CHASS Staff Awards 2013
UNC System Recognizes Professor’s Excellence in Teaching
Colloquium by Dr. Meg Bond -- Qualities of Inclusive Settings: A Case Study of Diversity in Community Health Centers
Dr. Meg Bond, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Women and Work at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell will give a talk on Tuesday, April 23, 3:30‐5 PM in M‐8 Caldwell Hall. Dr. Bond’s talk will feature the Healthy Diversity Project. The project’s goal is to explore challenges and best practices for diverse staffing within health centers serving diverse communities. Dr. Bond will discuss results from the project, drawing from case studies of ten community health centers. She will outline a principle‐based framework to describe the qualities of the organizational settings that foster an inclusive work environment. The Healthy Diversity Project is a partnership between the Center for Women and Work at the University Massachusetts, Lowell, and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
CHASS Marks Golden Jubilee With Multimedia Timeline
Happy birthday, CHASS!
Two CHASS Faculty Members Named University Scholars
New Personality Test May Be an Employment Game Changer
Psychology Alum Follows His Passion to Reform Criminal Justice
Money Key Factor in Driving Med Students from Primary Care Careers
Psych Alum Leads $15M Grant to Study Autism
Hard Work in High School Pays Off for Dean’s Scholar Award Winners
Positive Parenting When You're Homeless
Meet Sarah Desmarais, our new faculty member in Psychology in the Public Interest
Sarah Desmarais joins the Department of Psychology as Assistant Professor in the area of Psychology in the Public Interest.
Ph.D. (Psychology), Simon Fraser University, 2008
M.A. (Psychology), Simon Fraser University, 2005
B.A. (Psychology), Guelph University, 2003
Sarah Desmarais is a forensic psychologist who works on issues related to mental illness, substance use, and violence in criminal justice and health care settings. Her current research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment and intervention strategies for justice-involved adolescents and adults with behavioral health problems, as well as victims and perpetrators of partner violence. Before coming to NC State, Sarah was as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy (College of Behavioral and Community Sciences) and the Department of Community & Family Health (College of Public Health) at the University of South Florida.
Faculty moderate Read Smart book discussions
CHASS Welcomes New Tenure-Track Faculty
Meet Industrial Organizational Psychologist Lori Foster Thompson
2012 Faculty Awards
Prof Shevaun Neupert Named Outstanding Teacher
Alex Gloss awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Alex Gloss, a graduate student in the Industrial/Organizational Psychology program in the Psychology Department, was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. These fellowships are extremely competitive, with awards being given to between 10 - 17% of a highly selective group of applicants. Winners receive three years of support that consists of both an annual stipend and payments of the cost of education, international research and professional development opportunities, and supercomputer access. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program has been giving awards since 1952 -- previous receipients include 30 Nobel Prize winners and 440 members of the National Academy of Sciences.
CHASS Student of the Month
Marissa Kastanek, Psychology major, named to Women's Academic All-American team
Marissa Kastanek, an NC State women’s basketball player and Psychology major was named second team of the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America® Division I Women’s Basketball Teams, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Marissa is from Lincoln, Nebraska. Marissa has a 4.00 grade-point-average and leads the Wolfpack in scoring with 12.9 points per game this season, and ranks among the top free throw and three-point shooters in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Feeling in Control Boosts Brainpower in Elderly
Older Adults Make Gains Through Gaming
Lori Foster Thompson, faculty member in I/O Psychology, selected as United Nations Representative
Recently, the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP) was granted official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) special consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The UN website describes the ECOSOC as " ECOSOC was established under the United Nations Charter as the principal organ to coordinate economic, social, and related work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, functional commissions and five regional commissions." NGO consultative status allows SIOP to make direct contributions to the programs and goals of the United Nations by accessing and participating in the work of the ECOSOC. Lori Foster Thompson was selected as one of five representatives to join the innaugural team from SIOP to the UN. She will attend monthly meetings at the UN Headquarters in New York and engage in committee work, such as planning the annual Psychology Day at the UN (you can imagine how much fun that might be). Lori's selection was made on the basis of multiple factors, chief among them being passion for humanitarian work. Congratulations to Lori for this honor
Dean Braden in Scientific American
CHASS Dean and Professor of Psychology Jeff Braden was called upon for his expertise in human nature for a column in Scientific American about the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal. In a guest post written by Piedmont Laureate Scott Huler, Braden ... Read More
One of our own goes on to greater success
Tara Behrend received her PhD with a specialization in I/O Psychology from NC State in 2009 and is now an Assistant Professor of Organizational Sciences George Washington University. Recently, Dr. Behrend received a $2,802,666 grant from the National Science Foundation for her study “Multiple Instrumental Case Studies of Inclusive STEM-focused High Schools: Opportunity Structures for Preparation and Inspiration”. Congratulations, Tara, you make us proud.
CHASS Names New Members to Advisory Board
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences welcomed two new members to its Board of Advisors during its fall 2011 meeting. Both are alumni of the college. Meet Carol Rahmani (BA '71, MS '75, PhD '81, Psychology) and Steve Bullard ('85, Economics) ... Read More
Psychologist Helps Evaluate Special Ed Assessment and Accountability
Assessing educational progress in schools has become increasingly important since the passage of No Child Left Behind. But significant questions remain about the best way to measure schools' effectiveness when it comes to working with children in special education programs. An NC State University psychologist will help address those questions as part of a new federally funded research effort [...]
Psychology Dept Leads Global Progress in Emerging Field
A group of volunteers travels to a foreign country to provide aid. But as so often happens, unforeseen problems arise. Maybe the volunteers aren’t a good fit or their skill levels aren’t sufficient for the task at hand. Perhaps there’s a clash of cultural values between those helping and those being helped.
When such problems arise, they can greatly impede progress. Humanitarian Work Psychology (HWP) is an emerging area of industrial-organizational psychology specifically designed to address work-related issues in just such humanitarian arenas. NC State’s Department of Psychology is helping lead the global development of the field.
Associate Professor of Psychology Lori Foster Thompson (pictured at left) taught the world’s first HWP graduate courses last summer at the Universities of Bologna and Barcelona. Her students represented a true global community. “My students came from Peru, Brazil, Africa, Italy—all over the globe,” said Thompson in a call from Ireland, where she is conducting work this summer. “We discussed how to apply Work and Organizational Psychology to the humanitarian effort. We covered issues like women’s work opportunities in developing countries, micro-credit enterprises, online volunteerism, and sex slavery, in addition to other topics.”
Soon after the seminars concluded, Thompson headed to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the 27th International Congress of Applied Psychology, sponsored by the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). There, a division of the IAAP voted unanimously to establish a four-year work group devoted to HWP, which Thompson will lead.
“I’m absolutely excited,” Thompson said. “People are ready to help and want to see our profession expand in this way. We’ve given talks about HWP around the world and we have witnessed a lot of enthusiasm from members of our field—both senior members and newer student members. We’re very encouraged by the reception this is getting.”
Thompson hopes the four-year effort she’s leading can be a workhorse for the Global Task Force for Humanitarian Work Psychology, formally established in 2009 at University College London. Thompson was one of about a dozen who attended that summit.
Her team’s task is to lay the groundwork for progress globally. “Our first challenge is to build a network with the most economically and geographically diverse members we can find,” Thompson said. “We want to hear from representatives of many different countries about how industrial-organizational psychology is best applied in aid situations.”
Alex Gloss is working with Thompson on the global task force, serving as coordinator for capacity-building. Gloss, who is currently studying in New Zealand, will join NC State’s industrial-organizational psychology doctoral program this fall. He’s finding there are still plenty of people who aren’t yet familiar with HWP.
“It’s industrial-organizational psychology with both a pro-social edge and a focus on the world of international development,” he said. “That includes areas you’d traditionally think of like humanitarian aid work and disaster relief and recovery efforts. HWP is also applied to more general non-government organizations and inter-governmental organizations that are involved in helping to improve the well-being of people around the world.”
“We have colleagues who have been doing this independently for decades,” Thompson added, “but we didn’t have a common name or language for it. Now that it’s becoming organized and strategic, we think it can become a more powerful force for good.”
Word is getting out that NC State University is a leader in the field. Applications and inquiries into HWP have increased in the past year. “I think our involvement has the potential to draw new members into industrial-organizational psychology who may not otherwise have pursued this field,” said Thompson. “I’m proud that NC State has been so supportive and encouraging of our work.”
Making Reseach an Open Book
When John Begeny saw that an aspect of literacy education was getting scant attention in schools, he decided to research it. Begeny, an associate professor of psychology at NC State, has used that research to develop an effective new tool for teachers. And he’s making sure anyone who needs it can have it – for free.
When he arrived at NC State in 2005, Begeny was interested in “reading fluency.” That’s a child’s ability to read with sufficient speed and accuracy, while also reading with good expression (for example, pausing at commas when reading out loud). He knew reading fluency was a skill that was commonly neglected in reading instruction, and he wanted to do something about it.
Dr. John Begeny
But rather than trying to develop solutions based on his preconceived notions, Begeny wanted to base any potential solutions on solid science. “I wanted to take a research-driven approach to addressing a very real need in literacy education,” Begeny says. “Fluency is important. Kids who aren’t fluent readers are not going to understand what they’re reading as well as fluent readers are, and they probably aren’t going to read as much. People generally don’t choose to do things they aren’t good at. Also, reading fluently helps give kids confidence in their reading ability.”
Ultimately, Begeny created a literacy program called Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS), rolling it out to the public in January 2010. Recent research shows that the HELPS program not only boosts student reading fluency, but also helps kids develop other reading skills, such as reading comprehension and so-called “basic reading skills” (such as sounding out words).
But developing the program was only the starting point – Begeny wanted to make sure the program was available to every teacher or parent who wanted to use it.
To support that idea, Begeny also launched the HELPS Education Fund in January 2010. The nonprofit organization gives teachers free access to HELPS program materials, including teacher’s manuals, training videos and online support. Through the fund, the HELPS program has now been disseminated to over 7,000 teachers and is used in classrooms in all 50 states.
As part of the HELPS Education Fund, Begeny also plans to release a Spanish-language version of the HELPS program later this year, and a suite of early-literacy tools for parents by 2012. In addition, he hopes to have online educational consulting services available some time next year. Again – it’s all free to those who need it. That’s research in action.
Psychology Dept Leads Global Progress in Emerging Field
A group of volunteers travels to a foreign country to provide aid. But as so often happens, unforeseen problems arise. Maybe the volunteers aren't a good fit or their skill levels aren't sufficient for the task at hand. Perhaps there's a clash ... Read More
CHASS student to appear with Oprah before Freedom Ride
A chance to relive history awaits Doaa Dorgham later this week. But first, there is Oprah. Dorgham is a junior psychology major with a minor in international studies. The Raleigh resident is also a Caldwell Fellow. She is one of 40 students chosen ... Read More
Award Winning Faculty
Here are awards that our faculty have won recently: John Begeny
(1) Alumni Association Outstanding Extension and Outreach Award, North Carolina State University
• Each year, the Alumni Association honors 18 faculty members who have excelled in teaching, research and extension. Three faculty were awarded the Extension and Outreach honor this year.
(2) Recipient of the 2010 Ernest A. Lynton Citation for Distinguished Engaged Scholarship
• This nationally competitive award recognizes an early-career faculty member (across all academic disciplines) who demonstrates outstanding integration of community-engaged teaching, research, and service; the award is sponsored by the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE)
(3) Opal Mann Green Award for Community Partnerships, North Carolina State University
(4) Inducted into the Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension, North Carolina State University
(5) Outstanding Extension Service Award, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, North Carolina State University
(6) Selected as a Community Engaged Faculty Fellow, Provost’s Office and Office of Professional Development, North Carolina State University
Anne McLaughlin CHASS Outstanding Junior Faculty Award
Anne won this award in competition with a really great group of junior faculty.
(1) Distinguished Professor, First Annual Student Government Distinguished Professor Lecture Series
The award citation reads: “In recognition of extraordinary service and devotion to students, and dedication to impacting students’ lives in such a positive way that they would be so compelled to come forward and distinguish this individual as a professor worthy of this award.”
(2) 2011 Faculty Diversity Award
Here is what was said about this award:
"Dr. Rupert Nacoste, professor of Psychology is known for his wisdom and elocution on the concept, “neo-diversity” a term he coined… Dr. Nacoste has done a great deal of work to reframe and defuse volatile topics through his writings, articles in the Technician and scholarly journals, and his lectures to his students, staff and teaching faculty. Because of these accomplishments and many other efforts, it is the honor of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to award him with the 2011 Faculty Diversity Award; April 20, 2011."
Lori Foster Thompson
(1) North Carolina State University Office of Faculty Development “Thank a Teacher” Award
• The NC State Thank a Teacher program allows students an opportunity to thank NC State teachers who have gone beyond their standard "teacher" roles and made a positive impact upon their lives.
(2) Highly Commended Award, Emerald LiteratiNetwork
• For article published in Personnel Review.
Research In Action: Helping Homeless Children
Psychologist Mary Haskett has been doing research on childhood development for over 20 years, and her experiences in that field ultimately highlighted a real and growing mental-health crisis facing homeless children around the country. Now she’s calling on her research expertise to do something about it.
Haskett, a professor at NC State, is working with eight homeless shelters in central North Carolina to develop a system that will provide mental-health services to children in homeless families. The system should provide new data on effective strategies for addressing mental-health concerns in homeless kids – and may serve as a model for similar efforts nationally. Dubbed Project CATCH (Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless), the initiative is funded by the John Rex Endowment and will be overseen by the Salvation Army.
“The circumstances that lead to homelessness, such as substance abuse and domestic violence, also put kids at risk of mental-health problems – including depression and anxiety,” Haskett says. “And there are myriad challenges in recognizing and providing treatment for homeless children with mental-health problems: the families are moving frequently, they don’t have health insurance, there’s often a lack of transportation. Hopefully, Project CATCH can help these kids from slipping through the cracks.”
This is not an insignificant problem. In 2005-06, it was estimated that 1 in 50 U.S. children was homeless.
Haskett explains that providing mental-health treatment is particularly problematic for children under the age of five. Federal law provides some resources that support the mental health of homeless children once those children are enrolled in school, but younger kids aren’t covered by the law.
This leaves those younger kids at higher risk for long-term mental-health problems, because research indicates that the first five years of life are a critical period for social and emotional development.
Project CATCH incorporates a number of steps designed to help address this problem. The initiative will include system-wide training for shelter staff to increase awareness of children’s mental health. The project will identify mental-health professionals in the community who will prioritize treatment for homeless children, and provide transportation so that the kids can attend treatment sessions. Parents will be offered in-shelter support to help them foster safe, stable and nurturing relationships with their children.
The project will also create a computerized network that will allow the participating shelters to share information on the children’s specific needs and treatment plans, so there will be continuity of care for these kids as they move from shelter to shelter and into transitional housing.
Ultimately, the project will also generate data to help our understanding of how best to meet the mental-health needs of homeless children. “We will be evaluating outcomes in terms of improved mental-health functioning in the children,” Haskett says, “as well as evaluating stress levels in parents and improvements in parenting skills.”
Ideally, the project will also serve as a blueprint that can be replicated elsewhere. Project CATCH is already working with the National Center for Family Homelessness (NCFH), which will help the project with shelter staff training and program evaluation. If the project is successful, NCFH can help share the program with communities nationwide.
Rupert Nacoste, one of three NC State Distinguished Professors as Voted by Students
Students had the opportunity to chose three N.C. State professors to give a "distinguished" lecture.
Student Government sponsored the first annual Distinguished Professor Award Lecture Series in Stewart Theater Tuesday where the three chosen professors spoke about their personal experiences.
The following professors were nominated: David Washington, a teaching associate professor in the department of management, innovation and entrepreneurship; Philip Dail, the director of advising and admission in the College of Textiles; and Rupert Nacoste, professor of psychology.
Taylor Hiott, chair of the commission on academics and sophomore in economics and entrepreneurship, was the principal organizer. Hiott said the motivation behind the event was to spotlight these educators in a different kind of light.
"The goal was to create an event where professors could be recognized in a different kind of way, outside of their professional experience," Hiott said. "In reality, what students think about them is what matters the most."
Students voted in an online forum during the first two weeks of January for their favorite professor. The forum consisted of 12 questions, and student government received over 230 responses about approximately 70 different professors. A committee comprised of members from Student Government and Student Council narrowed the selection down to the top three based on the content of the nominations, according to Hiott.
"They're here because of what they embody," Hiott said. "They're here because of their impact on students' lives."
Dail said he and the other professors were surprised to be chosen for the award.
"We each received an email one day from Student Government saying ‘Congratulations,' and I had no idea what to expect," said Dail. "All three of us were scratching our heads, trying to figure out what we had done to be congratulated for."
Each professor spoke about life lessons and their experiences though their lectures concerned a variety of topics.
Dail, who is recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, focused on lessons in credibility, compassion, relationships and humility.
Washington spoke about growing up in poverty and the importance of displaying a positive attitude, effort and courage in achieving success.
"Take charge and be passionate. That's how you win," Washington said. "Keep moving forward. Courage is very important."
Nacoste also spoke about modest upbringing in the Louisiana bayou and his later experiences with race riots in the U.S. Navy during the 1970's. He said this is what sparked his interest in social psychology and led to a study of ‘neo-diversity.'
Towards the end of his lecture, Nacoste also said he wanted to emphasize the importance of speaking for one's self.
"It bothers me to be at a university where students walk around with opinions based on nothing," Nacoste said. "If you're going to have an opinion, you need to do some research."
Washington, Nacoste and Dail said they were very grateful and appreciated the distinction.
"Students are the important people in our professional life and also in our personal life. I know I can speak for all three of us when I say that we are very honored," Dail said. "Students speak volumes when we take the time to listen."
Just Like Me: Online Training Helpers More Effective When They Resemble Students
Opposites don’t always attract. A study from North Carolina State University shows that participants are happier – and perform better – when the electronic helpers used in online training programs resemble the participants themselves.
“It is important that the people who design online training programs understand that one size does not fit all,” says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study. “Efforts to program helper agents that may be tailored to individuals can yield very positive results for the people taking the training.”
Online training students are more engaged and focused when the electronic "helper" is portrayed by an image that matches their race and gender.
Online training programs are becoming increasingly common, and are used for everything from developing work skills in employees to teaching children basic math skills. Many of these programs utilize electronic training agents, or “helpers,” to give feedback to users and help them through the coursework. But the usefulness of these helpers can vary, or even be annoying. Remember Clippy, the animated paper clip, from Microsoft?
NC State researchers set out to determine what characteristics make a training helper more effective. “We know from existing research on human interaction that we like people who are like us,” Foster Thompson says. “We wanted to see whether that held true for these training agents.”
The researchers evaluated the superficial similarities between 257 study participants and helper agents in an online training course, and assessed each participant’s communication style and their similarity to the helper’s communication style. Superficial similarities included the gender and race of the participant. Assessment of each participant’s communication style was determined by asking participants how they would give feedback to others in various situations – such as helping someone with classwork. Researchers also asked participants how similar they felt the helper’s communication style was to their own style.
The researchers found that people reported being more engaged and focused on their training when the helper was portrayed by an image that matched both their race and gender. Furthermore, the researchers found that participants liked the helper more – and learned more from the program – when the helper’s communication style matched their own in regard to a very specific aspect of giving feedback.
Essentially, when giving feedback, some people give individual performance evaluations by comparing the individual to the group (e.g., you are in the top 10 percent), while others compare an individual’s performance only against that individual’s previous record (e.g., you did much better this time). Study participants performed much better when the helper’s feedback style matched their own in this regard.
The study also showed that perception could be more important than reality in participant performance. “We found that people liked the helper more, were more engaged and viewed the program more favorably when they perceived the helper agent as having a feedback style similar to their own – regardless of whether that was actually true,” Foster Thompson says.
The paper, “Similarity Effects in Online Training: Effects with Computerized Trainer Agents,” was co-authored by Foster Thompson and Dr. Tara Behrend, an assistant professor at George Washington University who worked on the study while a Ph.D. student at NC State. The paper is forthcoming from the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Craig Brookins: Climbing Kilimanjaro
They don't call it a mountaintop experience for nothing. Eighteen months after standing at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Dr. Craig Brookins can remember what he was thinking as he began his attempt to reach the summit of the world's tallest fr ... Read More
Erin Sexton, Psychology major, is CHASS Student of the Month
Erin Sexton, a major in Psychology and Political Science, is the student of the month in CHASS.
For more details, go to:
Young Learners Get HELPS
Assistant Professor of Psychology John Begeny has figured out a method to improve children’s reading fluency—the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression—that is key to unlocking literacy. And he’s set up a nonprofit to get his approach out of the lab and into the classroom. In 2010 alone, some 5,000 teachers from across the country have downloaded Begeny's free educational materials.
This article appeared on the website, Improbable Research:
Scenario : You are applying for a job via e-mail – is it a good idea to attach a smiley? :)
That depends – according to a report presented at the 25th annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology (2010). Professor Lori Foster Thompson of the Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Technology Lab at North Carolina State University, and colleagues from George Mason University and the University of Otago jointly presented a paper entitled ‘E-Screening: The Consequences of Using ‘Smileys’ when E-Mailing Prospective Employers’ Which is the first ever study to “examine the effects of emoticon usage in a job application context.” A series of experiments investigated how the use of a smiley might either help (or hinder) your employment prospects. The researchers found supporting eveidence for all six of their smiley-based hypotheses. In summary :
“… smileys can indeed have the desired effect on perceptions of warmth, which may be particularly important to women, who are said to place a priority on close, personal relationships.”
There is an important proviso, however :
“Applicants using smileys are perceived to be less competent and lower in the agentic, instrumental ‘male’ attributes and behaviors (e.g., independence, leadership) believed to be necessary for success at male-gender-typed jobs.”
Therefore presenting opportunities for future research which “… could test other formats and examine the effects of other types of emoticons, such as the frown :( and the wink ;-) ”
Work Done By Our Graduates: Wendy Wechsberg
This story appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer, November 15, 2010
A strategic war against AIDS
BY DAN HOLLY - Raleigh News and Observer Correspondent
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK -- When AIDS was first diagnosed almost 30 years ago, many overreacted, fearing the disease could be spread by casual contact with infected people.
Today, public concern about HIV and AIDS has dwindled in the United States even as it remains a serious and persistent health problem, with an estimated 50,000 new infections a year.
But those involved in the fight against AIDS have never relaxed, and one researcher credited for persistence and determination is Wendee Wechsberg, senior director of the Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluations and Interventions Research at RTI International.
Wechsberg and her colleagues at RTI, a private research organization based in RTP with a mission of "improving the human condition," have dedicated themselves to helping the hardest-to-reach segments of the population.
Wechsberg and her team are increasingly recognized as leaders in prevention methods. Last summer at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Austria, Wechsberg presented a major paper about gender inequities and HIV among women who inject drugs.
"The themes of all the interventions we've been doing with women are to empower them and to help them learn to take care of themselves better," Wechsberg said.
These interventions have helped researchers come up with what Wechsberg describes as "realistic, culturally relevant prevention strategies that [women] can apply to their lives."
Through studies Wechsberg and her colleagues have conducted locally, including in Raleigh and Durham, Wechsberg's team has developed an expertise they rely on internationally. They have had successful programs in South Africa and Russia, and are planning programs in Namibia and Botswana.
The 56-year-old North Raleigh resident describes the focus of her research succinctly: "drugs, sex and violence."
Time to make a change
To understand what Wechsberg does, it helps to understand her motivation. In 1984, when she was working at a methadone treatment program in Raleigh, she realized she needed to expand her work.
She had just told a patient of the program that he was HIV-positive, and it devastated her that his angry response was to threaten to intentionally infect others.
"Everybody remembers that salient moment in their life when they realize they're going to have to make a change, and that was the one for me," Wechsberg recalled. "I had been working in [treating] addictions since 1977, and at that point I realized that it wasn't enough."
She decided to pursue a doctorate in community psychology, which she earned from N.C. State University in 1993. She went to work for RTI International, eventually leading the organization's substance abuse research team.
Wechsberg and her colleagues have spent many years studying the combination of problems faced by the down-and-out and developing methods to fight those problems. It took the head of a social scientist and the heart of a social worker for her to keep going.
"I never thought I would become a scientist," Wechsberg said. "I keep asking the next question. I'm never getting it right. Each study, I say, 'I didn't get that so I have to ask this next piece.' And it keeps building."
Reaching out to women
A key lesson Wechsberg and her team members have learned is to meet women "where they are at."
This is not always easy. Her team works with sex workers, methamphetamine users, crack addicts. Many are mired in poverty and lack education, or are unemployed or homeless.
A key intervention came in 1998, when an RTI team led by Wechsberg began a study of African-American women in Raleigh and Durham who used crack cocaine.
The intervention included such elements as role-playing to teach and practice negotiation for condom use, referrals to local service organizations for needs that required extensive counseling, a personalized plan for reducing risk from sexual behavior and drug use, and access to HIV testing. The researchers followed clients for up to seven years to determine how well their methods worked.
The intervention, known as the Women's CoOp, was considered a huge success. The National Institutes of Health provided funding to adapt the methods internationally, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled the approach as a "best-evidence" HIV behavioral intervention program.
Globally, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and women increasingly bear the brunt of the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, women represent 61 percent of infections among adults.
Wechsberg's team first began an intervention in South Africa in 2001. They had to adapt their models to conform to cultural norms there. For instance, the researchers discovered that a new pair of underwear and a hot bath - luxuries for many in that country - proved hugely helpful in preparing the women for counseling.
Redonna Chandler, chief of the Services Research Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, lauds Wechsberg not only for the type of research she does, but how she does it.
"Wendee goes to where the people are," Chandler said. "She is very active in seeking out those individuals who have substance abuse problems, seeking out those individuals who are at high risk of contracting and spreading HIV, seeking out individuals who fall through the cracks of health disparities. She is very committed to a public health mission."
The treatment methods are effective, Chandler added, because they are tailored to meet individual needs. Clients "don't feel like [methods] were developed for someone else. They feel like they were developed for them," she said.
Wechsberg said she continually comes back to the passion that started her on her journey.
"One person can make a difference," she said, "but you have to think big, you have to think globally. You always have to say, 'It's not enough.'"
Survey Says: Genetics Affect Whether Were Willing To Take Surveys
A new study from North Carolina State University shows that genetics play a key factor in whether someone is willing to take a survey.
We wanted to know whether people are genetically predisposed to ignore requests for survey participation, says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research. We found that there is a pretty strong genetic predisposition to not reply to surveys.
For the study, the researchers sent out a survey to over 1,000 sets of twins - some fraternal, some identical - and then measured who did and did not respond. The researchers were interested in whether the response behavior of one twin accurately predicted the behavior of the other twin. We found that the behavior of one identical twin was a good predictor for the other, Foster Thompson says, but that the same did not hold true for fraternal twins.
Because all of the sets of twins were raised in the same household, the only distinguishing variable between identical and fraternal twin sets is the fact that identical twins are genetically identical and fraternal twins are not.
Understanding survey response behavior is important because managers and people who study organizational behavior rely on survey data to better understand issues ranging from leadership to job stress. We need to get representative data in order to form accurate conclusions, Foster Thompson says, for science and for business practice.
A lot of research has been done to evaluate how surveys can be written or presented to encourage participation, Foster Thompson adds. Much less work has been done to evaluate the personal characteristics of potential respondents - and the role those characteristics play in determining whether someone will actually fill a survey out.
The research raises a number of additional questions, but basically we want to know why or how genetics affect peoples predisposition to take surveys, Foster Thompson says. Is the linkage between genetics and survey response explained by personality, attitudes toward employers, or something else entirely?
The paper, Genetic underpinnings of survey response, will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Zhen Zhang of Arizona State University and Dr. Richard Arvey of the National University of Singapore.
Interview with Dr. Tom Hess on Aging and Cognition
Dr. Tom Hess is a leading expert on how aging affects memory and problem solving. Watch an interview with him by clicking on this link:
Keep On Playing Those Mind Games
Researchers are seeking to identify and develop tools that can help slow the decline in cognitive functioning associated with aging. What's wrong with that?
Video games aren’t just kid stuff any more. It is a multibillion dollar industry that has branched out from entertainment into areas such as educational software. Now researchers are working on ways that video games might be used to boost memory and thinking skills in the elderly – and some people aren’t crazy about that.
According to the federal Administration on Aging, 72.1 million Americans will be over the age of 65 in the year 2030 – more than double the number of seniors in 2000 – making up 19 percent of the population. So why would someone take issue with research efforts aimed at helping older adults age gracefully? Politics.
In case you missed it, Senators McCain and Coburn released a list Aug. 3 ranking their alleged “100 worst stimulus projects.” One of those projects is the video game research being performed by NC State University and Georgia Tech, which is being funded by the National Science Foundation.
Specifically, the senators say the grant is financing “marketing video games to the elderly.” That’s playing games with the facts. The research is actually a two-phase initiative aimed at improving cognitive functioning in older adults. Cognitive functioning refers to memory, problem-solving, critical thinking and other mental skills.
In phase one, researchers will ascertain whether certain qualities that can be found in video games result in improved cognitive functioning in older adults. This work builds on established research.
In phase two, once the researchers have determined which qualities improve mental abilities, they will develop a set of guidelines that can be used to design a new class of video games, board games or other activities for older adults, as well as a prototype video game that follows those guidelines.
In short, they are seeking to identify and develop tools that can help slow the decline in cognitive functioning associated with aging. With the so-called “graying” of the U.S. population, it is hard to see how that’s wasteful. After all, we’ll all be facing the symptoms of aging one of these days.
Changes in the Psychology Department
Dr. Don Mershon who has served as the Director of the Graduate Program and the Associate Department Head and Dr. Shari Lane who has served as the Director of the Undergraduate Program are both returning to their regular faculty positions effective July 1, 2010. They have both served the department in an outstanding manner for many years and we thank them for that service.
Dr. Lynne Baker-Ward will be the new Director of the Graduate Program and the Associate Department Head. Dr. Bob Pond will be the new Director of the Undergraduate Program. Both will start the new positions on July 1, 2010.
Study Shows Age Doesn't Necessarily Affect Decisions
Many people believe that getting older means losing a mental edge, leading to poor decision-making. But a new study from North Carolina State University shows that when it comes to making intuitive decisions – using your “gut instincts” – older adults fare as well as their juniors.
The researchers tested groups of young adults (aged 17-28) and community-dwelling older adults (aged 60-86) – meaning they live in the community, rather than in a nursing home – to see how they fared when making decisions based on intuitive evaluation. For example, study participants were asked to choose from a list of apartments based on each apartment’s overall positive attributes. Under such conditions, young and older adults were equally adept at making decisions.
Many people believe that getting older leads to poor decision-making. Research shows that it is not that simple. Education and the complexity of the decision play important roles.
“But not every decision can be made that way,” says Dr. Thomas Hess, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study. “Some decisions require more active deliberation. For example, those decisions that require people to distinguish pieces of information that are important from those that are unimportant to the decision at hand.” And when it comes to more complex decision-making, Hess says, older adults face more challenges than their younger counterparts.
In one portion of the study, participants were given a list of specific criteria to use in selecting an apartment. That list was then taken away, and each participant had to rely on his or her memory to incorporate the criteria into their decision-making.
However, there was considerable variation among the older adults who participated in the study – some did very well at the complex decision-making. “Older adults with a higher education did a better job of remembering specific criteria and utilizing them when they made decisions,” says lead author Tara Queen, a psychology Ph.D. student at NC State. “Ultimately, they made better choices.”
“This tells us that the effects of age on decision-making are not universal,” Hess says. “When it comes to making intuitive decisions, like choosing a dish to order from a menu, young and old are similar. Age differences are more likely to crop up when it comes to complex decision-making, such as choosing a health-care plan based on a complex array of information. But even then, it appears that any negative effects of aging will be more evident in those with lower levels of education.”
The research can be used to change the way we present information to older adults, Hess adds. Queen explains that “presenting older adults with overwhelming amounts of information is less beneficial to them. For example, different people have different priorities. Information can be broken down into categories. People could then decide which categories are most important to them, and dig down for additional information as needed.”
Queen and Hess are currently doing additional research to determine exactly how the complexity of information being presented to older adults affects their decision-making – knowledge that could allow for more specific measures that could be used to help older adults continue to make good decisions.
The study, “Age Differences in the Effects of Conscious and Unconscious Thought in Decision Making,” was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the Retirement Research Foundation. The study is published in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.
NC State’s Department of Psychology is part of the university’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Frank Smith wins service award
Dr. Frank J. Smith, Professor of Psychology was awarded the Jackson Rigney International Service Award at the annual banquet of the NC State chapter of Sigma Iota Rho (The Honor Society for International Studies). The award is given in recognition of outstanding research and scholarship through international collaboration. Each year, the Eta chapter of Sigma Iota Rho at NC State awards the Jackson Rigney Service Award to recognize the distinguished contributions of a faculty or staff member at North Carolina State University to the promotion of international understanding and service to the University and to the international community. Funding for the Award is provided through the Jackson A Rigney International Endowment in the North Carolina State University Foundation.
Dr. Smith's academic teaching and research are concerned with the cognitive and behavioral bases of cooperation, innovation and adaptation in a context of technical and social change. His professional activities have the objective of promoting improved social policies, practices and services in domestic and international settings. He has worked extensively with U.S. and international development organizations to help develop human resources, improve organizational capacities, facilitate technology transfer and measure program performance.
At Bat with the Pack
Lindsay Campana of the NC State softball team is taking her senior project to the field. On Monday, April 26, the applied psychology major will host "At Bat with the Pack," an adapted softball game for children who are clients of Maxim Healthcare, at the Curtis & Jacqueline Dail Softball Stadium on campus. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.
To fulfill her major requirements, Campana has been serving an internship with Maxim, which provides a variety of medical services, including in-home care to consumers with developmental disabilities and delays, as well as physical and mental disabilities, during the spring semester.
Approximately 20 Maxim clients, children ages 18 and younger, are expected to take part in the event. The game will consist of two innings, with each team batting every player in every inning and the last batter hitting a home run. All participants will hit, score and win.
Participants will also have a buddy to assist in their participant and safety. Several Wolfpack student-athletes have volunteered to serve as buddies for the event.
A silent auction will also be held to raise funds in an effort of raising awareness of the local developmentally disabled population.
Campana, a native of Templeton, Calif., is majoring in applied psychology. On the diamond she owns 48 career wins with a 1.41 ERA and 609 strikeouts for the Wolfpack. Campana currently boasts the second-best ERA in the ACC (1.00) and is fourth in strikeouts with 215.
Day By Day: Why We Forget To Take Our Medicine, And What We Can Do About It
For many people, remembering to take a daily medication can be the difference between life and death. Yet, people forget all the time. Now a landmark study from NC State's Department of Psychology has found that changes in daily behavior have a significant effect on whether we remember to take our medication - and that these changes influence older and younger adults differently.
Lynne Baker-Ward Named APS Fellow
Dr. Lynne Baker-Ward was named as a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. This honor was given to Dr. Baker-Ward in recognition of her "sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology".
Stereotypes about older adults can affect cognitive performance
The study isn't the first to show that the aged perform worse under the stress of a stereotype, but it is one of the clearest explanations yet published on how easily stereotype threat compels people to work against themselves.
The study, Cloud writes, is a reminder of the 'power of belief' and how stereotypes can have an impact on real-life performance. The take-home message, Hess says, "is that social factors may have a negative effect on older adults' memory performance."
Cognitive Performance and Games
Can learning to play games help improve cognitive abilities for older adults? Research by NC State Psychology Department faculty members Dr. Anne McLaughlin and Dr. Jason Allaire is designed to address this question. Click on the link below to find out more.
Video Games: Can They Slow Mental Decline?
Cancellation of Opening for Tenure- Track Faculty Position in Health Psychology
Carolina State University has been canceled.
For further questions, please contact
- Roger Mitchell, PhD
- Department of Psychology, Box 7650
- NC State University
- Raleigh, NC 27695-7650
- (919) 513-2546
Doctors featured in Accolades
Psychology Graduate Degree Candidates
Recent Faculty Awards
Dr. Denis Gray has been named Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award for 2007 at NC State University. This award recognizes outstanding graduate level teaching at North Carolina State University. Recognition is given at commencement, the Honors Baccalaureate and Celebration of Academic Excellence, and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Amy Halberstadt has been named Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor for 2006-2008 at NC State University. Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professors must have provided distinguished service in undergraduate teaching at NC State for at least 7 years, must be members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers, and must additionally be identified by students, alumni, and departmental and college faculty as excellent for their outstanding contributions as teachers. Recognition is given at Commencement, the Honors Baccalaureate and Celebration of Academic Excellence, and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Adam Meade has been named Outstanding Junior Faculty for 2007 at NC State University. This award recognizes the assistant professor in the College judged to have the most significant professional accomplishments during the first years of his or her career at NC State. Recognition is given at commencement, the Honors Baccalaureate and Celebration of Academic Excellence, and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Rupert Nacoste was the CHASS nominee for the UNC Board of Governors’ Teaching Award. This university award, coordinated by the Office of the Provost, is the most prestigious award given to faculty for teaching excellence. Recognition is given at commencement, the Honors Baccalaureate and Celebration of Academic Excellence, and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Lori Foster Thompson has been named an Outstanding Teacher for 2006-2007 at NC State University. As its title suggests, the Outstanding Teacher award goes to university faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching. As a result of being identified by students, alumni, and colleagues as an excellent teacher, recipients of this award become members of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers. Recognition is given at commencement, the Honors Baccalaureate and Celebration of Academic Excellence, and the Celebration of Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Jeffery Braden
Dr. Jeffery Braden was on the ABC World News.
Dr. Denis Gray
Dr. Denis Gray to present 'team science' at AAAS
NCSU Libraries now provide access to APA's PsycARTICLES Database.
Dr. John Begeny
Dr. John Begeny receives grant from the Office of Extension, Engagement and Economic Development
NCCS Data Web Access
NCSU Libraries provides access to NCCS Data Web for nonprofit sector data
Dr. Michael Wogalter & Dr. Christopher Mayhorn
Dr. Michael Wogalter & Dr. Christopher Mayhorn study domain names
Dr. Douglas Gillan
Dr. Douglas Gillan named head of Psychology Department