Posted on: October 22, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Carolyn Thill, Editor-in-Chief

If psychology were rock and roll, Nick Shizas, a Moraine Valley psychology professor, would be at the top of the charts.  He has been a number one hit with his students.

“I was really proud that students thought so highly of my class,” says Shizas.

Students respond well to Shizas’ authenticity. Bring up the topic of psychology anywhere around here, and someone will tell you that you can’t graduate Moraine without experiencing one of his classes. 

“He made me want to venture out and explore multiple avenues of psychology,” says Isabella Calderon, a Moraine student focusing on both psychology and therapeutic massage.  “He balances professionalism and connection very well. I was always excited for his class and was engaged.”

Shizas, who was named Professor of the Year in 2011, feels right at home being a professor for MVCC. 

“I was able to marry my love of teaching and my love of psychology into the same job,” he said.

In 1970, Shizas’ parents sacrificed a lot to move 3,000 miles away from the Greek island of Ikaria to the U.S.

“My parents wanted to create better opportunities for my siblings and me,” he says.

Shizas grew up in Burbank, Ill., with a younger brother who now is a first grade teacher and an older sister who currently works for Moraine Valley.  He recalls becoming interested in psychology during his sophomore year of high school.

I was able to marry my love of teaching and my love of psychology into the same job.

Nick Shizas, psychology professor

“I was told I had good listening skills, and I was insightful, and I was able to understand people,” he said.

He began to think he could pursue psychology as a career.

“When I got to college, I became enamored about learning about the science of behavior,” he said.

Shizas received his associate’s degree from Moraine Valley Community College, transferred to pursue his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he did research with his professors, and received a master’s degree from Roosevelt University in clinical professional psychology.  He worked full time as a therapist for a state agency, where he helped chronically mentally ill individuals for around five years.  He also taught psychology part time at Moraine Valley. 

“My passion became helping students succeed just like my professors helped me,” says Shizas. “I started enjoying sharing the knowledge that I have with my students, and I found I love that even more than learning about it.”

Shizas is now a full-time professor of psychology at MVCC, and practices part time as a licensed clinical professional counsellor in Orland Park, helping adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

“I like working with this population because they’re under served, and they are vulnerable and in need of assistance,” says Shizas.

Shizas also co-advises MVCC’s psychology club with professor Mitchell Baker.  The club meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month, 11 a.m. to noon.  It gives students a chance to learn about the diversity of human behavior while exploring areas one could go into along a psychology career path.

“We try to advance psychology by giving students opportunities to engage in psychology in ways that the classroom might not be able to,” says Shizas.

Anyone interested in attending a session in the psych club can do so by contacting Shizas or Baker. Currently, the club uses Zoom to hold meetings.

The Psychology Club and Professor Nick Shizas lead a stress management workshop for the college.

During this pandemic, Shizas misses being able to engage face-to-face with his students. 

“I miss the spontaneity of hearing my students give good examples, and humorous moments in class, and jokes that come up,” he says.

Even with the challenges of online learning during the pandemic, students aren’t missing the opportunity to take one of his classes — all his classes have been filling.

Shizas welcomes students seeking advice when considering a career path toward therapy or teaching psychology.

“I think you have to have empathy and compassion,” he explains. “You have to have a desire to want your clients to succeed and a desire to want your students to succeed too.”

Perseverance and patience are also key, he says, along with being willing to study the material really well, even after acquiring a degree and license. 

In addition to his professional responsibilities, Shizas says he is blessed with his family.

“I have been married for 17 years to a phenomenal supportive wife, Georgia Shizas, and we have a 12-year-old daughter, Ellie Shizas, who is energetic, good natured and a very hard worker in school,” says Shizas.

At the end of the day, Shizas enjoys spending time with his family and friends, and going for walks and bike rides with his daughter.  He is a music enthusiast and loves to collect vinyl records. 

“I listen to music almost every day on my downtime, when I’m not hanging out with my family and when I’m not reading about research studies,” he says. 

His favorite genres are hard rock and jazz.  His loves Pearl Jam, who he has seen 13 times.  He is also enthralled with bebop, and appreciates artists such as Grant Green and Hank Mobley.

“Hard rock and jazz are both intense and passionate music,” says Shizas.

Just as music artists love what they do and care for reaching their fans, Shizas has a passion for connecting with others and seeing others succeed that resonates well with many students. 

“I’m just humbled and happy that people care that much about their educational experience in my classes,” he says.