Campus Closeup: Mary Pelton-Cooper
A red leather chair occupies a corner of Mary Pelton-Cooper’s office. Its shiny exterior disguises the extent of its comfort. Occupants literally sink into the chair, which used to reside in Pelton-Cooper’s therapy office in the Counseling Center. Now it seats students and faculty in the Psychology Department.
Pelton-Cooper teaches three classes each semester as a psychology professor. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she maintains her professional development by running a small, private psychology practice in downtown Marquette. Her therapy expertise lies in adult psychological concerns and women’s health and development.
As a former registered nurse, Pelton-Cooper has professional experience dealing with women’s health issues. She graduated from NMU with her nursing degree in 1986. She then worked in obstetrics/gynecology and public health care, where she often discussed developmental issues with high-risk pregnant women. She wanted more training to help these women, prompting her to pursue a career in psychology.
“Both careers are human services careers and both of them involve a careful understanding of the human system and both require a deep sense of empathy. I found that as a nurse, I was most interested in my interactions with my patients and the changes they were experiencing,” Pelton-Cooper said.
Her clientele includes women with such issues as post-partum depression, which ties her psychology career in with her nursing career, Pelton-Cooper said. She works with men and women ages 17 and up. She helps people with a variety of problems, including relationship problems, eating disorders, substance abuse issues, anxiety and depression. To coordinate with her teaching responsibilities at Northern, Pelton-Cooper sees clients two afternoons each week.
She has seven years of experience helping NMU students as well. Beginning in 1997, she was a therapist in Counseling and Consultation Services. At that time, she also taught a career development course. In 2004, Pelton-Cooper transferred to the Psychology Department to teach full time.
“I’m enjoying my professional life more than I ever have. A very good measure of career satisfaction is asking yourself if you’d do this work as a volunteer, and I would, if I were independently wealthy,” Pelton-Cooper said.
The courses she teaches deal with various aspects of clinical psychology, including abnormal psychology, personality, human sexuality, therapeutic communication, writing assessments and ethics. Students in her practicum and clinical classes learn about working with diverse populations and get an idea of what it’s like to be in the helping professions. Pelton-Cooper also serves on the College Advisory Council and as the adviser for the Student Psychology Association.
“It’s exciting to be involved in psychology now because this profession is changing rapidly and we are becoming more closely aligned with medical health care. We are in fact considered one of the medical professions now. The face of clinical psychology is changing. Public perceptions are changing. It’s a very exciting time to be part of it,” Pelton-Cooper said.
Her husband, David Cooper, is a philosophy professor at NMU. Together, they have five children, all of whom have grown and left the Marquette area. They also have four grandsons.
Although she grew up in Pittsburg, Pelton-Cooper has lived in Marquette since about 1978. That is long enough to be considered a U.P. transplant, she thinks.