Beloved Psychology Professor is Remembered By Colleagues for Kind Heart

A beloved psychology faculty member who was often the first introduction to UCF for new students passed away over the 2021-2022 Winter Break.

Associate Lecturer Paula Reynoso, Ph.D., began teaching at UCF in 2003, primarily at the Valencia West (Metrowest) campus. Her broad range of courses were primarily for undergraduates, giving her the privilege and responsibility of teaching new Knights. She also willingly took on the role of friend and mentor to new faculty.

“I clearly remember how she made me feel when I first met her,” said Associate Lecturer Chrysalis Wright, Ph.D. Wright was fresh out of grad school and adjusting to her role as a teacher. Reynoso approached her right after Wright’s first faculty meeting and made her feel welcome. “She was an automatic friend, very friendly, very approachable,” Wright said.

These encounters with new faculty were common. Associate Lecturer Steven Saunders, Ph.D., shares Reynoso went out of her way to provide him teaching tips and the inside scoop on the department when he first started.

“I was very sad to hear of her passing. She will be truly missed,” Saunders said.

That welcoming attitude extended to her students. Lecturer Jason Chestnut, Ph.D., was an office neighbor for years with Reynoso. He recalls the time Reynoso set up a psychology club on the west campus so remote students could enjoy the same level of engagement as their counterparts on the main campus.

“Whenever I overheard students talking about her classes, their faces would just light up,” Chestnut said.

Caring for others was part of Reynoso’s nature — and it wasn’t limited to humans. Senior Lecturer Karen Mottarella, Ph.D., shares the time Reynoso missed the kick-off to an undergraduate research conference. Concerned, Mottarella asked if the long drive went OK. Reynoso confessed she was late because she had driven past some emaciated cows and felt compelled to feed them. Stopping at the feed store, cramming barrels of hay in her car, and tossing them over the fence had cost her time.

“That was the type of compassionate and caring person she was,” Mottarella said.


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