I am seeing it fresh for the first time through their eyes. By interacting with them, I get that energy." The students' part of the bargain, Shatte said, is to come to class and be open-minded. His own end, meanwhile, is to lecture in an interesting way by relating the material to his students' own lives -- which he says is one of the great things about teaching psychology as opposed to, say, teaching math. In fact, his influence is significant enough that many of Shatte's female students are rumored to have secret crushes on him. From one anonymous woman, Shatte even received a condom-gram on Valentine's Day. "I put in in my medicine cabinet right next to my Viagra," a blushing Shatte joked with his class. Engineering sophomore Meeta Advani, one of Shatte's current students, said she was encouraged by her female residential advisor -- who, she says, was "definitely interested in him" -- to enroll in the class. From a more, well, scholarly point of view, his colleagues say he more than excels. Psychology Professor David Williams called Shatte "spectacular at what he does at 9 in the morning." "I knew he had the wit, the talent and a kind of benign worldliness that would work very well in a lecture format," said Williams, who taught Shatte when he studied at Penn as a doctoral student. Karen Reivich, another research associate in the department, is a longtime friend of Shatte's. Not only were they graduate students at Penn together, but they share an office. "The way he is in the classroom -- his humor, his energy, his compassion -- he's even more so [outside the classroom]," Reivich says. "He's more over-the-top, he's funnier and he's more irreverent." Shatte came to Penn in 1992 by way of Australia, where he received his bachelor's degree in psychology from an Australian university. He has been teaching at Penn for 3 1/2 years and has taught Abnormal Psychology three times before. When not teaching or conducting research, Shatte enjoys participating in outdoor activities ranging from rugby to tennis to hiking. He also enjoys spending time with his cat, Rockenheimer. Shatte has done his people-work during his studies. Therapy, he says, allows him to have a significant impact on a few people. But teaching is his chosen career path; it allows him to have an impact -- albeit a smaller one -- on a larger number of people.Comments powered by Disqus
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