Psychology and Child Development

College of Liberal Arts

Recent News

Psych Student Breanna Ceballos Wins Prestigious Student Award At The Western Psychological Association Convention!

May 16, 2022


Breanna Ceballos, a 4th year Psychology major and Gerontology minor, was awarded a WPA Travel Award by the Western Psychological Association. This award is given for outstanding research conducted by a student! To achieve this, the abstract submitted was in the top 2% of presenters (out of over 900!). The presentation was titled "An Unforeseen Consequence of Stay-at-Home Mandates: Low-income Individuals Show Greater Stress Levels and Depressive Symptoms during the COVID-19 Pandemic." This research was worked on as a BEACoN project, with Dr. Hagobian, Adam Seal and later, Dr. Bennion, as a senior project advisor.  Congratulations Breanna, on this outstanding honor! 

Psych Student Ariadne Kaylor's Research Selected for the 2022 CSU Student Research Competition

Mar 28, 2022

Psychology student Ariadne Kaylor's research project was selected to represent Cal Poly in the 2022 CSU Student Research Competition in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category.

Here's what she has to say about her work: "Over the past year I have been conducting research investigating the relationships between OCD symptoms, COVID anxiety, and cognitive distortions. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that participants with more frequent OCD tendencies would exhibit higher COVID-related anxiety. 157 college student participants completed a survey including a measure of coronavirus anxiety as well as a questionnaire about OCD tendencies that fall within four cognitive distortions. Results supported the hypothesis and provided evidence that a tendency towards overestimation of threat may be a predictor of COVID anxiety. Conclusions from this study improve our ability to predict OCD-like issues for the non-clinical population and inform interventions for individuals already diagnosed during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This opportunity has been invaluable in developing my career goals and exploring the area of research that I hope to focus on in graduate school! I am so honored to be chosen to represent Cal Poly in the CSU Research Competition, as well as to present my research as a poster at the Western Psychological Conference in April. Thank you to my faculty advisor, Dr. Freberg!"

Congratulations Ariadne! 

Dr. Sara Bartlett and Students Receive Awards

Jun 29, 2021

Dr. Sara Bartlett

Service Learning - Faculty

Dr. Sara Barlett, PhD is a lecturer in the Psychology & Child Development and Social Sciences Departments at Cal Poly who has been awarded the Service Learning – Faculty community service award. She received her Bachelors in Psychology and Minor in Human Development with an emphasis in Gerontology from U.C. Davis, her Masters of Social Work with an older adult concentration from U.C. Berkeley, and her Doctorate of Clinical Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Bartlett is passionate about service with older adult populations, especially in the context of intergenerational relationships and interaction patterns between generations. As such, she has developed a Lives Well Lived service program as part of her Psychology of Aging classes. Students are matched with an older adult and conduct a series of interviews throughout the quarter to write a memoir project on that senior’s life. Even when faced with challenges due to COVID-19, Dr. Bartlett’s quick pivot to a virtual version of this program helped decrease loneliness during a time of increased isolation and ensured that her students were still able to experience the benefits of service-learning. 

Dr. Bartlett was also selected as the recipient of the CLA 2021 Outstanding Career Achievement in Teaching by a Lecturer Award. This award recognizes a CLA lecturer who has sustained outstanding teaching over the course of their academic career at Cal Poly. The selection was made by the College of Liberal Arts College Council, who found that Dr. Bartlett is an outstanding contributor in her role as Lecturer in the Psychology & Child Development and Social Sciences Departments.  

Dr. Jasna Jovanovic Named Director of University Honors Program

Jun 29, 2021

Psychology and Child Development Professor Named Director of University Honors Program

By Sophie Lincoln

Martine Lappé
Jasna Jovanovic

Professor of Psychology and Child Development Jasna Jovanovic has been named the new director of the University Honors Program, starting Sept. 1, 2021.

Cal Poly’s Honors Program was founded in 1999 with the mission to provide “an academically enriched learning experience for the university’s most outstanding and highly motivated students,” according to their site.

The program also offers curricular and extracurricular programming designed to reach this goal.

Jovanovic will succeed Gregg Fiegel, who directed the Honors Program for more than seven years. Fiegel will return to the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department on a full-time basis.

Prior to obtaining her new role with the Honors Program, Jovanovic was the chair of the Psychology and Child Development Department for six years.

“I stepped down because I felt like my work was done, I accomplished what I wanted to and I wanted to give somebody else the opportunity for a leadership position,” Jovanovic said.

While Jovanovic had initially planned to return to teaching, when she saw the University Honors Program Director role had opened, she decided to take her experience there instead.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to really get in there,” Jovanovic said. “I think the program is strong, but I’m sure there’s room for new initiatives and that is what is exciting to me.”

One of Jovanovic’s responsibilities as the new director will be conducting an institutional review to determine the success of the program.

In addition to conducting the program’s first ever institutional review, some of Jovanovic’s other objectives include gathering data on the demographics of the Honors Program, supporting underrepresented students in the program and starting an alumni advisory board to help fund the program.

“One thing I would like to figure out is, who does it? Who does the program attract?” Jovanovic said. “My sense is that it may not be attracting as many underrepresented students or first [generation] students, and so, I’d like to understand how we could do a better job of attracting those students.”

Jovanovic will serve as the new director for a two-year term, after which she may reapply.


Cal Poly Child Development Students and Alumni Overcome Challenges Amid Virtual Learning

Jun 29, 2021

Cal Poly Child Development Students and Alumni Overcome Challenges Amid Virtual Learning

By Sophia Lincoln

America Romero
Sheighlin MacAskill

It is 8:15 in the morning and Miss MacAskill’s kindergarten class is beginning on Zoom. Various children in various different environments continue to emerge in the little squares on the computer screen.

A little dark-haired boy sniffs loudly. “You got a sniffly nose?” Miss MacAskill asks him. He nods animatedly.

One girl unmutes herself and starts to tell Miss MacAskill about her wiggly tooth that was bleeding yesterday.

After a few minutes of interacting with her students, Miss MacAskill shares her computer screen on the Zoom. A computer-animated illustration, or “bitmoji”, of Miss MacAskill appears on the screen. The students call the animation “Flat Miss MacAskill”.

Sheighlin MacAskill has been teaching at Moreland School District in San Jose since she graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s in child development in 2014. Like many other recent graduates who are currently starting their careers in education, MacAskill has faced many challenges learning how to teach virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MacAskill said when the pandemic first started to hit our country in March of 2020, she didn’t expect it to last nearly as long as it has.

“We were all hearing whispers about how [the virus] was spreading, and that certain countries were starting to close down and take all these crazy precautions,” MacAskill said. “But we weren’t really doing anything on our end yet, because it hadn’t really gotten to us at that point.”

While Moreland School District had initially planned to close for only three weeks in March, MacAskill said they have been doing virtual learning for nearly a year now.

According to MacAskill, the school’s methods for virtual learning have bettered since they first halted in-person learning and the children have since gotten the hang of it.

“It reminded me that kids are far more resilient than adults are in this situation,” MacAskill said. “They’re all just really adapting to what we’re doing right now, which I think was probably harder for teachers than it was for especially the younger students.”

Still, MacAskill said it has been challenging for her to teach certain skills that tend to require physical interaction with people and materials.

While MacAskill had the benefit of in-person teaching experience prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, others are starting their careers in child development right now. For many though, career options in education are very limited at the moment, according to some Cal Poly seniors entering the field.


Ana Bernardo is a child development senior and psychology minor at Cal Poly. Bernardo is currently interning for Transitions Mental Health Association as her field study for her child development major.

Bernardo works as a call handler at the Central Coast Hotline, which is part of Transitions Mental Health Association.

“Mainly, we deal with people who deal with mental health issues,” Bernardo said. “We get a lot of crisis calls, whether that’s suicidal intervention, panic attacks or even third-party concerns about people who have mental health problems and are needing resources in the San Luis Obispo area.”

Bernardo said she ultimately hopes to use her child development and psychology education to go into marriage and family therapy, specifically focusing on child and family dynamics.

Part of the pandemic’s effect on this industry is the resulting lack of options for those starting out in the field, as many organizations are no longer recruiting interns, Bernardo said.

“I wanted to work for like a family care network, but they actually weren’t accepting anybody just because all of those are supposed to be in person,” Bernardo said. “It just almost got to a point where you just can take what you get and unfortunately, that can sometimes not directly align with what you want to do.”

While her internship at Transitions Mental Health Association doesn’t exactly correspond with her child development major and future career goals though, Bernardo said she is very glad she ended up there and that she is learning a lot.

“I think maybe it was like a hidden gem. I honestly learned so much from the process,” Bernardo said. “I think it has really prepared me for [post-graduate] and just like an insight into what the mental health community will look like.”


Similar to Bernardo’s experience, psychology senior and child development minor Adian Alseth started his field study during the COVID-19 pandemic.

America Romero
Adian Alseth works remotely

Alseth is currently working as an intern with the Men and Masculinity Program at Cal Poly to raise awareness and educate on masculine roles within society in order to counteract sexual, social and power based violence against women.

“Most recently, we’ve been working toward creating community inclusivity for men of color on campus, since they are a highly impacted group, they have the highest rates of loss retention, so most likely not to complete a degree at Cal Poly,” Alseth said.

Like Bernardo, Alseth struggled with the limited options for field studies near the start of the pandemic.

“I think the limitations that were originally set made it difficult to find exactly what I was looking for, in terms of what I was hoping to do,” Alseth said.

Unlike Bernardo though, Alseth is not entirely certain of what he would like to do with his psychology and child development education. Though he said he would like to do “something along the route of mental health and mental awareness” as we start to see the effects that the pandemic has had on mental health, particularly in children.

Though Alseth values his current work with the Men and Masculinity Program, he is a bit concerned about finding work post-graduation.

“I wasn’t expecting to graduate in such an unstable economy,” Alseth said.

Additionally, Alseth said that the experience of working virtually has had some drawbacks in terms of preparing him for a future career.

“It was really unexpected to do this internship, or this part of my coursework, remote,” Alseth said. “You definitely lose the interpersonal connection you have when you’re in person with people.”

Despite how different his experience is from what he might have imagined, Alseth is grateful to have had this opportunity with the Men and Masculinity Program.

“The skills I’ve been developing are certainly applicable to a wide range [of careers],” Alseth said.

According to child development junior Tami Amer, the options for field study and internships have become even more limited since last year when Bernardo and Alseth started their field studies.

“Especially being a junior and this being one of the most important times to have field work and that kind of stuff, I’m just really scared for the future and reflecting if not having experience directly in the field will affect my later career,” Amer said.

Amer even had to take the Preschool Learning Lab class online last quarter, which she said also makes her nervous about not having enough experience.

“Not that I didn’t get any experience out of it, but it just definitely wasn’t as fulfilling as it would have been in person,” Amer said. “Not being able to physically interact with the kids and see them face to face, but kind of just over Zoom talking to them.”

According to Amer, she and other child development students in her year are worried that they might not be able to graduate on time next year due to the current lack of opportunities for field study, which is a requirement of the major.

Amer hopes to use her child development education to ultimately become a speech therapist for children.

As teachers are beginning to get vaccinated and we enter what seems to be the beginning of the end of this pandemic, some schools are moving back to in-person learning while others will remain virtual for some time.

The same is true for other careers related to the child development major, including those which Bernardo, Alseth and Amer are interested in.

MacAskill's district will remain virtual for the time being. In the meantime, it is up to her to keep her kindergartners as engaged as possible over Zoom.

Dr. Bettergarcia

Chancellor Showcases Dr. Bettergarcia's work on LGBTQ mental health services

Oct 19, 2020

Dr. Bettergarcia's work was featured in the CSU's recent "Transforming Tomorrow" publication about the impact of CSU-related research. View information about Dr. Bettergarcia's project here.

View the page featuring this project here:



America Romero

Psychology Senior America Romero Awarded Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Aimed at Preparing Future CSU Faculty

Sep 22, 2020

Psychology senior America Romero is one of two Cal Poly students who have been selected as pre-doctoral fellows through the California Polytechnic State University (CSU)’s Sally Casanova Scholars Program.

Claudia Kraake

Child Development Student Creates Tutoring Network To Help Local K-12 Students

Sep 16, 2020

Driving from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles, Claudia Kraake was struck with an idea so exciting, she pulled over on the side of the freeway to brainstorm, she said. To help local K-12 students navigate online learning, the child development junior built a network of Cal Poly student tutors.

Dr. Jennifer Jipson

Welcome from the New Department Chair

Sep 14, 2020

Dear Students,

As the new chair of the Department of Psychology and Child Development, I would like to welcome you to the 2020-21 academic year.


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