University of Southern Indiana

Faculty and Staff Highlights

Get to know Dr. Zachary Pilot

Faculty Highlight Q&A: Dr. Zachary Pilot
Hometown: Acme, Pennsylvania
Current Job Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Psychology


What memories do you have of being a first-generation college student? What challenged you and what surprised you?

Being a first-generation student is a part of your identity, so there aren’t any specific memories that stand out. My status and experiences as a first-generation student continue to affect me here and in ways that students can probably relate to. A lot of first-generation students have to navigate a novel context (school) where they feel a bit out of place, like they don’t belong, and maybe they should do what the rest of their family and loved ones do. My family was endlessly supportive and encouraging, but there are some things you can’t connect with your family about if they’ve never been there. I was learning about new worldviews, disciplines, and having cool experiences…but my family wasn’t always able to relate or understand. Eventually, you figure out how to talk about things in a way that they can relate to. In the meantime, you learn to value the support they provide and share some of your excitement and knowledge with them.

Some of my fondest memories are of findings other first gens and the relief I felt when someone else understood my experiences. Those friendships are still important to me and shape the way I talk about being a first gen in my classes, ultimately that we all have shared experiences, and there are first generation students all throughout USI.


What advice would you give to first-generation college students?

A lot of first gens feel out of place and so may feel deferential or passive about their college experience. They may feel pulled to obligations at home or work, which is totally understandable. However, my advice is to own your college experience. If you don’t have family members who can relate or help you answer questions about your future or discipline, you have to seek them out. You must go to office hours, participate in research labs, get involved in the campus community because you’ve got to build a support system that understands your present and future aspirations. If it weren’t for my undergrad mentor, who I did research with for 3 years, I would not have gone to graduate school….I wouldn’t have known how or what to do. Who else would I have asked? No one in my family had gone to undergrad let alone graduate school. But because I wasn’t afraid of my ignorance, and I put myself in situations where I could learn and build relationships, I was accepted to a PhD program which ultimately brought me here.


What inspired you to pursue your career path?

I chose psychology because I thought I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. I liked helping people out with their problems and frankly I didn’t know any other kind of psychology existed until undergrad. I did an internship the summer of my senior year at an inpatient behavioral health unit at a local hospital and found that line of work was not for me. I sat down with my advisor and reflected on the kinds of things I enjoyed doing; I was a tutor for lots of different classes, a drop-in writing tutor, I volunteered helping children learn karate back home (which I had been doing for years), and I loved learning. I had lots of questions and enjoyed talking about the answers, being a college professor was one way to mesh a lot of those interests.


How do you spend your time away from USI?

When I first read this question, it was a bit jarring. The pandemic has made leisure time seem distant, but when I’m not working, I do several things. I do normal stuff, I love reading books (mostly fiction, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy), watching shows/movies, and playing videogames. Perhaps more uniquely, like I said I did martial arts for decades and when I can I like to practice that. I’ve also done musical theater quite a bit in the past, I like going to support local theater and shows at USI, but in the future, I’d like to get on stage again as the pandemic hopefully fades. Lastly, my whole family is back in Pennsylvania. I grew up in the laurel highlands, a very wooded area in PA, and so I go back home whenever I can to see my family and spend some time in nature.


What is your favorite quote?

When I was in high school, I read a lot of George Carlin and this is one of my favorites. “There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” I just like the imagery the quote evokes, but it could also be interpreted as the difference between what we may say or show overtly compared to our inner monologues/internal states and things like that.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I would pick teleportation, kind of like what Nightcrawler used.

What is one thing you wish you had learned sooner in life?

School, work, one’s occupation and the tasks that come along with it are just one tiny part of life. Work will continue to ask more of you, and you have to be the one to set boundaries and allow yourself to do other fulfilling things.

PHOTOS courtesy of Dr. Pilot (top to bottom):

USI Headshot

This is a picture of me that I always include because it’s funny.

This is at my sisters graduation, she received a Master’s Degree in Psychology. My younger brother is beside her. I am the oldest.

This is from The Wedding Singer (musical), I played Robbie.

This is my sister and I at a state park near my house this winter. Ohiopyle State Park


Yu-li Alice Shen

Dr. Urska Dobersek
Mrs. Lisa Beutler-Jones
Mr. John Morris
Dr. Kristalyn Shefveland
Dr. Melissa Stacer
Criminal Justice
Dr. Stephanie Young
Mr. John Paulson
Social Work
Dr. Veronica Huggins
Social Work

Dr. Denise Lynn
History, Gender Studies

Dr. Erin Gilles
Dr. Steven Williams
Ms. Al Holen
Art & Design
Mrs. Kathy Oeth
Sr Administrative Associate
Dr. Melinda Roberts
Criminal Justice
Dr. Jay Dickerson
Social Work

New Hires, Promotions and Retirements

Spring 2022


  • Hilary Braysmith, Professor Emerita of Art History
  • Cynthia Christy Baker, Associate Professor of Social Work
  • David Cousert, Associate Professor of Social Work
  • Dr. Joseph Uduehi, Associate Professor of Art Education
  • Dr. Stephen Zehr, Professor of Sociology

Fall 2021

New Hires

  • Dr. Gregory Blair, Assistant Professor of Art and Design 
  • Dr. Taylor Petty, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
  • Dr. Summer Shelton,  Assistant Professor of Advertising & Public Relations


  • Arlene Fortune, Academic Advisor
  • Dr. J. Casey Harison, Professor Emeritus of History 

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