Passion Makes Perfect

Professor Lance Rintamaki addresses the audience during the Undergraduate Afternoon Commencement Ceremony, May 21, 2017. (Photo: Doug Levere)

By ELIN HAWKINSON

Published January 2018

Despite self-identifying as “cantankerous,” Lance Rintamaki says his experience as faculty commencement speaker was "humbling."  

"It's one thing to be recognized by peers, but to have students tell you how much they appreciate you is really meaningful to me."

Jokingly, Rintamaki adds: "Maybe it's the sex stuff."  

Of course, by this Rintamaki is referring to his wildly popular undergraduate seminar on the science of sexual attraction, emphasis on the "science." Earlier in his research career, Rintamaki focused on doctor-patient communication (or lack thereof) between physicians who aren't properly trained and patients who are too shy to discuss the nitty-gritty details of personal sexual health. Through this work, Rintamaki uncovered major gaps in the literature on social and sexual attractiveness.  

"When it comes to sex and attraction, people are desperate for guidance," Rintamaki explains. Rather than abandon the masses to a dubious and potentially dangerous self-help aisle, he decided to compile the complex science into a digestible format; in the process of writing a book, sexnerds.org was born.  

Since January 2017, Rintamaki and a team of students have been following nearly 180 websites to cull the most reliable research studies on all things sex, then sharing on sexnerds.org's social media platforms in an effort to combat the barrage of erroneous cyber-information. The project is still in its infancy, but Rintamaki has spent years developing the necessary infrastructure. "One reality of academic journals is that the audience is often small," he says. "Through social media broadcasting, there's potential for a much greater impact."

Back in the classroom, Rintamaki relies on humor and total honesty to smooth any anxiety over lecture content that can still feel "taboo." Through exercises such as psychologist Arthur Aron's "36 Questions to Fall in Love with Anyone," the class masters theories of biological and strategic attraction, which can then be applied to advantage in tricky social situations, like job interviews. More than anything, Rintamaki reports, students remain fascinated by what they're learning about other people and themselves.

These students are likely unaware of the other work Rintamaki does behind the scenes to ensure their future success. He regularly invites Fortune 500 companies to recruit on campus, and interviewed hundreds of employers to find out what it is they most look for in future employees, tailoring his teaching to their response. The big takeaway? It's important to hold students accountable now, so they develop positive habits of professionalism long before the first resume goes out.  

"We hope students discover something about which they are passionate, and the tools to develop strong, healthy careers," Rintamaki says. "Our undergraduates are a source of so much vitality and energy. We want them to do well."  

Love in 36 Questions or Less

A sample of Aron's famous romance-inducing queries:

1. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality, what would it be?
2. Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share..."
3. What is the greatest accomplishment in your life? 

Read the full list on Psychology Today.

At my UB orientation, Professor Rintamaki 
talked about the importance of fully submersing yourself in your education. He stressed the need to truly understand what you are learning. This stayed with me through my entire college career.

–Eve Blane, BA '17
Eve started a petition to elect Rintamaki faculty speaker.