Psychology and Child Development

College of Liberal Arts

Recent News

Dr. Patty Clarkson Recieves CLA Staff Excellence Award

Nov 3, 2022


Congratulations to Dr. Patty Clarkson for being awarded the 2022 CLA award for Staff Excellence. This award recognizes a staff member whose performance has far exceeded expectations, advancing the department, college and university.

As the Director of the Preschool Learning Lab, Dr. Clarkson manages every facet of preschool operations, including daily interactions with preschool children and their parents, hiring and training preschool staff, developing and implementing program curriculum and assessments, navigating Cal Poly's bureaucracy, and maintaining State licensing requirements. She works tirelessly to ensure that children, families, and undergraduate students continue to have access to the highest quality early education lab school in the CSU - and one that rivals what is offered by Stanford Bing. In fact, Dr. Clarkson has worked with CD faculty to establish the identity of the Preschool Learning Lab as an exemplary preschool program that supports children's interest and engagement with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She welcomes student and faculty projects from across campus and in doing so, enriches the learning opportunities for students and children. Under her leadership, the lab is a model setting for inquiry based learning.

Further, Dr. Clarkson works collaboratively with the CD faculty to implement our Preschool Learning Lab Diversity and Inclusivity Initiative. This initiative identifies and enacts approaches to ensuring the PLL is an inclusive space for our preschoolers and their families, such as inviting Dr. Jennifer Adair, expert in ECE and racial justice and equity in early learning, to visit Cal Poly and conduct a workshop in Fall 2023.

Not only is Dr. Clarkson invested in the PLL but she is also an active participant in discussions about childcare on the Cal Poly campus and within the community. She engages in varied service roles to support initiative to understand and provide support for families in need of care. Her commitment to her role is integral to the success of our PLL and th Child Development program more boradly.

Dr. Garcia Receives the CLA Diversity Award

Oct 28, 2022


This award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding effort toward furthering the colleges commitment to diversity and equity in teaching, research, and/or service. Dr. Garcia received this award as a result of her continuous commitment to DEI in all of these domains. 

Dr. Garcia carries out and applies cutting-edge social psychological research on intergroup relationships, stereotype threat, multiracial identity, self-disclosure, stigma, and underrepresentation in STEM. Dr. Garcia’s expertise and success in research has been recognized with grants funded by the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage foundation. The Cal Poly community benefits from having a nationally-recognized scholar who also applies her scholarship to teaching, leadership, and service. She publicizes this information through outreach to students, non-academic audiences, and practitioners. 

The breadth and quality of DEI service that Dr. Garcia has contributed across her years at Cal Poly is outstanding. From her department, to our college, to the wider campus community, and national profession, she has had an exceptional impact on DEI progress. Dr. Garcia has been a long-standing member and former Chair of the PSY&CD Diversity Committee where she has led departmental DEI initiatives, including helping to develop the first-generation college student ICMA application process and the implementation of faculty education and training opportunities.

As Faculty Associate and then Interim Associate Vice President at OUDI, Dr. Garcia led the university-wide climate survey, developed the research arm of BEACoN, secured funding for BEACoN, participated in university-wide GI 2025 initiatives, and helped develop university-wide DEI strategic plans and assessment goals.

 

Dr. Garcia created the course “Social Psychology of Prejudice” in which students learn about root causes of biases, their consequences, and ways to fight against them. She also revised and updated our “Psychology of Women” course “to “Psychology of Gender”, which now includes the examination of male gender role expectations and non-binary gender identity.

During her time at Cal Poly, Dr. Garcia has provided hundreds of undergraduate students with invaluable research experience that has positively affected their academic trajectory. Additionallly, she has mentored 12 STEM professors across the CSU as part of the AGEP Alliance for Diversity and Strengths grant. Dr. Garcia has mentored these early carrer faculty  in strengths training to inform their teaching, research, and service in order to promote their early career success.

 

The volume and quality of her contributions to DEI over her 15 years at Cal Poly is truly extraordinary.

 

Dr. Jovanovic Receives CLA Award for Outstanding Career Achievement in Service

Oct 28, 2022


This award recognizes a CLA faculty member for a history of exemplary service to the institution and/or discipline through the course of their career. Dr. Jasna Jovanovic received this award as a result of her continuous service to the department and Cal Poly as whole over the years. 

Dr. Jovanovic's record of ongoing, exemplary service to the department, college, and university since her arrival to Cal Poly in 2006 is the reason for this recognition. Her commitment to the faculty, staff and students in our college has been demonstrated in countless ways over the years. Dr. Jovanovic served as the PSYCD department chair from 2014 to 2020. The protocols, climate and expectations that Dr. Jovanovic established while Chair have made it easier for others to also engage in service and leadership efforts that have support the department and college.

It has always been clear that she is passionate about supporting students. Dr. Jovanovic approached her leadership of the Psychology and Child Development Department with enthusiasm and creativity.  PSYCD is a large and complex department that, at the time of her chair role, included 650 undergraduates, 300 minors, 52 master’s students, 19 full-time faculty, 3 FERPS, 25+ part-time lecturers, and 3 administrative staff members. As department chair, Dr. J - as students fondly refer to her - was instrumental in creating a culture in our department where students always feel supported. Among her accomplishments as chair are: Revamping the Psych and Child development curricula, creating the Student Advisory Committee, and supported the creation of the research track for students interested in pursuing doctoral degrees. 

Dr. Jovanovic is without question an engaged member of the Cal Poly community and her commitment to the students, faculty and staff of Cal Poly lead her to seek out leadership roles and use these positions to create opportunities for all. 

 

Dr. Bettergarcia receives CLA Early Career award for Achievement in Scholarship

Oct 21, 2022


Congratulations to Dr. Bettergarcia! 

This award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in research and/or artistic creativity unusually early in their professional career. Dr. Jay Bettergarcia received this award as a result of their exceptional achievement in scholarship. 

Dr. Bettergarcia conducts community-based social justice action research that explores LGBTQ mental health, transgender affirming therapy practices, and best practices for evidence-based diversity trainings by doing research with the communities they study. They also investigate ways to train and support mental health providers to improve the structure and delivery of mental health services, while providing these high-caliber training opportunities to local communities. In Dr. Bettergarcia’s words, “My goal is to better understand the experiences of minoritized community members, especially those who are underserved and hold multiple marginalized identities. The goal is to utilize research and data as a tool and as a means for increasing access to care, making sure that care is culturally competent, and changing healthcare systems and policies.”

They have produced 14 peer-reviewed publication, several of which have been co-authored with undergraduate students. These include publications on LGBTQ diversity training with law enforcement personnel, affirming therapy with transgender clients, LGBTQ+ perceptions of sexual assault, and LGBTQ+ mental health and community connectedness in a semi-rural community, among others.

Dr. Bettergarcia is a deeply dedicated scholar who has demonstrated exemplary research accomplishments in their first five years as an assistant professor at Cal Poly. Not only have they secured ongoing funding and produced high quality research, but their program of research also creating real and long-lasting social change and community-centered wellness for underserved queer, transgender, and BIPOC communities. It is particularly impressive that Dr. Bettergarcia has made substantial progress on their community-focused research while maintaining their professional licensure as a psychologist, and while teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate programs in the department of Psychology and Child Development.

 

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

May 16, 2022


Congratulations!

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.

MacAskill

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.

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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.”

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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.

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