Psychology and Child Development

College of Liberal Arts

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Tenure-Line Faculty Notes

Shawn Burn

Over the past year, Shawn Burn focused her teaching energies on social psychology and organizational psychology. With her students, she conducted research on masculinity and men’s body image, interpersonal influences on women’s body image, and personality and dysfunctional helping. With psychology student Hailey Vieira, she created research-based psycho-educational body image workshops for women and men. She wrote monthly blogs for Psychology Today and continued working on her latest book (on unhealthy helping). She did some group dynamics consulting and served as a reviewer for the research journals Sex Roles, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Psychology of Men & Masculinity, and The Journal of Homosexuality. In her 25th year at Cal Poly, Burn still loves her students! She says the best thing about her job is helping students learn how to use psychology to improve their own and others’ lives and supporting them on their path to success.

Roslyn M. Caldwell

Roslyn M. Caldwell’s primary specialty training is in the area of clinical and forensic psychology. Caldwell is the creator and director of the Bakari Mentoring Program at Cal Poly, an offshoot of the Bakari Project located in Irvine and Los Angeles. The program is an intensive, evidence-based program designed to foster adolescent development by helping youth to become socially conscious, responsible and productive individuals. This program nurtures and encourages youth to actualize their potential to succeed and transform their lives toward positive change and successful adulthood. The program is in its seventh year and has won numerous awards and recognitions, most recently from the Women’s Legacy Fund of San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation to implement a college bound component into the girls program and a community-based organization. 

Caldwell focuses her research and publication on the Bakari Program and also in the areas of clinical and forensic psychology with special attention on racial, ethnic and gender issues related to school prejudice and academic performance; trauma and abuse among male juvenile offenders; risk factors associated with adult female offenders; violence among African-Americans; risk factors associated with juvenile offending; and treatment outcome evaluation.

Denise Daniels

Denise Daniels

Denise Daniels continued her research on the development of motivation to learn in children and early school adjustment. In 2014, her longitudinal study on children’s affective orientations in preschool and their initial adjustment in kindergarten was published in Psychology in the Schools. She also presented measures of child persistence developed for this study at a recent Society for Research in Child Development conference in Philadelphia in March 2015.

In fall 2014, Daniels and a team of child development and psychology student research interns began a developmental study on children’s concepts of motivation. To date, they have conducted more than 140 individual interviews and tasks with children in local elementary schools and gathered surveys from their teachers. Daniels is looking forward to completing data analysis this summer. 

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Aaron Estrada

Denise Daniels

Aaron Estrada recently completed a yearlong fellowship with the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA). This was a highly selective fellowship; he was one of only 17 fellows selected from a national pool. As part of the fellowship, he was invited to chair a presentation at the American Psychoanalytic Association meeting in June 2014. He has been invited to serve as chair for another talk focusing on the intersection of diversity and psychodynamic therapy at the 2015 APsaA annual conference. The work he presented at APsaA focuses on cultural and ethnic influences on access to therapeutic assessment and intervention. He is currently completing a chapter, “Interpersonal Context of Assessment” to be published in a forthcoming book.


Laura Freberg

Laura Freberg continues to enjoy teaching General Psychology, Biopsychology, Sensation and Perception, and an annual seminar in General Psychology for the Honors Program. The project, begun last year by the honors group, will be the subject of a poster presentation at this year’s Western Psychological Association (WPA) Conference in Las Vegas. The students compared participant responses to interruptions in a conversation using Google Glass or a smartphone.

In the past year, Freberg completed revisions of her two textbooks: the second edition of “Discovering Psychology: The Science of Mind” (Cengage) with co-author John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, and the third edition of “Discovering Behavioral Neuroscience” (Cengage). She revised the GRE Psychology Prep book for Barron’s. Freberg will be presenting on the use of wearable technology in the classroom as part of the WPA President’s Symposium, which she will also chair. She is continuing her work on perception of messages in social media. At Cal Poly, Freberg serves on the Institutional Review Board and is faculty advisor for the Cal Poly Neuroscience Club and Semper Fi.

Julie Garcia

Denise Daniels

Julie Garcia had a busy and productive year. She co-authored four manuscripts, was awarded two grants, and presented at two conferences. Two of her manuscripts (“Upward and Downward Spirals in Intergroup Interactions: Compassionate Goals and Transcending the Ego” and “Confronting as Autonomy Promotion: Speaking Up Against Discrimination and Psychology Well-Being in Racial Minorities”) focused on how to improve intergroup interactions. Another manuscript, “Dialectical Self Views Moderate How Racial Fluidity Affects Psychological Well-Being for Multiracial People,” examined identity negotiation among people who are multiracial. The fourth publication, “Experience-Sampling Research Methods and Their Potential for Educational Research,” provided insight into how experience sampling methodology — multiple assessments of people’s feelings/thoughts/behaviors in the moment and in their real-life environment — can be utilized in educational research.     

Some of her other research explores how university-level and faculty lay theories of intelligence may contribute to the underrepresentation of women and people of color in STEM fields with support from Cal Poly’s Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Grant Program and the Russell Sage Foundation. She presented some research on ally identification (“High Status Group Members’ Identification as ‘Allies,’ Self-conscious Emotion and Advocacy”) at the Society of Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Long Beach, Calif., and research on women in STEM (“Increasing Women’s Participation in STEM Fields: The Role of ‘Experts’’ Theories of Abilities”) at the American Educational Research Association annual conference in Chicago. Garcia also continued to serve as the president of the Chicana and Latino Faculty and Staff Association.

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Jennifer Jipson

Denise Daniels

Jennifer Jipson is a leading scholar in the area of how young children learn about science in the context of everyday family activities. In 2012, she and her colleagues were awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on how to support children’s interest in and understanding of astronomy. As part of this grant, she is assisting in the development of an activity toolkit for museum educators to use when working with young children and their families. She is co-editor of a book published by Psychology Press on cognitive development in museum settings that is due out October 2015. In the past year, she has extended her efforts to use research to inform practice by entering into collaborations with children’s toy and television companies. 


Carrie Langner

In fall 2014, Carrie Langner co-authored an article on motherhood and political campaigns in the journal Politics, Groups and Identities and attended a conference on gender and politics at the College of Wooster, where she presented research on politicized identity. While on sabbatical for the 2014-15 academic year, Langner is working on a health psychology research project at UC San Francisco. Building upon her past work in health disparities, Langner is researching the emotional and social processes that account for poor mental and physical health among those with low social status. She plans to use this research project to publish additional articles and to inform her class on health psychology. In a related project on emotion, she is completing data analysis on an experiment designed and run with Cal Poly student co-authors.


Gary Laver

Denise Daniels

Gary Laver organizes the delivery of the large General Psychology course, PSY 202. In addition to contributing lectures, he is the test officer and research coordinator. Laver is working on an invited contribution to the Encyclopedia of Geropsychology, to be published in 2016. His article will be on semantic memory. Laver also serves as chair of Cal Poly’s Academic Senate.

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Linda Lee

Linda Lee recently submitted a chapter on young children’s peer relations with cross-ethnic peers for the prestigious Oxford University Press series “Child Development in Cultural Context.” Her research focuses on the characteristics and outcomes of cross-ethnic peer relationships in early childhood. This understanding is extremely relevant given the growing diversity of the U.S. population. This year it was reported that students of color would account for the majority of public school students for the first time in U.S. history (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). Lee’s research is critical to our understanding of how to support young children’s social development in diverse contexts. She has provided state and national workshops to leaders and professionals in both English and Chinese. In April 2015, she presented her research at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, a widely recognized national research society on issues related to education.

Daniel Levi

Daniel Levi entered into phased retirement through the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) this year. During the last year, he worked on a survey research project with business Professor Barry Floyd on the problems women students encounter in male- dominated majors, such as the technical majors at Cal Poly. He also worked with Vicente Del Rio from the City & Regional Planning Department on an observational study of how walls are used in different cultures. The paper was presented at the Environmental Design and Research Association conference this spring. Finally, he is working on the fifth edition of his textbook “Group Dynamics for Teams.”

Kelly Moreno

Kelly Moreno recently published “A Duty to Betray,” a novel about psychologist Ricardo Ruiz who is tossed into a wrenching ethical, legal and, ultimately, moral dilemma when his sexually promiscuous patient, Taylor Tran, refuses to tell his lovers of his communicable — and potentially fatal — condition. When Ruiz struggles with a “duty to warn” others of his patient’s illness, Tran feels betrayed and conspires to make Ruiz his next victim. As their battle peaks, however, Tran has a life-changing epiphany: that the prospect of death can make for a more meaningful life. The question for Tran is if he — like Ruiz and the rest of us — makes his discovery in time.

Moreno has been conducting book signings and talks on fiction writing and what Irvin Yalom has coined, “The Teaching Novel,” at book clubs, state hospital and prisons, colleges and universities, writer’s groups, Barnes and Noble, and booksellers in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and other locations. Interviews with Moreno can be found on NPR and local public radio stations. Interested readers can find the book at their local bookstore, Amazon or Moreno’s website.

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Julie Rodgers

Julie Rodgers has been teaching cultural and health psychology, as well as conducting cross-cultural health research. This year she co-published two empirical papers and a review paper, the latter co-authored with Serina Crook, a Cal Poly psychology undergraduate student. Rodgers and her students presented research papers and posters in Athens, Greece, and Paris, France, for the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology and the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.

She and members of her lab completed a smartphone self-affirmation intervention study to help racial/ethnic minority students cope with perceptions of discrimination. Additionally, Rodgers became a fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9). She continues to serve as the faculty co-advisor for Psi Chi, the psychology national honor society.

Don Ryujin

Don Ryujin has worked with Cal Poly’s Summer Institute program for more than 20 years. The Summer Institute is a bridge program that works to help newly accepted first-generation students from low-income families adjust to and survive the rigors of Cal Poly. He also has continued to act as an advisor to many of these students as they make their way through Cal Poly.

Ryujin’s area of research aligns very closely with his commitment to the Summer Institute. Among other things, he has examined the adjustment of Vietnamese immigrants to the U.S., the national rate of utilization of psychological counseling/therapy by Asian-Americans, and cautions in the use of regression analyses in examining gender differences. Currently he is examining the retention rates of Summer Institute students to see how they compare to the university as a whole and to first-generation, low-income students who do not attend Summer Institute. A prior study has indicated that the program is successful at increasing retention rates, but a more in-depth analysis is being undertaken at this time.

Beyond this, Ryujin loves to be with his wife and 9-year-old twins, who let him know what’s important in life.

Ned W. Schultz

Ned W. Schultz is teaching in the Faculty Early Retirement Program and enjoying his new developmental stage as a grandfather of one-year-old twins, Jonathan and Charlotte. He continues to focus on the psychology of self and identity, including narrative models for understanding development. He is at work on a novel about a young girl’s coming-of-age in a New England village. His book of short stories, “How the Heart Finds Its Form,” was published in 2013. You can read more about his writing on his website

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Chuck Slem

During the past few years, Chuck Slem has been absorbed in the development of the Web-based course resource for General Psychology. Popular with students in the large introductory course, the website integrates course resources and offers tools to assist students in mastering course concepts. A variety of interesting and informative streaming video clips, supplemental exploratory text and lecture material, and interactive learning activities have been used to construct the website. Found to be especially valued by students with learning disabilities, the site is currently being re-engineered to be more accessible for students with visual and hearing disabilities.

Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith specializes in the field of childhood behavioral disorders and the influence of gene-environment interactions. His work was recently accepted for publication in the American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics. He was also nominated by Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University (where he continues to hold the title of research associate) to submit an early career research award to the Klingenstein Foundation. This foundation reviews only one application for each of the top psychiatry departments in the country, so his application is the only one reviewed representing Alpert Medical School of Brown University. As part of his research program, Smith has established a research lab where he involves a number of undergraduate assistants in all aspects of his research. He and his undergraduate assistants are working on an ambitious meta-analysis on the association between birth weight and ADHD risk. He and his wife moved from the East Coast in September 2014 and welcomed their first son, Lyle, in November, making for an adventurous year.

Lisa Sweatt

Starting fall 2014, Lisa Sweatt assumed the position of coordinator for the psychology master’s program. She continues to serve as program evaluator for the Youth In Action (YIA) program, which is run through the San Luis Obispo County Probation Department and focuses on male youth who demonstrate themselves to be at-risk for violence or gang involvement. YIA provides youth with an intense yearlong, school-based prevention/intervention program in which students engage in weekly sessions focused on the consequences of gang involvement, drug and alcohol abuse, and the role of violence in the community. Based on research conducted with YIA, Sweatt co-authored two poster presentations for the Western Psychological Association’s Convention in May 2015 in Las Vegas:

  1. “Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Program for At-Risk Youth,” co-authored with Pedro Arroyo, San Luis Obispo County Probation Department, Carolin Fan (psychology student), Sarah Taniyama (psychology graduate student), and Alba Tapia (Family Care Network Inc.)
  2. “Gender Identity, Ethnic Identity, and Self-Esteem in Latino Adolescent Males,” co-authored with Miriam Reder (M.S., Psychology, 2014)

Sweatt is assisting in the evaluation of a pilot program for at-risk girls, “Girls Circle,” in Paso Robles, Calif. Girls Circle is a strengths-based support and psycho-educational program that addresses the unique needs of girls aged 9-18 by integrating relational-cultural theory, resiliency practices, and skills training into a specific format designed to increase positive connection, personal and collective strengths, and competence in girls.

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Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti

Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti continues her research in the area of multiculturalism and strengths. One recent product of this research was the publication of her co-edited volume, titled “Perspectives on the Intersection of Multiculturalism and Positive Psychology.” This book was a long-term dream, and lead to an opportunity to give a keynote address at the Asian Pacific Applied Positive Psychology Convention in Hong Kong last year. A new area of her research is a study on identity and congruence as part of the “#I am Cal Poly” project on campus. In addition, Teramoto Pedrotti recently completed the third edition of her textbook “Positive Psychology: Practical and Scientific Explanations of Human Strengths” (with co-authors Shane J. Lopez and C. R. Snyder), which she uses to teach her Positive Psychology undergraduate course. She also contributed chapters to several different works, including “Positive Psychology on Campus” (in press) and the “Handbook of Multicultural Counseling” (in press).

Teramoto Pedrotti also began work with the BEACoN mentoring program through Cal Poly’s Office of University Diversity & Inclusivity. Working with two other professors, the program was launched in fall 2014 to serve underrepresented Cal Poly students by connecting them with faculty and staff in ways that benefit their educational and professional progress. In spring 2015, BEACoN launched the Faculty Network portion of this program, which was designed to match faculty mentors with underrepresented student mentees. This spring, she went to Washington, D.C., to attend the National Conference on Race and Equality.

Outside of academia, Teramoto Pedrotti enjoys swimming and spending time with her family. She can usually be found on the bleachers at one of her children’s soccer, baseball or basketball games, depending on the season.

Debra Valencia-Laver

Debra Valencia-Laver is in her 10th year as associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. She continues to coordinate the gerontology minor and certificate program, guest lecture on aging in PSY 202, and teach an occasional class for the department. She regularly supervises students in internship and senior projects. Some recent senior projects resulted in presentations at conferences. She co-presented the paper “20 Years of Senior Peer Counseling in San Luis Obispo County” with Traci Mello (Wilshire Community Services) and Mia Paley-Williams (B.S., Psychology, 2012) at the American Society on Aging’s 2014 Aging in America Conference in San Diego, Calif., in March 2014. This May, Francyn Altamira (B.S., Psychology, 2014) presented a poster with Valencia-Laver as co-author on “Metaphor Comprehension in Young and Older Adults” at the 2015 Stanford Undergraduate Psychology Conference in Palo Alto, Calif. Valencia-Laver continues to be active in the Chicana Latino Faculty Staff Association.

Jason Williams

At the Association for Psychological Science National Convention last summer, Jason Williams presented evidence that an instinct for concealment during sleep still exists in humans. He continues his research on whether humans have an innate implicit knowledge of human genetics. He is also continuing his research on the effect of emotion on the interpretation of emotional tone of voice and the effects of emotion on human locomotion.

He began teaching the History and Systems of Psychology class, remaining committed to a historical perspective when evaluating current psychological theory. In addition, Williams has assumed the role of the psychology coordinator, tasked with assessing the long-term goals of the department, and is preparing to serve as associate chair in 2015-16.

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