A Letter from the Chair

  • Lee AnnaLee Anna Clark

    How can we best help individuals recover from the devastating effects of experiencing violence and other trauma in childhood?
  • How do individuals’ thoughts and feelings interact so that some people develop psychological disorders such as social anxiety and depression and others do not?
  • How do some individuals maintain a positive outlook on life as they age despite facing the same difficulties that lead others to lose hope and give up?
  • Why is it that young children show a fairly sophisticated understanding of fundamental math concepts, but math is such a difficult subject for many children in school?
  • How can we improve existing statistical methods so that we can better understand the enormous complexity of psychological data?

These are among the fascinating questions that the faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate research assistants in the Department of Psychology are seeking to answer, through their research.

The department is formally divided into four areas—clinical; cognition, brain, and behavior (CBB); developmental; and quantitative—but the psychological structures and processes that these individuals study transcend departmental organization. To cite but a few examples:

  • Jessica Payne researches how sleep interacts with stress to affect memory; her lab includes graduate students from both the clinical and CBB areas.
  • Mark Cummings and his research team—drawn from both the clinical and the developmental areas—investigate the varying effects of constructive versus destructive marital conflict on child development in different cultures.
  • Dawn Gondoli and Bradley Gibson, a developmental and a cognitive psychologist, respectively, are collaborating to learn whether combining (a) an intervention to improve working memory with (b) a parent-based behavioral intervention will be more effective than either one alone in helping adolescents with ADHD improve their attentional focus and, consequently, their academic performance.
  • And, of course, all of these researchers draw on the expertise of our quantitative area faculty to enhance their data-analytic methods.

Oops, sorry! I got so excited about having the opportunity to tell you about the fascinating work that our psychology faculty and students are doing that I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Lee Anna Clark, and I am the new chair of the Notre Dame Department of Psychology. I am a clinical psychologist, and I joined the faculty of Notre Dame in 2010 along with my husband, David Watson, who also is a faculty member in the clinical psychology area. We were recruited from the University of Iowa, where we had been since 1993. Our research is in the interface between personality and psychopathology, which you can read more about elsewhere in this newsletter.

You may be wondering what drew us to Notre Dame after all those years in Iowa. The collegial atmosphere of the department was definitely a factor, but the primary reason was that the department’s highly reputed counseling psychology program was transforming itself into a clinical psychology program, so moving to Notre Dame offered us the unique opportunity to help shape and grow a new program. I am delighted to say that that program is now launched and accredited by the American Psychological Association; in fact, it’s already undergoing its first re-accreditation review. Further, we have taken the initial steps toward establishing our own departmental psychological clinic:

  • We have hired a clinical practicum supervisor and coordinator, Jennifer Hames.
  • Clinical-area faculty—all licensed clinical psychologists—now offer five clinical practica, whereas a few years ago there was only one. In order from oldest to newest:
  1. David Smith: The Notre Dame Marital Therapy and Research Clinic
  2. Kristin Valentino: Child-assessment practicum at Memorial Hospital
  3. Yours truly: Adult outpatient assessment practicum, partnering with Oaklawn Community Mental Health Center
  4. Laura Miller-Graff: Child-assessment practicum at Harrison School
  5. Jennifer Hames: A brand-new empirically supported treatment practicum
  • We are beginning to plan the transition of at least some of these practica into a single location that we plan on becoming a psychological assessment and therapy clinic.

Stay tuned for more news about this exciting adventure next year.

In closing, I want to pick up on Dan Lapsley’s theme from last year: A Department on the Move. Anyone who has been on the Notre Dame campus recently has seen that the Campus Crossroads Project is nearing the finish line. Some parts of the building will be finished by the start of the fall 2017 football season; the first departments will have moved into the building by the start of the spring 2018 semester; and our department is slated to transition to Corbett Family Hall after the 2018 graduation. Exciting times indeed!