Academics photos

Meet the Faculty

Beth Schwartz

Chair of the Psychology Department, The Catherine Ehrman Thoresen '23 and William E. Thoresen Professor of Psychology, Assistant Dean of the College
B.A., Colby College; M.A., Ph.D., State University of New York (Buffalo)
(e-mail) (web site)

I am fortunate to be able to teach both Introduction to Psychology, comprised primarily of first-year students, and senior seminar in psychology.

Over the last decade or so, I have had the opportunity to see students' understanding of the science of psychology develop from a novice understanding of the discipline to a background that allows them to design their own research.

Watching that understanding evolve over the 4 years is extraordinary. Attending the annual conference of the Virginia Psychological Association, where all of our seniors present their senior research is always the highlight of each academic year. At the conference faculty are given the opportunity to see the benefits of everyone’s hard work in action.

Time and time again our students provide a professional presentation of their original research project and learn from that experience how much they learned as a psychology major and as a Randolph College student and how well they are prepared to take on challenges in their chosen careers or in graduate school.

My scholarship at the College has focused on my two areas of interest. At the start of my professional career I studied children's memory development and how this applies to children's eyewitness reports. I continue that line of research here at the College,

While attending a teaching and learning conference a few years ago, I heard a speaker say "If you teach do it well; If you do it well, learn how to do it better."

The notion that we should always seek ways to improve what we might already do well has shaped my professional career both in the classroom and in my research program, in particular my other interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning. My scholarship in this area includes a book just published by Wiley-Blackwell that I co-authored with a colleague from the Universityof Wisconsin, Green Bay(http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1405161795,descCd-description.html).

In our book titled "Optimizing teaching and learning" we discuss the important notion that we should take a close look at how we teach and how our students learn, use the same methodology that we would use for formal investigations (be it in the humanities and science), and hold our research to the same standards most notably peer review.

This gets back to the idea that when we teach we should take a look at how well our teaching strategies are working and how well our students are learning given those strategies we are using. By taking the time to reflect on the teaching and learning in our own classroom, we inherently learn how to teach better.

I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with students in both areas of my scholarship during the academic year as well as during our summer research program. In my collaboration with students they are able to become principal investigators in the research process, seeing for themselves the excitement of discovering the unknown. We learn together the ways in which we can improve how children are questioned when witness or victim of a crime and how teaching strategies impact the effectiveness of one’s teaching and student learning.

My interest in psychology doesn't stay within the red brick walls. With two children of my own, so often I see the change in abilities/understandings discussed throughout the texts change and evolve over time right before my very eyes. Although anecdotal, I find that describing and even showing video tapes of these changes (yes, I show "home movies" in my classroom), is a wonderful way to illustrate how understanding human behavior can impact the understanding of those around you.

Richard Barnes

Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies
B.A., Vanderbilt University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
(e-mail)

Winston Churchill once said, "First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us."

For most of my professional career I have had one foot in the world of psychology and one in the world of architecture and environmental design. I studied social psychology and environmental psychology at the University of Wisconsin, and I love exploring how people create and respond to their social and physical environments.

At Randolph College, I teach courses in Social Psychology, Environmental Psychology, and Psychology and Environmental Change, all of which deal in one way or another with people's interactions with their environments. Most recently I have been teaching courses in our Environmental Studies Program focusing on the relationship between people's behavior and significant environmental issues such as pollution, energy use, and waste management.

One of my other interests is the history of psychology. I am fascinated by the social, cultural, and historical forces that have helped to shape modern psychology. The Randolph College Psychology Lab is one of the oldest in the US. I teach our History of Psychology course and have supervised student research projects on the College’s large collection of antique laboratory equipment, some of which dates back to the founding years of psychology.

At a practical level, I have been involved in efforts to make Randolph a "greener" campus through the College’s Sustainability Plan and Campus Master Plan and also serve on the City of Lynchburg’s Planning Commission and Natural Resources Advisory Committee, which advise city government on land use and environmental sustainability.

My wife, Tina Barnes, is Coordinator of Disability Services at Randolph, and we have two sons. In my spare time I do house projects and carpentry and have been learning how to play the banjo.

Dennis Goff

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

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.

Holly Tatum

Associate Professor of Psychology
B.A., Mary Baldwin College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Tennessee
(e-mail)

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, and the Psychology of Women. Although I teach a variety of courses, I have the same three goals in every class. The first is to emphasize psychology as a science. Students learn research methods in every class. They learn not only how to read and understand research articles, but also how to critique them and identify their strengths and weaknesses. The second goal in every class is to apply psychological principles to real life situations and behaviors. For example, in my Introduction to Psychology course, students have to choose one of their own behaviors to change and propose a modification plan based on operant conditioning. My third goal is for students to always question how psychological information is presented in the media. We are exposed to research and statistics in newspapers, on television, and even in popular movies. It is important for students to learn how to evaluate that information in light of what they have learned about the science of psychology.

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 advising student as they choose the topics that interest them the most, develop a research question and see it through the entire process from beginning to end.

Teaching at a smaller school allows me to maintain my interests in several different areas of psychology. My research activities fall primarily under the umbrella of health psychology. I am interested in how differences in personality are related to stress, coping, and overall well-being. Currently I have two ongoing research projects. One involves the relationship between revenge and illness. The other project seeks to predict health from measures of sense of humor.

When I’m not teaching or working, you’ll find me at home with my husband and two children (Wilson & Libby).