Teaching and Student Engagement


  • Laura E.R. Blackie (2012-2015), Post-Doctoral Fellow, The Growth Initiative (Currently Assistant Professor, Psychology, University of Nottingham)


  • Nicole W. Brocato (2015- ), Wellbeing Assessment Developer, Office of Institutional Research, Wake Forest University
  • Michael Prentice (2016- ), Post-Doctoral Fellow, The Beacon Project, Wake Forest University


Masters Theses

  • Laura Hix (2017, Psychology, in progress), “Social Functions of Redemption Narratives for Former Offenders”
  • Emily J. Hanson (2015, Psychology), “Examining the Role of Well-Being in Government”

Undergraduate Honors Theses

  • Dakota Becker (2017, Psychology, in progress), “Guilt, Shame, & Narrative Identity: An Analysis of Well-Being Among Former Offenders”
  • Melissa Picco (2016, Psychology), “Paying It Forward: Posttraumatic Growth in Cancer Survivors”
  • Mallory Kidwell (2014, Psychology), “Bringing the Whole Universe to Order: Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Creativity”

Summer Research Fellows & Internships

  • Victoria Britt, 2013, Richter Fellow, “Narratives of Redemption among Female War Survivors in North-East Sri Lanka”
  • Daniel Powell, 2013, URECA Summer Research Fellowship, “Examining Self- and Informant- Reports of Posttraumatic Growth among a Community Sample”

Courses Taught at Wake Forest University

FYS 100 T: What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger? : Examining the Redemptive Self

Spring 2017

Nietzsche’s claim that “what does not kill me makes me stronger” has great intuitive appeal, and many of us believe that experiencing hardship and troubles can leave us in a better place than we were before. Psychological scientists have become increasingly interested in studying the positive life changes that people report in the aftermath of highly stressful life events including (but by no means limited to) diagnosis with terminal illness, bereavement, and sexual assault. This notion has been referred to with many different names, but the construct is most commonly referred to by scientists as adversarial growth, posttraumatic growth, stress-related growth, altruism born of suffering and benefit finding. These positive changes relate to the development of important qualities of character, such as diligence, generosity, love, purpose, and humility. Thus, adversity may provide opportunities for the development of important character traits, echoing St. Paul’s insight that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5: 3-4). While the theme of “strength from adversity” is a central theme in many works of philosophy, theology, and literature, the empirical evidence remains mixed. In this class, we will discuss the question of redemption, whether adversity is in fact needed for the full development of character, and engage with Project Re-Entry, a program that offers educational and support services to former offenders before and after their release from prison, in discussing the possibilities for redemption in the context of structural inequality and issues related to mass incarceration.

PSY 315: Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness

Fall 2016; Spring 2016; Spring 2013; Fall 2012

What are the conditions that allow people to be happy and live well; that is, to flourish? We will try to answer this question from the perspective of a new area within psychology: positive psychology. We will review the history of positive psychology and the contributions that positive psychology has made to several traditional research areas in psychology. We will also examine some of the great truths and the insights into mind and heart that poets and philosophers have bequeathed to us. In addition, we shall attempt to define and unpack the complex concept of happiness, and examining the mechanisms that cause and maintain it.

PSY 310: Methods in Psychological Research (for Psychology Minors)

Fall 2016; Fall 2015; Fall 2014; Fall 2013

PSY 310 is designed for students who minor in Psychology. The emphasis of this course is on becoming a knowledgeable user and consumer of scientific research. We will explore research design, data analysis, and interpretation of findings. Although we will be exploring the research process through the lens of Psychology, many of the principles and techniques are applicable across disciplines, especially those in the social sciences.

PSY 260: Social Psychology

Spring 2016; Fall 2015

This course introduces you to the field of social psychology – the scientific study of how ordinary people think about, feel about, interact with, influence, and relate to one another. Social psychology is a topic to which every person can relate. The theories covered in this course will apply directly to your everyday experiences (including your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) and your relationships with others. Because social psychology is so accessible, one common misconception about it is that it is mostly common sense. Social psychological theories are based on scientific research. Thus, as a science, it separates the false myths from the fundamental truths about human nature. One major focus of this class will be on the scientific method as a tool for uncovering these truths and providing answers to important questions about how and why people function the way they do. We will also discuss how social psychological theories relate to everyday life and the functioning of society as a whole.

PSY 315:  Special Topics in Personality Psychology: The Happiness of the People: Wellbeing and Public Policy

Spring 2014

This seminar will examine the potential of happiness and well-being research to inform public policy. We will contrast standard economic indicators such as GNP with these alternate approaches. While psychological research on well-being will be prioritized, we will also discuss the capabilities approach and other theories in the substantive goods tradition and behavioral economics.

Books read:

Ed Diener, Richard Lucas, Ulrich Schimmack & John Helliwell—Well-Being & Public Policy (Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0195334074)

Amartya Sen, Inequality Reexamined (Harvard University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0674452565)

Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein, Nudge (Penguin, ISBN-13: 978-0143115267)

Angus Deaton: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality (Princeton University Press: ISBN-13: 978-0691153544)