Departmental News and Updates

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!