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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Learning how to cope

Psychology Professor Tom Bruce, who has been teaching at City College for over 30 years, discusses the psychology of death and dying with his new spring class. Bruce's classes are considered a popular choice among students at City College. Photo by || Mike Nicholson || [email protected]

“Every ending is a beginning,” says Tom Bruce with a hopeful smile and a gleam in his eyes. “Life is one big journey full of many journeys.”

This is the motto of City College psychology professor Tom Bruce, and it is something that he demonstrates in teachings for his popular classes: “Death and Dying,” “Peace and Conflict,” and “The Heroic Journey.”

Bruce says he teaches these courses because he believes the current culture and society have caused people to behave in a way that does not seem natural or right. He is optimistic that if students are given the opportunity to take courses like these, they will be able to see other ways to handle everyday situations in more productive ways.

A man well into his later years, Bruce has spent a lot of time gaining knowledge, through both studying and personal experience.

His office is packed with stacks and shelves of books. The gray hair and lines on his face show. Growing up in a family of “undereducated dirt farmers,” education for him and others has become his life.

“Tom is a very genuine teacher who loves his job,” says Kevin Farrell, a City College student who took “Death and Dying.”
“His doors are always open to his students to just talk to him about anything.”

As a young man, Bruce once worked in a hospital as a psychologist, helping families of terminally ill patients through the grieving processes. While there, he says, he came to the realization that no one working in the hospital had training or knowledge about how to deal with grieving families and dying patients.
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“It struck me we had this big hole in the whole system, and that big hole was dying,” Bruce says.

Bruce eventually developed the trio of City College courses about how to deal with grief, violence and emotional pain.

In the “Death and Dying” course, Bruce’s main objective is to make students more aware that feelings are real and feelings are right: It’s OK to grieve and be sad. One may feel wounded, but it is a healing process.

“It helped me get through some grief of my own,” says Amanda Jensen, a former City College student who took the class.
In the “Peace and Conflict” class, the major message is that violence is a choice and alternatives exist. Bruce believes that violence of wartime translates to violence on the streets.

“War is part of our culture,” says Bruce, a former military man.

The class “Heroic Journey” teaches that life is a healing process and that wounds need to be confronted to be overcome. It focuses on the study of humanistic psychology. The class emphasizes that every person is living out his or her own mythology.
Bruce is doing what he can, he says, to make a difference in society, one class at a time. He is a professor who strongly cares about his students, which is made obvious by his students’ affirmations.

“Every time someone asks about a class that is worth taking, I mention his class first, without even a hesitation,” Farrell says.

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