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Rick Barnes

Image of Rick BarnesProfessor of Psychology and Environmental Studies
B.A., Vanderbilt University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

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.

In my spare time I do house projects and carpentry and have been learning how to play the banjo.

Sara Beck

Image of Sara BeckAssistant 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.

Elizabeth Gross

Image of Elizabeth GrossAssistant 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

Image of Holly TatumMary 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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