Glendale college professor using magic to stir up interest in psychology
GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Tom Virden is a clinical psychology professor at Midwestern University in Glendale.
He’s also a professional magician who weaves many of his tricks into the classroom. “Many times the concepts we give are difficult, so I’ll use magic as a vehicle for communicating these difficult and challenging concepts,” Virden said. The professor grew up in New Orleans performing on the street with his mother but eventually realized he needed another career.
That’s when he went to school to study psychology. A few years ago, Virden found a way to merge his two passions together. “I do have my favorite kinds of tricks, because of my personality,” said Virden. “I started off as an escape artist, so escapes really appeal to me, but of course, the kinds of tricks I use will have to fit in the area I am teaching.”
One of Virden’s most heart-pounding tricks is escaping from a straight jacket, which the professor says, teaches students that persistence and perseverance can overcome anything. A video of one of his great escapes has gone viral, with more than 8 million views worldwide, so Arizona’s Family stopped by the class on Tuesday to watch it happen in person.
The professor got out of a straight jacket in less than 90 seconds. “I’ve never had a class like this before, but I love every single minute of it,” said student Aly Uhren. Another student, TJ Gorman, said, ”It definitely helps get certain points across I think it also helps kind of allow for us to relax a little more and helps us retain more information.”
The professor’s magic isn’t limited to the classroom. Virden has created a non-profit called Meaningful Magic, where he provides free magic shows to children and adults in need. As a cancer survivor, Virden says it’s important to give back. ”The purpose of Meaningful Magic is to give messages of hope and empowerment to people who need it the most,” he said.
“Despite all the illusions and slight of hand, this is still a serious college class,” said Virden. There are no A’s handed out for the loudest applause. “Psychology is not magic,” said Virden. “I don’t teach exclusively magic all the time. I am a psychology professor first and foremost.”
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