Departmental News and Updates 

Drs. Woodruff and Stevens Release New Book

Chad Woodruff, Ph.D., and Larry Stevens, Ph.D., from the Department of Psychological Sciences, served as coeditors for the newly released text The Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion.  The 353 page volume contains 11 chapters covering a wide range of contemporary neuroscience research topics within the fields of empathy, compassion, and self-compassion (ECS).

  1. What Is This Feeling That I Have for Myself and for Others?  Contemporary Perspectives on Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion, and Their Absence
  2. The Brain That Feels Into Others: Toward a Neuroscience of Empathy
  3. The Brain That Longs to Care for Others: The Current Neuroscience of Compassion
  4. The Brain That Longs to Care for Itself: The Current Neuroscience of Self-Compassion
  5. Sometimes I get So Mad I Could…: The Neuroscience of Cruelty
  6. Reflections of Others and of Self: The Mirror Neuron’s System’s Relationship to Empathy
  7. Why Does It Feel So Good to Care for Others and for Myself: Neuroendocrinology and Prosocial Behavior
  8. Can We Change our Mind About Caring for Others?  The Neuroscience of Systematic Compassion Training
  9. Compassion Training from an Early Buddhist Perspective: The Neurological Concomitants of the Brahmaviharas
  10. The Language and Structure of Social Cognition: An Integrative Process of Becoming the Other
  11. Where Caring for Self and Other Lives in the Brain and How It Can Be Enhanced and Diminished: Observations on the Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion.

The text is largely based on compassion-related research emanating from the National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program created by Dr. Stevens in 2008 and now coordinated by Dr. Woodruff, as well as a review of current neuroscience literature related to ECS.  The twenty authors contributing to the text come from a variety of countries and institutions, including NAU.  In addition to Drs. Stevens and Woodruff, authors from the Department of Psychological Sciences include Drs. Melissa Birkett-Green and Robert Goodman.  Of note is the fact that authors included former REU interns and students within the NAU Master of Arts in Psychology program, including Jasmine Benjamin, Mark Gauthier-Braham, Paul Plonski, Leah Savery, and Taylor West.

The text is available through Amazon.com and the publisher. 

Publisher: Academic Press

ISBN: 978-0-12-809837-0


Chad Woodruff, Ph.D., and Larry Stevens, Ph.D., coeditors of the newly released text The Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion.

Drs. Huffman and Wayment Receive $1.4 Million DOD Grant for Research

Dr. Ann Huffman and Dr. Heidi Wayment were recently awarded a $1.4 million Department of Defense grant for their research on Psychological Health and Resilience of Military Personnel.   Previous work on the “quiet ego,” a concept developed by Wayment and Bauer in 2008, has demonstrated numerous benefits of a quiet ego, including personal growth and a greater compassion for the self and others (Wayment et al., 2015).  Based on this work, Huffman and Wayment will develop a brief self-management app-based intervention that reminds individuals of the characteristics of a self-identity rooted in balance and growth (Wayment & Bauer, 2017). The long-range goal of their work is to improve the quality of life for military personnel. Their research includes a three-phased study, in which they first experimentally examine how well the adaptation of an innovative, brief, non-religious, self-management intervention strengthens personal and occupational resources in a military occupational setting. The research will conclude with a large-scale experiment assessing the effectiveness of the intervention. Huffman and Wayment state that the research responds to multiple calls for research on the development of interventions for military personnel and is especially relevant for military population because it capitalizes on an adaptable set of self-management strategies that can prepare military personnel to deal with all types of work and family stressors, not just specific demands (e.g., only combat exposure), nor specific disabilities (e.g., TBI). They describe the phone-based intervention as a dynamic form of self-management that will improve behavioral outcomes, health, and resilience among military personnel as they cope with stressors in different military environments and in different phases of the stress process.  

Read the entire press release regarding this exciting project.


 NAU Students Travel to Annual Conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists

In mid-June, four students from the NAU Department of Psychological Sciences and faculty mentor Dr. Andy Walters attended the 50th Annual Conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), held in Denver, Colorado.  The conference attracted 700 attendees from diverse fields including sexuality education as a sphere of public health, counseling, sex and marital therapy, research, social work, psychology, sociology, nursing, and medicine.  In addition to attending educational sessions, and having opportunities to meet others who share an interest in the field of human sexuality, each of the four students presented a poster at the event based on research projects in which they are involved at NAU.  Presentations, listed below, were made by Courtney Noble and Callie Patterson, graduate students in the Department of Psychological Sciences, 2018 Outstanding Junior Lauren Ellis, and 2018 Outstanding Senior Jacob Coutts.
Coutts, J. J., & Walters, A. S.  (2018).  “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times”:
            Having The Talk about sexuality with my parents.
Ellis, L. D., & Walters, A. S.  (2018).  Like a Virgin: The porous definitions of virginity and 
            virginity loss among lesbians and gay men.
Noble, C. M., Patterson, C. L., & Walters, A. S.  (2018).  Your very own Georgia O’Keeffe painting:
            Women’s attitudes about female genitalia, comfort with masturbation, and fantasy.
Patterson, C. L., Noble, C. M., & Walters, A. S.  (2018).  New and lovely images follow me 
            everywhere I go: Women’s fantasies and sexual behavior.  
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists 2018

 NAU students attending AASECT (from lower left): Callie Patterson, Lauren Ellis, Marie Noble, and Jacob Coutts.

NAU Students Travel to Rocky Mountain Psychological Association Conference 

In April of 2018, eleven members of the NAU Psychology Club/Psi Chi International Honor Society attended the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA) Conference in Denver, Colorado. Prior to the official start of the conference, members of Psi Chi have an opportunity to engage in a service event. This year, members collaborated with CHARG, a non-profit organization in the Denver area that provides dependable and ongoing services to adults with severe mental illness so that they can make decisions regarding their needs which results in effective and lasting empowerment. Members of Psi Chi engaged in maintenance and gardening work at the facility including potting plants and invasive weed removal. Students reported that they had a rewarding experience working with an innovative and trailblazing organization such as CHARG.

The Psych Bowl at RMPA provides friendly competition among Psi Chi chapters through a psychology-themed game of Jeopardy. Without preparation, four students from NAU (Maren Greve, Jacob Coutts, Jocelyn Robles, and Mattie McClaskey) decided to participate in this activity which gave them the opportunity to meet Psi Chi members from other Universities. Despite not being prepared as they had possibly hoped to be, the NAU team won second place in this competition!

Other experiences that students gained while at the conference included but were not limited to attending poster presentations, oral presentations, symposium, invited speaker talks, and having the opportunity to network with faculty and students from other institutions. Several members of the Psychology Club and Psi Chi presented at this conference: Jose Olais, Jacob Coutts, Cynthia Coplen, and Sarah Kline. Overall, students had a valuable experience, both academically and personally, by attending this conference.


RMPA Psych Bowl: (from L to R) Jocelyn Robles, Mattie McClaskey, Maren Greve, Jacob Coutts

 sbs group 
RMPA 2018 Service Photo: front row: Erin Langmead, Brent Tonaki next row: Jessica Baez Cruz, Maren Greve, Natalee DeFrance new row: Jocelyn Robles, Katrina Mulvey next row: Tia Burgess, Margie Carlin (of CHARG), Cynthia Coplen top row: Jose Olais, Jacob Coutts

 group sbs 

RMPA 2018 Group Photo: Left to Right: Jessica Baez Cruz, Jocelyn Robles, Tia Burgess, Cynthia Coplen, Maren Greve, Jacob Coutts (back), Natalee DeFrance, Katrina Mulvey, Jose Olais, Erin Langmead, Brent Tonaki

Jennifer Parada Recognized as an Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant


Jennifer Parada, a second-year graduate student in the Master of Arts in Psychological Sciences program, was one of three recipients of the prestigious Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award made at the 2018 Graduate Student Recognition Ceremony hosted by the NAU Graduate College.  Nominated by Melissa Burkett-Green, Jennifer was lauded for her ability to connect with students and provide high-quality, engaging instruction.  Jennifer’s reputation and rapport with students made her one of the most sought-after teaching assistants in the department.  In addition, she provided mentorship to students in the Undergraduate Teaching Apprenticeship course, modeling effective teaching practices and assisting students with developing lesson plans.  Jennifer, who was a past recipient of the Max de Montel Williamson Memorial Graduate Psychological Sciences Award, graduates in May and will be continuing her research activities.


Jared Cutler, a first-year graduate student in the master’s program who has provided exceptional services as a graduate teaching assistant in support of the Introduction to Statistics in Psychology (PSY230) course, was also nominated for the award.  His nominators, Dr. Larry Stevens and Matt Anderson, remarked that Jared has used his strong background in statistics in service of students and faculty alike.  Jared has an ambitious tutoring schedule that allows him to assist many students with the challenges of the course.  These accomplishments, and his assistance to faculty in grading examinations and developing homework keys, have made him an important member of the PSY230 course delivery team.

PsychSTEP: Building a Bridge between NAU and RuG Master's Programs 

MDA PsychStep

Psychological Science’s Graduate Program hosted Dr. Martijn Van Zomeren of University of Groningen March 25 to 29, 2018. Dr. Van Zomeren, a social psychologist, is an expert in social change, collective action, and political psychology.  During his productive visit, Dr. Van Zomeren presented research on his Social Identity Model of Collective Action (Van Zomeren, Postmes & Spears, 2008 to department faculty and graduate students; shared ideas with faculty from both Psychological Sciences and Politics and International Affairs; and attended several of the faculty’s research lab meetings.  In addition, Dr. Van Zomeren attended the Graduate College’s Three Minute Research Presentations (3MRP) finals which, for the first time, included a graduate student from our department. 

The second focus of his visit was to further develop the PsychSTEP program, an exchange program between the graduate-level programs in psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University and University of Groningen designed to promote intellectual development and capacity for global citizenship.  The PsychSTEP program provides a rare opportunity for graduate students to participate in an international exchange program in the psychological sciences.  Dr. Van Zomeren’s visit was another high point in the collaboration between the two institutions.

Department Recognizes Graduate Students for Excellence


In early December, the Department of Psychological Sciences recognized two of its graduate students for their impressive achievements in scholarship, research, and teaching.  Rosemary Al-Kire received the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year award and Jennifer Parada a Certificate of Achievement.  Rosemary’s thesis examines the causal effects of priming religious exemplars on prejudiced attitudes toward Muslims. Additionally, she has worked on various projects examining female underrepresentation in STEM fields, modern sexism in academia, posttraumatic growth in mothers of children with autism, quiet ego characteristics and prejudice, and attributions of blame following acts of terror. Her goals are to earn an Ph.D., and then pursue an academic career in the social psychological study of religion, morality, and prejudice.
Jennifer, who was a past recipient of the Max de Montel Williamson Memorial Graduate Psychological Sciences Award and a nominee for the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award, is exploring hypotheses about the impact of racial discrimination on stress response through autonomic nervous system measures and cortisol release. Aside from her neuroscience research, Jennifer conducts applied qualitative research where she explores graduate student experiences in STEM disciplines and how these experiences influence their perceptions and decisions of future career choices. 
Please visit our Graduate Program link for more information about the Master of Arts in Psychological Sciences degree.

Eight Interns Complete Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs

REU Conference SM 2

For nearly a decade, the Department of Psychological Sciences has hosted a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation and focused on the psychophysiology of compassion. Within this intensive, 8-week program, the REU interns attend research-focused training and work with doctoral-level faculty members and graduate assistants to complete individual research projects.

In addition to providing skills, knowledge, and experiences that will be invaluable in their academic and professional lives, the REU program offered opportunities to develop long-term friendships and to become more familiar with the beauty of northern Arizona. The eight interns in the summer 2017 program presented their research findings on July 14th at a conference attended by faculty, family, and friends.

Chad Woodruff, Ph.D., was the program coordinator, taking the baton from Dr. Larry Stevens who coordinated the summer REU program for many years. Paul Plonski was the assistant coordinator, helping organize lectures (giving one lecture himself). He arranged meals, helped organize our cultural excursion, helped students with statistics and troubleshooting.

Congratulations to the summer 2017 REU interns and thanks to the faculty and graduate students who supported them.

 REU Students 2 SM 2 

Faculty MentorGraduate Student MentorInterns 
Meliksah Demir, Ph.D.Jennifer ParadaKrissy WolfKauaikekai Lara
Daniel Weidler, Ph.D.Marah Al-KireJacob CouttsDacia Hernandez
Robert Goodman, Ph.D.Marah Al-KireAndrew HaynesMarlyn Sanchez
Dana Donohue, Ph.D.Jennifer ParadaChaneé HudsonHanna Gravelle

The REU program hosted by the department is on a 3-year funding cycle. Students who are interested in participating in the summer 2018 program should be alert for information on the application process in the spring.   



Five NAU students from the Department of Psychological Sciences, including currently-enrolled students and recent alumni, presented research at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.  Eion Cashman was a discussant on a research panel presentation centrally focused on gender divergence.  Alyssa Billington (Spring 2017), a recent graduate from the Department's MA program, presented research investigating variables associated with the acceptance of marital infidelity.  Hannah Harris (Spring 2017) presented research investigating what college students report as their primary interests in enrolling in a college-level human sexuality class.  Jacob Coutts (Outstanding Junior, Department of Psychological Sciences) presented preliminary findings on a study interrogating how familial messages about intimacy, sexuality, and relationships are seen as impacting adults' sexual values.  Daniel Enriquez (Spring 2014), along with collaborators Eion Cashman and Jacob Coutts, investigated potential differences between White-/Caucasian-identifying and Hispanic-/Latino-identified young men on indices of sexual behavior and attitudes about sexuality.  The conference was held in Las Vegas, NV, June 2017.

Group photo:

 Group photo 50th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Sexuality EducatorsSeated (L-R) Alyssa G. Billington and Hannah C-J Harris

 Standing (L-R) Eion G. Cashman, Daniel F. Enriquez, and Jacob J. Coutts

Cashman, E. G., Steinhart, J. E., & Walters, A. S.  (2017).  Gender divergent or
  gender creative:Changing perspectives on trans youth and young adults.
     Research panel discussion presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
     Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, Las Vegas,
     NV, 17 June 2017.

Billington, A. G., & Walters, A. S.  (2017).  “Melania said this was okay”:
     Investigating the acceptability of marital infidelity.  Poster presented at the
     Annual Meeting of the American Association of Sexuality Educators,
     Counselors, and Therapists, Las Vegas, NV, 15 June 2017.

Coutts, J. J., & Walters, A. S.  (2017).  “I had a great sex education, but it was
     terrible”: Dimensionalizing what it means to come from a sex positive or
     sex negative household. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the
     American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists,
     Las Vegas, NV, 15 June 2017.

Enriquez, D. F., Coutts, J. J., Cashman, E. G., & Walters, A. S.  (2017).
     Sexualities of Latino- and Caucasian-identifying men: Similarities and
     (some) differences.  Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the
     American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists,
     Las Vegas, NV, 15 June 2017.

Harris, H. C. J., & Walters, A. S.  (2017).  Knowing more: What college
     students say they want to learn in a human sexuality course. Poster
     presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Sexuality
     Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, Las Vegas, NV, 15 June 2017.


Fieldwork Classes Spring Semester 2017

Spring Semester was a busy, challenging, and exciting time for students enrolled in Psychology 408 (Fieldwork and Internship). For the first time in our Department’s history, we were able to offer two sections of Psychology 408. Students served as interns in twenty-five community settings and, together, completed over 5500 hours of supervised psychological and behavioral-intervention services. Students were placed at a variety of sites around Flagstaff including: Adult Probation, The Guidance Center, Flagstaff Community Services, Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities, and NAU’s Civic Service Institute. Students who enroll in Psychology 408 are placed in a variety of sites where both the client population and the daily tasks for an intern vary. This semester, interns worked on targeted interventions to maintain successful progress through adult probation, provided support to women living in residential shelters and receiving aftercare for experiencing intimate partner violence, and social services targeted to gerontological populations.

For further information on Psychology 408c (Fieldwork Experience), contact Professor Andy Walters (andy.walters@nau.edu).

Undergraduate student highlights

NAU Students at RMPA Conference (photos by Michael Gomez)

Thanks to the generosity of ASNAU, the NAU Psychology Club, and other benefactors, over twenty members of the Psychology Club and Psi Chi, and faculty member Monica Beals, were able to attend the recent conference of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association in Salt Lake City. Immediately prior to the educational portion of the conference, attendees performed community service, helping to clean litter and trash in a downtown residential neighborhood. In addition to attending the numerous talks available at the conference, the NAU students attended poster presentations, and networked with other students, and faculty. Presenting at the conference were Alex Tyra, Ashley Stanley, Anna Robertson, and Savannah Jackson, Cynthia Ortiz.

For more information on the group’s activities, or how to become involved with the Psychology Club or the Psi Chi Honor Society, contact Kaitlyn Roy (kmr426@nau.edu).


Changes in Department Leadership

The Chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences has many responsibilities that affect both faculty and students.  The chair guides the internal affairs of the department; oversees the recruitment, hiring, and supervision of faculty; makes decisions regarding course availability; helps develop a vision for the department; serves as the department’s chief representative; and performs myriad other functions in the interests of providing students with the highest quality education possible.  At the end of the spring 2017, we bid adieu to outgoing chair, Dr. Rob Till, and welcome our new chair, Dr. Ann Futterman Collier. 


Rob Till, Ph.D., is retiring at the end of the spring 2017 semester, completing a long and productive career as an educator, researcher, and department chair.  Dr. Till first came to the NAU in 2000 and served as the chair of the department until 2005.  He was elected into this leadership role again in 2015.  During his tenure at NAU, Dr. Till taught a wide variety of courses, including Cognitive Psychology, Adult Development & Aging, Language & Cognition, and History of Psychology. His research interests have focused on the cognitive psychology of perception, language, and memory.  Dr. Till leaves a legacy of high quality teaching, research and administration.


Dr. Collier came to NAU in 2012 with rich cross-cultural experiences in both education and clinical care.   Her research interests include psychosocial oncology, biological impacts of mood and stress, community-based participatory research, and numerous other areas.   Of note is her long-standing interest in the psychosocial benefits of art and creativity on subjective well-being.   Dr. Collier was instrumental in establishing the Undergraduate Teaching Apprentice (PSY401) course, and has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in Health Psychology, and Program Evaluation, as well as undergraduate courses in Abnormal Psychology, Interpersonal Process and Counseling, Capstone on Global Issues in Women's Mental Health, and others.  Click here to visit Dr. Collier’s faculty page. 

Dr. Collier was elected as the incoming chair in the fall 2016 semester, giving her a semester to work with Dr. Till in preparation for her role as department chair.  To learn more about Dr. Collier’s role and plans as department chair, listen to this interview conducted by undergraduate student Kendall Weber. 


The Department Receives Award for Excellence in Global Education

The Department of Psychological Sciences received the NAU award for Departmental Excellence in Global Education at the President’s Annual Award Recognition Ceremony on April 26, 2017.  According to the Center for International Education’s website, “this award recognizes exceptional work done by departments in developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy that infuses global learning throughout the discipline.”  Although the department has a long history of involvement with international education and research, it was recognized, in particular, for its Psychology Scholar and Teaching Exchange Program (PsySTEP). This program is a collaboration between NAU and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands through which students in the Master of Arts in Psychological Sciences program study abroad for a semester while continuing their graduate education.  In addition to taking classes, students are matched with professors in their specialty areas to conduct research.  The collaborative effort supports faculty from NAU teaching courses at the University of Groningen, as well.  Drs. Dunbar and Till have taught abroad as part of this program.  Most recently, graduate student Taylor West conducted research under the guidance of Dr. Brian Ostafin at the University of Groningen.  She assisted in a project investigating the capacity of “mindfulness,” meaning in life, and the emotion of awe interventions to reshape predispositions to engage in habitual thoughts and behaviors and returned to the NAU in time to successfully defend her thesis and graduate with her cohort.


For more information about the PsySTEP program, visit its webpage:



Please be sure to check out the Highlights Archive page for previous highlights!