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Sara Beck

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Assistant Professor of Psychology
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

In the classroom, my goal is to tap into students’ natural curiosity about human behavior and mental processes and encourage them to interact with the broad scientific literature that exists under the umbrella of “psychology.” I focus on applying what psychologists learn from research to our own experiences, as well as building transferable skills around reading and consuming scientific literature. I want students to be able to decode behavioral science headlines by going to the published source. It’s thrilling to see that skillset benefit students as they move into a range of careers ­and roles – from teaching to healthcare to family caregiving.

I teach Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, Personality Psychology, Research Methods, and Psychology of Music. We have a fantastic nursery school on campus in which students can observe young children, and all psychology majors at Randolph College develop and conduct experimental research – both of which contribute to the high rigor of the psychology program here.

My research centers on how children’s active engagement with music and media can be leveraged to facilitate prosocial behavior and inclusion. As a lifelong musician and a firm believer that everyone can “do” music, I am interested in how making music with others can foster social bonding in both children and adults. I have looked at preschool-age children’s sharing and helping following brief musical interactions, and I continue to investigate how synchronous movement and perceptions of synchrony during music making affect social bonding in children and adults. Additionally, I have a line of research focused on school age children’s thinking about gender in the context of a children’s program featuring a genderless android. I view research as an inherently collaborative process, and I particularly enjoy the process of working alongside students to develop and refine research questions.

When I am not working at Randolph, I can be found making things out of pinecones with my two little girls, recording new songs, and hanging out at the public library.

Dennis Goff

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Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology
B.S., Lynchburg College; M.S., Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

I remain fascinated by the interplay between Psychology and Biology. Early in my career I wanted to know how prenatal insults like exposure to alcohol, valium, or environmental hazards could affect the behavior of infant humans and animals. Lately my interests have been captured by the emerging ideas about how evolution has influenced human behaviors. This rapidly changing field seems to have some things right with much work still to be done. I hope that advances in the next decade or so will focus on developmental explanations that connect evolutionary influences with the behaviors seen in adults. I also have a fledgling interest in studying the development of children's understanding and use of humor.

My real joy in research though is mentoring students as they conduct their own first research projects. I enjoy working with students as they struggle to mold their initial ideas into testable hypotheses and collect their data. But, the most exciting part for me comes near the end of the projects when we analyze those data and find out if the hypotheses were supported. I get the additional benefit that these projects have consistently challenged me to learn something about Psychology that I would not have examined otherwise.

Technology is both a tool and a toy for me. I use all of the common computer tools in my teaching and research. In addition to those I have done some programming for specialized computer tools that are used at Randolph in the Introduction to Psychology and Research Methods courses. At home, my toys include computer and video games as well as a home theatre. We use that home theatre to watch a very wide range of films. Examples from those films often appear in my classes.

Elizabeth Gross

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Assistant Professor of Psychology
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of Virginia

What excites me the most about the Psychology program at Randolph College is how closely I get to work with undergraduate students. I am passionate about teaching psychology, and I love the small, intimate, and supportive classrooms that enable me to not only teach but mentor my students as well. I currently teach Introduction to Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Research Methods, and Myths and Controversies in Psychology. Most of all, I try to incorporate research into all of my classes, either by emphasizing rigorous evaluation of scientific studies and their conclusions or having students design and conduct their own research studies. I find students really are the creative engine in the field!

As much as I love teaching, I also love being a scientist. In research, I am primarily interested in how our social environments shape basic cognitive processes, and how individuals incur costs and benefits in social relationships. I find it fascinating that our visual systems reconstruct the world around us, but it is not always accurate. For example, the steepest paved road in Lynchburg, VA is, by law, 9 degrees, yet it looks drastically steeper! In fact, there is good evidence that what we see is shaped by both our ability to act in the world and, more surprisingly, who surrounds us. Distances look farther and hills look steeper when we are physically exhausted, and thinking about a supportive friend literally makes us see the world as easier to navigate. My research has found that even an abstract social resource, imagining supportive others, provides physiological benefits and alters visual perception. I am excited to continue this work with students in an effort to directly quantify how individuals perceive and relate to their social network in an effort to establish what aspects of the social environment are responsible for these direct changes in physiology and cognitive processes.

When I'm not working, you will often find me training for long distance runs, catching up on my reading list, or watching football. 


Holly Tatum

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Mary Sabel Girard ’34 Chair in Psychology, Professor of Psychology
B.A., Mary Baldwin College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Tennessee

My undergraduate education at a small liberal arts college was a defining experience for me as a student. As a psychology major at Mary Baldwin College, I became involved in conducting research with a faculty member. The individualized attention and unique experiences that I had as an undergraduate led me to graduate school and eventually back to an institution with similar values and opportunities for students. I feel fortunate now to be a part of that experience for other students as a faculty member.

At Randolph College, I teach Introduction to Psychology, Research Methods, Tests and Measures, Health Psychology, Experimental Psychology, and the Psychology of Gender. What I love about the psychology program at Randolph is that we give all of our students the opportunity to design and carry out their own empirical research. One of my favorite roles is mentoring student as they navigate the research process. Each year our senior psychology majors choose the topics that interest them the most, develop a research question, design a study, collect data, and present their results at a psychology conference. Years of experience mentoring students led me to co-write a book on the ethics of undergraduate research in psychology – Ethics in Psychological Research: A Practical Guide for the Student Scientist.

Teaching at a smaller school allows me to maintain my research interests in several different areas of psychology. My scholarship falls under the umbrella of health psychology. I am interested in how differences in personality are related to stress, coping, and overall well-being. I have studied how feelings of revenge are related to illness symptoms and how sense of humor predicts physical and psychological well-being. I also conduct research on the scholarship of teaching and learning. I am interested in how gender affects the college classroom experience for students and faculty. More recently, I have studied the efficacy of honor codes in reducing academic dishonesty. My interest in academic integrity was piqued by Randolph’s longstanding honor code.

When I am not teaching or writing, I enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter and kayaking in the summer.

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