Wingate Faces

Jay Wilder

By Kellen Williams (Marketing & Communications Intern)

Dr. Jay Wilder never doubted what he wanted to study; “It was Psychology from the start,” he said. It was his experiences as an undergrad at Emory University which helped him narrow his career exploration. As a junior, Wilder began research with his advisor to assess childhood behavior disorders which he claimed solidified his plan to work with kids and families and as a senior he realized he had an interest in teaching.

Applying his research, Wilder worked at a summer program with kids who had behavior disorders. The program, he said, did two things for him: “It validated what I wanted to do, and it helped strengthen my candidacy for graduate school.” This program still exists at a number of campuses across the country, and Wilder has relished the opportunity to recommend some of his students for positions at Florida International University and University of Pittsburgh.

Having been born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina and finishing undergraduate work at a small D-3 school in Georgia, Wilder experienced major culture shock when he was admitted to the graduate program at Syracuse, a D-1 school in New York. While it was an adjustment, Wilder assured that he loved the experience. “I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “Plus, we had our first child in Syracuse one May, and it snowed the day we came home from the hospital.”

With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and graduate studies with a child and family clinical psychology specialization, Wilder spent years teaching and working as a counselor. He worked full time while completing his PhD. The first class he taught was a personality psychology class. Though he doesn’t teach the course now, he says he still uses some of the same lessons he used in that first class. “I still show clips from The Breakfast Club,” he said. “…Although it isn’t as current now.”

By the time Wilder found an available position at Wingate, he and his wife who had just had their second child were being “called home” to the south. “Wingate was the best fit,” Wilder said before correcting himself. “Actually, it was THE fit.” The Wilder family added child number three shortly after arriving in Charlotte. Wilder’s fairly certain he’s put down permanent roots in the area. “Every time we moved, we had another kid,” he explained. “Once we decided that three kids were enough, we figured we shouldn’t move again.”

Wilder has continued working as a counselor while teaching. Since he teaches clinical courses, he said it really helps him to be able to teach the strategies which he implements daily. “I really like being able to bring those experiences into a classroom,” he said, though he insisted he doesn’t bring them home. “My family would lock me out,” Wilder joked.

Instead, at home, Wilder is a Panthers fan, a Gamecock fan and a chef in training. Due to he and his wife’s differing schedules, Wilder said he does most of the cooking, though he humbly claimed “it’s nothing fancy, but I’d like to expand on it; is one of my best friends.”

In his daily transition from Wingate to home, Wilder realizes some of his favorite things about the university. “I love walking to my car and seeing five or six people I know on the way,” he said. “I love the small school and small classes; you can really get to know people as long as they want to be known.”

As a Wingate professor and a Charlotte resident, Wilder has found that his students are not just known around Wingate, but they are really a part of the Charlotte community. “I get to see students in class, and then read their names in the paper,” which he said makes him really proud. He boasted, “When I see them walk across the stage at graduation, I feel like I’ve really gotten to know them.”