Big Bash – 2022

Big Bash is just around the corner, and we hope you can join us for our Psychology Department Reception for alumni, which will be held during Big Bash, on Saturday, June 4th, from 2:30-4pm in Baxter Hall, room 312. If you will be back on campus for a reunion or just to catch up with fellow alums, faculty and staff, we hope that you will be able to drop in!

And, we are hoping to post updates from alumni who have reunions this year (5, 10, 15 years, etc.). Even if you will not be back for Big Bash, send us a short update on where life has taken you since Wabash, and we will post it below (photos are welcome, but not necessary!).  Updates can be directed to Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert:

Class of 1962 – 60 year reunion

Duncan Thomas – I had picked Psychology (Poli Sci minor) as one would pick up a good book on a long winter’s night – I was just interested in human behavior, especially voting behavior and political decision-making. It certainly helped me with understanding people which, of course, stood me in good stead in the sales and marketing activities in which I engaged during my working life. After graduation, I attended the American Institute for Foreign Trade in Phoenix, AZ. Now I believe it’s called the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Business. That launched me on an international business career during which I spent over 20 years living and working in Latin America. I worked for the Dana Corporation, a manufacturer of engine and drive train components then later a medical products company. Between active employment and as an independent consultant, my career spanned 58 years. Now I’m in the grandkids mode and loving it.

Class of 1972 – 50 year reunion

Steve Brammell – I was a psychology major at Wabash during the period from 1968 through 1972. Spelt, Lawrie, Bankhart, and Lovell were my professors. I also took many other courses in various disciplines, especially English. After graduation I decided to take a year or two before applying to grad school, which would have been in Clinical Psychology, I suppose. I moved back to my hometown of Michigan City and got a fantastic job, especially for a newbie, as a social worker/daily living skills coordinator at a facility where various clients with mental and physical disabilities were paid to do ‘piece-work’ provided by local industries. My salary was very good, and they most likely would have paid for any further education. After a year I bought an open ended ‘student’ ticket to Europe and began my odyssey. I traveled for over a year, including a stint on an Israeli kibbutz right after the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and also a strange journey through Morocco and the Sahara. Upon my return, when I finally ran out of money, I moved to Austin, Texas where I was a psych tech in a “State Mental Hospital” which I left after I was required to, along with the other male staff, corral a large male patient who was acting out and refusing to take his meds. I am a big guy and had to help hold him down while he received ECT (electro shock therapy ala One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest). I quit the next day and began working for the U. of Texas library system. I am a writer and during my Austin stint I was a member of the Austin Poets Theater, giving public performances (slams these days), and publishing my poems in local literary journals. I then moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I worked as a patient services coordinator for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and also the Green Country Transit providing government funded country wide transport for county citizens. I then moved to Birmingham, Alabama and began my career as a freelance writer, doing technical/medical writing for companies and institutions — a high paying endeavor I might add. I also wrote for magazines and newspapers, which does not pay well but boosts the ego. After 12 years I moved back to Michigan City to help my father after my mother died and had a major career change, getting into the restaurant business then helping a chef friend open her first fine dining restaurant where I was the manager and wine director. I loved working in the culinary world which led to many unexpected experiences and pleasures. I have been in the wine trade for the past 11 years, selling wine for a top end wine store in Indianapolis, where I now live with my wife. I just published my first book of short stories, Red Mountain Cut, by Finishing Line Press (which is available in the Wabash College Bookstore) and will have another book coming out later this year. I am nearly finished with a long work of historical fiction centered in the Lake Michigan region. I am looking forward to the Bash. I hope I get to stop in and say hello.

Gordon Goodwin ’72 – Van Gogh Yoursef at the Lume exhibit at Newfields in Indianapolis

Gordon Goodwin – I’ve been retired since 2014.  My wife and I moved back to Indianapolis (or Carmel these days) from the Fort Lee, Virginia area in 2015 to our old farmhouse near 96th and Keystone (!)  My career with the Army had its ups and downs, but I went for the joy that was in it, and I think the 30+ years was about right.  (I started with the Army at White Sands Missile Range, NM in 1983…..following completion of a Ph.D. at IU).  My wife, a retired special education teacher, keeps me very busy in the extensive gardens on our 2 acres.  Retirement works fairly well for me.  Hobbies include swimming and working out on a regular basis.  I like fishing; pre-Wabash my dad took me fishing over on Sugar Creek.  These days, I go infrequently, but I’m trying to introduce the sport to my grandson….well, step-grandson.

Class of 1977 – 45 year reunion

Daniel R. Rizzardini MBA, MSCP, LCPC – I graduated from Wabash in 1977, and spent 40 years as a capitalist working in the world of “Big Biz.”  Late in life my profligate profiteering ways changed to those of a humble humanist. I returned to school to earn a masters in clinical psychology.  Now, I practice therapy for couples, families, and adult males in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  I find the work to be exhilarating and most satisfying.  I use my Wabash education every day to assist my patients with the unique and varied challenges they experience.  I must confess that my late 70’s psychology education was steeped in behaviorism.  Whereas behaviorism is much utilized today, it is a small part of the therapeutic toolkit I need to bring to the couch. I am grateful to my professors Dr. Lovell, Drs. Bankhart, Dr. Spelt, et. al. for planting the seeds of healing which took several decades to blossom.

Ray with grandson, Liam, on his birthday

Raymond (Ray) Swisher is the Deputy Group Director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.  He retired from the U.S. Navy as a Captain, Medical Service Corps, and as the Executive Officer, Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, IL.  He has been on faculty at Rush University, where he has taught several courses to Masters degree students in the Health Systems Management Department.  Ray has been in faithful service to ACHE, serving as ACHE Regent for Metropolitan Chicago, 2 tenures as the elected President of the Chicago Health Executives Forum, and as the Chair on several ACHE committees.  He is equally active in the larger community, where he is a USO volunteer at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and on the Board of Advisors to “The Boulevard”, a Chicago-based housing organization providing alternative lodging and meals to the homeless following hospital discharge.

Class of 1987 – 35 year reunion

Ken Ogorek ’87

Ken Ogorek – I currently work for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, in the field of religious education.  My work involves a combination of theology, educational psychology and administration.  The psych major I experienced at Wabash has certainly been helpful over the years—and still is.  I feel very blessed to have spent over 25 years working in a field allowing me to put an excellent liberal arts education—and my faith—to a use that’s helpful to many folks.  Having tried a few types of jobs in my 20s, earning an M.A. during those years as well, I happily inhabit a niche where I imagine I’ll stay until retirement in a few years, God willing.

Class of 2012 – 10 year reunion

Olufemi Oluyedun ’12

Olufemi A. Oluyedun – After graduating from Wabash in 2012, I attended Michigan State University where I completed my Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Sport and Exercise Psychology. While in graduate school I assisted with an NIH-funded project examining physical activity as a means of reducing symptoms of ADHD in young children, while also teaching a full course load. This prepared me well for my current role as an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Hope College (tenure-track), a small liberal arts institution located in Holland, Michigan. I teach a range of courses which include: Sport and Exercise Psychology, Motor Development, Research Methods, Human Metabolism, Adaptive Physical Activity, Writing in Exercise Science, Health Dynamics, and Special Topics: Research. Related to scholarship, my primary research interests are in the areas of youth development, peer relationships, self-perceptions, and motivation. Specifically, I study how peer relationships play a role in an athlete’s commitment to sport. On a personal note, my fiancé Cassandra and I will be getting married in October (2022), and we recently purchased a home in the East Grand Rapids area.

Class of 2017 – 5 year reunion

Zack King – After Wabash, I completed the two year Orr Fellowship based out of Indianapolis. I worked for a company that created personality assessments. After the fellowship I joined a smaller family-owned Industrial Solutions company named the Robert Dietrick Company where we specialize in loading dock and warehouse safety equipment. I have been there ever since and am a member of the sales team. In both of these opportunities since graduation, I often find myself drawing from the experience and education I was fortunate to gain from Wabash and our Psychology department. Whether it be thinking through Human Factors when finding solutions for our customers or using the scientific method to ensure our products meet and exceed expectations, the Psych department has equipped me with a skill set I am grateful for. Personally, my girlfriend Mallory and I just bought our first house in Broadripple and love living in Indianapolis with our Standard Poodle, Elliott. 

2020 Research Symposium

Each year, senior Psychology majors complete a Capstone research project, in which they design and execute a research study in collaboration with one of the Psychology department faculty. In a typical year, seniors would present their work on campus in a poster session, held in the afternoon after classes, and which would be followed by a keynote lecture by a returning Psychology alum.

This year, with programming disrupted by the pandemic, our senior Psychology majors have worked intensely to complete their research projects (in many cases moving data collection to online formats, finding ways to access the necessary statistical software off-campus, and dealing with other logistical hurdles), and their efforts will be showcased today in our first virtual symposium, on Tuesday, April 28th, starting at 4pm EST. We will be using Zoom to host talks by each of our senior majors, and a link to the Zoom session will be distributed to campus by email.

If you would like to attend the virtual symposium, please contact Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert (, and we can provide you with information for accessing the meeting.

4:00pmWelcome and Introduction: Dr. Karen Gunther
4:10pmInvestigation of Dispositional Optimism, Not Expectancy, as a Predictor of Placebo Analgesia
Hunter Jones
Adviser: Dr. Karen Gunther
4:25pmIntroduction: Dr. Robert Horton
4:30pmAn Investigation of Conformity: Normative Influences in Social Media
Bill Polen
Adviser: Dr. Robert Horton
4:45pmImpact of Regulatory Focus and Victim Imagery on Donation Intention
Miles Barilla
Adviser: Dr. Robert Horton
5:00pmAn Analysis of Narcissistic Coaching and Its Effects on Player State of Mind
Isaac Avant
Adviser: Dr. Robert Horton
5:15pmPerceived Coaching Style and its Correlation with an Athlete’s Motivation and Team Cohesion
Nathan Melchi
Adviser: Dr. Robert Horton
5:40pmIntroduction: Dr. Eric Olofson
5:55pmChild Temperament as a Predictor of Parental Challenging Behavior
J.R. Hill
Adviser: Dr. Eric Olofson
6:10pmThe Effects of Autonomy Support and Sensitivity on Child Exploration
Ethan Kanzler
Adviser: Dr. Eric Olofson
6:25pmIntroduction: Dr. Preston Bost
6:30pmThe Effect of Organizational Conspiracy Theories on Management Transparency
Luke Podgorny
Adviser: Dr. Preston Bost
6:45pmA Positive Patient-Provider Relationship: The Missing Link to Improving Adherence?
Abraham Kiesel
Adviser: Dr. Preston Bost
7:00pmIntroduction: Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
7:05pmLoneliness Disrupts Naturalistic Decision-Making
Thach “Ben” Huynh
Adviser: Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
7:20pmClosing remarks: Dr. Karen Gunther

Big Bash 2019!

Big Bash is just around the corner, and we hope you can join us for our Psychology Department Reception for alumni, which will be held during Big Bash, on Saturday, June 1st, from 2:30-4pm in Baxter Hall, room 312. If you will be back on campus for a reunion or just to catch up with fellow alums, faculty and staff, we hope that you will be able to drop in!

And, we are hoping to post updates from alumni who have reunions this year (5, 10, 15 years, etc.). Even if you will not be back for Big Bash, send us a short update on where life has taken you since Wabash, and we will post it below (photos are welcome, but not necessary!).  Updates can be directed to Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert:

Class updates

Class of 1954 – 65 year reunion

  • Richard Sadler – Dick Sadler called in with an update from Laguna Woods, CA. He is looking forward to this year’s Big Bash, and recently came across a few of his term papers from Wabash, including two from psychology – one on visual distraction, and another on personnel selection, based on a visit he made to the Ball Brothers factory in Muncie. After Wabash, Dick completed his Master’s degree in labor and industrial relations, before being drafted for the Korean War. One memorable experience from that time was when he travelled over 12,000 miles during a 33 day leave, making very effective use of hitchhike flying: over the entire month, he only spent $100 on air travel for one commercial flight!

Class of 1969 – 50 year reunion

  • Craig Fox – Earned his Master’s degree while teaching at Vincennes University then completed law school at the University of San Diego. As a lawyer, Mr. Fox practiced in Hollywood and Beverly Hills in finance, real estate and contract law.
  • Dan Werbe – Since leaving Wabash, my working career has been about sales and sales management. Eli Lilly taught me the fundamentals of selling, which I have subsequently redirected into other positions and industries. Since 1987, it has been commission driven insurance, particularly life insurance. Working face to face with prospects, making needs assessments, and recommending solutions should there be excessive exposure. I developed a marked preference for selling expensive complicated things to well-educated prospects. My Wabash years helped me to write well and effectively. I have sought to distinguish myself from others by better communicating skills, better listening, and a better knowledge of the subject matter than others. I would develop a strategic plan in advance, and seek to gain the confidence and respect of my prospect. In a nutshell, … know the matter better, speak better, look better, and follow up with respect and common courtesy. What I call basic blocking and tackling skills. I would not hesitate to have my prospects know of my industry awards and recognition. Apart from my working career, I have pursued my avocations in much the same manner. I’d give it my all, my best and nothing less. Extensive preparation, high energy, great determination, coupled with a hunger to learn how to become better at what I was doing. Or I wouldn’t ‘fool’ with it at all. In general, my own personal goals have almost always exceeded those of any associates or supervisors. I would compete against myself, with lofty expectations.

Class of 1974 – 45 year reunion

  • Robert Hall – Being a pre-med, psychology major at Wabash, I would have never thought I’d be in banking for 39 years as a commercial lender assisting businesses thrive and be successful in their industry sectors as well as helping with economic development in our community. Obviously, the liberal arts education gave me the foundation for a successful career and my psychology studies greatly assisted as well, especially with the character analysis of my borrowers 😉 Aside from work, I have loved giving back to my community by serving on numerous, not-for-profit boards and volunteering for their activities– Big Brothers Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, Turnstone Center for Adults and Children with Disabilities, Mad Anthonys, my high school’s Scholarship Foundation and others. But, the biggest impact in my life aside from family, Wabash and my fraternity brothers, is being a Big Brother to my Little Brother(s) for over 12 years. The photo above shows me with my current Little Brother. While BBBS says we make impact in their lives, my Littles have made an impact in mine – it’s Fun!  Volunteer and be a Big!

Class of 1979 – 40 year reunion

  • Joel Rice – I briefly attended graduate school in clinical psychology at the University of Texas before figuring out that it was not for me. After I returned home, I took the LSAT, and applied to law schools. Thereafter, I attended law school at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1983. I am a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment law firm. I have practiced labor and employment law for the better part of 30 years. I am married, live in suburban Chicago, and have two grown sons.

Class of 1984 – 35 year reunion

  • Thom Irelan – I have traveled a bit of a winding road since graduation in 1984. I got a doctoral degree in counseling psychology in 1992. Since then I have worked in a community mental health center in rural southern Illinois, done private practice in Columbia, MO, and then moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where 8 worked in the National Health Service for 14 years. I came back and taught psychology at Westminster College in Fulton, MO for 2.5 years. Last summer I returned to Scotland where I am working in private practice with First Psychology, which is a practice with clinics throughout Scotland. I am an accredited Schema Therapist and provide supervision and training to trainee psychologists and professionals. My Wabash education has stood me in good stead throughout the years!

Class of 1989 – 30 year reunion

  • Scott Baum – I have been  teaching and coaching in high school in the Chicago Area for almost 30 years.  I am currently teaching AP Psychology & Regular Psychology at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois.  I have a wife, Margie, and three sons; Scott 18 just graduated from Loyola Academy and is headed to Western Michigan, Sean is 15 and a Sophomore at Loyola and John is 12 and a sixth grader at St. Mary of the Woods grade school.  We live on the Northwest side of Chicago. I will be in attendance this Friday night only, I have to get back for my sons graduation party on Saturday!
  • Dan Couch – I live in Murfreesboro, TN with my wife of 26 years and our 3 children.  Our son, Casey, is a gymnast at The Air Force Academy where he just completed his first year. Our oldest daughter, Kenzie, graduated from high school last week and will be cheering on the sidelines next fall at The University of Tennessee. Our youngest daughter, Cassidy, will start her sophomore year of high school in the fall where she’ll return to the volleyball court as reigning All County libero. My wife,Tina Marie, stepped away from patient care recently at St.Thomas Rutherford where she as been a RN in L&D for 20 years, and into a Nurse Auditor position. I’m still writing country songs for a living and enjoying the work. I recently put my writing skills to a different test as a guest contributor to Wabash Magazine. I wrote an article chronicling the pretty amazing story of my classmate and fraternity brother Curt Selby ’89 and his wife Julie and their insanely successful franchising business, Board and Brush. Look for the article in the next issue Wabash Magazine!
  • Rhys Helt – I have been providing wealth management solutions to clients for 27 years. After graduating from Wabash College in 1989, I started my career in the financial services industry with Prudential Securities. After 16 years with one legacy firm, I accepted the Branch Director position in Indianapolis for RBC Wealth Management in 2009.   As the Branch Director of the Indianapolis office, I oversee the branch and I am working to expand with quality financial consultants in the Indianapolis market.  I still maintain my own group of clients in addition to my management responsibilities. I completed the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in 2000. By attaining this designation, and ongoing education, I maintain membership in IMCA (Investment Management Consultants Association). In addition, I obtained the professional designation of Accredited Wealth Manager (AWM) through an education program sponsored by RBC Wealth Management and Michigan State University. I have been married to my wonderful wife Christina for 27 years and we have two sons.  My oldest son Rhett will be a senior next year at Wabash College and my youngest son Rhye will be a sophomore at the University of Dayton.
  • Andrew Smith – After graduating in ’89, I returned to suburban Chicago and did some desktop publishing for a printer while getting a second major in English Literature at Benedictine University. Next, I went to work for the Daily Herald newspaper for ten years. For the past eleven years, I’ve been a writing coach at College of DuPage. Along the way, I’ve become a licensed high-school English teacher with endorsements in–you guessed it–psychology and history.

Class of 1999 – 20 year reunion

  • Ryan Holmes – After graduating Wabash, I studied at Indiana University School of Dentistry, earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2003.  Since then, I have been in private practice in Fort Wayne, where I started Holmes Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in 2006.  My wife Tobie and I have been married for 15 years and have 2 daughters, Sydney (14) and Bella (11).

Class of 2004 – 15 year reunion

  • Kevin Nolan is an Associate Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Hofstra University and Managing Partner of Employee Insights, LLC (New York). His scholarly research provides unique insight into the cognitive processes underlying employment decisions and has been published in a variety of outlets including: Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Business and Psychology, Corporate Reputation Review, The Psychologist-Manager Journal, Personnel Assessment and Decisions, Human Performance, Public Personnel Management, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, and Consulting Psychology Journal: Research and Practice. As a consultant, his applied work focuses on improving organizational effectiveness and worker well-being through application of best-practice principles in the areas of organizational change and development. After graduating from Wabash College, Kevin earned a M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Bowling Green State University. He currently lives on Long Island with his wife, Erin, and sons, Patrick (5) and Brooks (2) – where he is regularly found in the Fall with a cold beverage over a hot grill listening to Wabash College Football games.

Class of 2009 – 10 year reunion

  • Naun Antonio Benitez – After graduating from Wabash in 2009, I earned my J.D. from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. While in law school, I was a Legal Writing Fellow in the Dean’s Tutorial Society. I interned in both the public and private sectors, and I gained courtroom experience with the Indiana Federal Community Defenders and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. I’m now a Senior Associate at the Marc Lopez Law Firm, and my practice is primarily devoted to criminal defense. I handle a wide variety of felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, and I’m in court almost every day. I love jury trials almost as much as I love my family: Sarah, my wife of almost 13 years, and our beautiful children, Aiden (12) and Adriana (8). When I am not working, the Benitez are always on the soccer field.
  • David Braitman – I graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2015 and went on to the University of New Mexico for my psychiatry residency. I also elected to stay for a forth year in order to be a chief resident. In the past 4 years I also served on the American Psychiatric Association as a representative to their congressional body, wrote a book chapter that will soon be published on foundational research papers in schizophrenia and wrote an article on sleep apnea and psychiatry for the American Journal of Psychiatry- Residents Journal. This past January I was accepted at Stanford University for a two year fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry and will be moving to Palo Alto this June. I continue my research interests in attention and self-regulation and plan to keep research a part of my career. I have never forgotten all that Wabash (and the psychology department in particular!) have taught me, most importantly to always stay curious.
  • Michael Kaster – After graduation I went to paramedic school and worked as a full time paramedic in Indianapolis. During that time I was in graduate school at IUPUI for a semester before I went to medical school. I graduated medical school and started my internal medicine residency at St. Vincent hospital in Indianapolis. I finished residency in June of 2018 and passed my board exam and am now board certified in internal medicine. After residency I started a fellowship in pulmonology and critical care medicine at Creighton University. I am currently finishing my first of three years in fellowship and live in Omaha with my wife Liz. Liz and I got married May 19th 2018 just before moving to Omaha. We live in Omaha with our two dogs.
  • Wade Heiny – I live in Greenfield, IN with my wife of 8 years and 1 year old daughter. In 2012 I was accepted to attend the Indiana State Police Recruit Academy to become an Indiana State Trooper. I made it through the 6 month training and graduated on December 21st 2012. Since then I have become an active member on the department by joining the Honor Guard team, methamphetamine suppression team, Riot Team, and maintaining numerous other certifications. I was asked to become a field training officer after just three years and have trained 6 new officers. I am now a Detective working multiple high profile cases, this new position allows me to better utilize my degree when interviewing individuals. I attribute much of my success with the Indiana State Police to the work ethic in which Wabash instills in you.
  • James Leuck – Post-graduation I went into training in neurophysiology and completed my credentialing in Electroencephalography (R.EEG.T), Evoked Potentials (R. EP. T) and Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (CNIM).  I have been practicing intraoperative monitoring and patient care for over 8 years now and have advanced to a management position with my company – Spine-Tek, powered by Neuro Alert.  I travel to 15 hospitals in the Greater Indianapolis area and one 1 in Phoenix as scheduled for surgeries.  I monitor patients’ nervous systems for all types of procedures: spine, brain, cardiovascular, peripheral nerve, tumors, etc. I get to work with great alumni like Dr. Kyle Hayes ’09 and Austin Shurtz ’08 (anesthesiologists), Dr. Rick Sasso ’82 (orthopedic surgeon) and Neurosurgeons Todd Vogel ’04, Zach Dodd ’01, and David Stockwell ’03.  I stay very active as an alumnus of Wabash and Theta Delta Chi and am recently living in Geist after I moved from Fall Creek Place near downtown Indianapolis.
  • Devin Moss – Following Wabash I went on to receive my Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis followed by a residency program in Sports Physical Therapy with Proaxis Therapy (now ATI) our of Greenville, SC. I spent 7 months working in Boulder, CO at a hospital-based sports medicine clinic before moving to Fort Worth, TX where I have worked for Texas Health Sports Medicine for the past 5 years. I am a clinic director of one of 6 outpatient offices where we treat a highly active and engaged population of athletes. I am also currently pursuing an MBA in Health Services Management from the University of North Texas with plans to progress into higher administration. Most importantly, my wife and I have a 1 yr-old daughter who keeps us plenty busy!
  • Stephen Prunier – After Wabash I continued my education at Ball State University where I earned my masters degree in Cognitive and Social Processes, which is the complicated way of saying cognitive and social psychology. I was then accepted into a PhD program at the University of Toledo where I obtained my PhD in Cognitive Psychology. I am currently teaching at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis where I also serve at the assistant department chair of Psychology. Ivy Tech just recently began offering an associates degree in psychology, so I oversee that program and work with students to begin their career in psychology before they transfer at finish their bachelors at other local universities and colleges. Wabash is the place where I found my passion for psychology and I try to pass that same passion down to my current students with every course I teach.
  • Zac Simpson – I married my beautiful wife Sharae in 2015 and since have been blessed to be the father of 3 boys—a 3 year old, an 18 month old, and a 3 week old. We recently moved to Mooresville, Indiana after living in Indianapolis, Maryland, and Georgia. Shortly after graduating from Wabash I joined the Indiana Army National Guard. I am currently a Captain and have served as a satellite communications platoon leader, infantry division network officer, and disaster response unit IT project officer. I was recently granted the honor to command the 172nd Cyber Protection Team. As Team Lead for the multi-state unit I get the opportunity to work with talented cyber security professionals who work hard everyday to secure networks, protect citizen information, and respond to cyberspace threats for their states and our nation. My civilian career has taken me from helpdesk to field service technician to system and network administration to systems architect and information systems security manager. I currently work as an Information Assurance Project Manager for in support of the Atterbury Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations. It’s a mouthful but essentially I am the in-house cyber guru helping to build and secure our projects. I owe so much of who I’ve become personally and professionally to Wabash College. And although I did not pursue a career in Psychology, much of my pursuits have been framed and influenced by the understanding I gained from my degree. After all the most important part of any network is layer eight. I wish a happy weekend to all my Wally brothers.

Class of 2014 – 5 year reunion

  • Joel Beier – I have recently accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I will work towards a PhD in the Learning Sciences department.  I will study ways in which students develop conceptual understandings of scientific content, specifically, in my first few years I will study the ways in which students develop visual representations of chemical phenomenon.
  • Shane Brown – I joined Enterprise to grab some external sales training back in 2015. I originally joined to grab that experience but then began moving up in the management training program to management where I’ve been for a year and a half. My degree helped me grab the spot but the specific psychology degree has helped me with communication and obtaining most out of employees. But I love the role and the compensation! Haha
  • Nathan Bryant – After graduating from Wabash, I found myself in a position back at Wabash, managing the campus events. I was the Events Coordinator for campus services, making sure all of the events around the college were probably executed. All the while, I chose to change my field of study, graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University with an MBA. I then pursued a career in the field of finance, starting as a Financial Services Professional with Charles Schwab & Co. I am now in the Active Investor Team, as a Sr. Trading Specialist- High Net Worth Clients. Currently, I am pursuing my licenses for becoming a manager in the financial services industry.
  • Rudy Duarte – Since graduating I worked as a software developer for 2 years. One of them being in Indianapolis and another in Santa Ana, CA (my hometown). I started tutoring part time because I felt an “itch” for helping my community. That quickly turned into me working for a nonprofit organization that helps underserved communities, like the one I came from, apply and graduate from college. I served as a college counselor for 2 years and recently, I have been promoted as the Program Director where I over see the programs and services for 660 students as well as overseeing the growth and strategy of 3 of our 4 departments. I also recently got married. Life is good! Thank you, Wabash. It seriously prepared me transitioning between careers and not only fulfilling the roles but also leading.
  • Andrew Fulton – After graduating Wabash in 2014, I moved to Binghamton, NY where I worked as a research technician in a neuroscience lab studying alcoholism and thiamine deficiency. While there I began learning to write software to perform data munging, analysis and visualization and soon discovered a passion in software development. In 2016, I moved to Denver to do a Data Science Immersive, afterwhich I took a position managing a small team automating the data pipeline for a company doing marketing research for telecommunication companies. This past Spring I joined a startup called Quansight, where I have had the good fortune to work with a lot of really talented developers and scientists consulting on and implementing data pipelines and analysis for clients and contributing to the development of open source software for Python’s math and science stacks. In my freetime, I enjoy spending my time with friends and family and taking advantage of all the great outdoor activities Colorado has to offer.
  • Francisco Huerta – After Wabash College I joined Teach for America and began teaching at Hansberry College Prep in Chicago. In 2016 I completed my commitment with Teach for America, and I elected to stay in the classroom. That same year I graduated from Dominican University with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am currently wrapping up my 5th year of teaching at Hansberry where I’ve developed a 9th grade world history curriculum that is IB aligned as we are an IB World School. I also serve as the school’s advisor for our chapter of the National Honor Society. Earlier this year I was accepted as a member of 2019-2020 Diverse Leaders Fellowship – a program designed to develop leaders within the Noble Network of Charter Schools. I plan to continue in the field of education for the foreseeable future as I have a passion for serving urban youth in the city of Chicago. In my spare time I enjoy running. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2016 and am currently training to run it again this year.
  • Jimmy LaRowe – Pursued Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from 2014 to 2017. Post graduation took first job in Roswell, NM to rebuild OT program in Med surg, ICU, Mental Health, and Outpatient. Came back to Indiana this year and am now an Occupational Therapist with Angels of Mercy Home Health Care. Previous Director of Iron Wills Bootcamp in Fort Wayne, IN. CEO and Founder of Empoweredby3 LLC, co-owner of Empoweredby3 Wreslting Academy in Fort Wayne and LaOtto Indiana. [Jimmy was back on campus in April, and you can see his Chapel talk, “Response over Reaction – Live to Survive…or Live to Thrive“, here:
  • Derrick McQuiston – After graduation I attended New York University where I received my clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy. At graduation I was a recipient of the Elizabeth C. Addoms Award for excellence in academic and clinical performance. I am now working at ColumbiaDoctors Sports Medicine in Manhattan as a physical therapist.
  • Connor O’Rear – Since graduating in 2014 I have been attending graduate school in psychology at the University of Notre Dame. In my work I study mathematical cognition, with a focus on identifying the best ways to promote math achievement in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I received my master’s degree in 2017 and will be receiving my PhD in psychology in the spring of 2020. I currently live in South Bend with my wife, Andrea, who I met while at Notre Dame. She will be starting as a visiting professor in psychology at Saint Mary’s College this fall, joining the same department as Terri Aubele-Futch, who was a visiting psychology professor while I was at Wabash (so a cool Wabash connection there!). Once I receive my PhD I plan to pursue a career in academia.
  • Bobby Thompson – Currently I am a teacher at Crawfordsville MS. I teach 6th grade social studies. On top of my teaching duties I am the head coach for Boys’ soccer and track. Outside of sports I am the Academic Super Bowl coordinator for all of CMS, in addition to coaching the state champion social studies team. Despite keeping busy at CMS I also coach all year at Wabash where I am an assistant cross country and track coach. I have had both jobs, CMS and Wabash, for 4 years now. In my personal life I was recently engaged to my fiance, Paige. We will be getting married in the Wabash Chapel next summer. We have two Labrador Retrievers, Luna and Lily. Since graduating I have also kept up with running. I ran my first marathon this past fall and have been the Indiana road mile champion 3 years in a row.
  • Andy Walsh – I’m currently entering my 3rd year at the University of North Texas pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a focus in Sport Psychology. I provide mental health services to the community through our community psychology clinic and will soon also provide mental health services to our students in our university counseling center. I also am trained in psychological assessment, administer these to community members/students, as well as teach the lab portion of our assessment course to our 1st year graduate students. Additionally, I am entering my 3rd year as the sport psychology consultant for the UNT Men’s Basketball program. I’m not completely certain as to where I’ll end up, but I’m thinking the most likely location for me is an Athletic Department or University Counseling Center providing mental health services to individuals, teams, and athletes, as well as providing mental skills consultation to teams and athletes. I should have about 2-3 years left on campus and then will be off to my internship!
  • Bradley Wise – After graduating from Wabash in 2014, I worked two lab technician positions in behavioral neuroscience labs at IU School of Medicine and Indiana University, each for a year. While I initially wanted to pursue a PhD in neuroscience, I began exploring other options. I applied for a lab manager position in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Yale University where I began developing hands-on programming skills. That is when I applied to Cornell Tech, a new tech campus in New York City. While at Cornell Tech, I developed skills in data science and machine learning and took two internships at WeightWatchers and a precision medicine startup called OneThree Biotech. Now I am graduating from Cornell Tech, and I am going to the Bay Area to work as a data scientist at Cisco in July. I will be forever thankful for how my time at Wabash gave me the perseverance to go through this career transition.


To support our Psychology students simply select
Psychology when making your gift.

Today is a day we #StepUpForWabash and together we will show the world that no other college on the planet does a better job of educating men than Wabash. If you aren’t already aware, Wabash is having another important day today and it would be great for you to join me in supporting the College on the Day of Giving.

Current students Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and Ben Huynh ’20 and recent alum Nigel Dao ’18 traveled to the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in November 2018 to present the results of their research projects

With your help, Wabash will reach important benchmarks that will enable us to leverage more than $410,000 in lead challenge gifts. The goal is to receive 4,410 gifts on 4.10. As we achieve each goal, we will realize gifts that will have a lasting impact for Wabash students. Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

In Psychology, the donations we received over the past several years have allowed us to support additional summer research interns, to expand research opportunities for students, and to send our students to present their work at regional and national conferences. For example, donations from last year’s Day of Giving allowed us to take three current students, Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and Thach ‘Ben’ Huynh ’20, to San Diego last November to present their research on decision-making at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, and to send Keanan and Ben to present at a regional neuroscience at IUPUI this spring.

Today, your support will provide opportunities to students conducting research this summer and over the coming year, and allow them to present the results of their work at regional and national meetings. Funds raised today will cover travel expenses and participant recruitment costs for these projects, which will be critical for our young men to complete their projects. Regardless of the career plans of our students – whether they are looking ahead to graduate school, looking to start their career, or pursuing medicine or the law – we believe that hands-on research, working with faculty is some of the most important training our students receive. To be able to pose key questions, collect data, draw justified conclusions and communicate one’s work – these are key skills for success for all of our students. With your support, we can continue to provide these kinds of excellent opportunities for our students, and we hope you will consider donating to the Special Psychology Fund today to support student research and professional development.

And, for every gift made to the Special Psychology Fund, the Psychology faculty will match $10 dollars up to $850!  To support Wabash and our Psychology students, when making your gift at, simply select Psychology from the drop‐down menu.

Join us as #OurWabash! Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

And, if you happen to be are on campus later this month, please consider dropping in on our Psychology Research Symposium (Tuesday, April 23rd, from 4-6pm in Detchon International Hall) where our seniors will be presenting their capstone research projects. And, Femi Oluyedun ’12’s keynote address will begin around 6:45 in Hays 104, so it will be a wonderful opportunity to share the work of our current students and alums!

Best wishes, and thank you again for your support,

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
Associate Professor of Psychology
Coordinator of Faculty Development

Psychology Facebook page:

Celebration of Student Research 2019

Tung Bui ’19 won one of the Wabash College Celebration, Research, Scholarship and Creativity awards for his presentation – “Would attributions help alleviate the envious emotion?”

At the 19th annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity, (Friday, January 25th, from 1-4pm in Detchon International Hall), senior Psychology majors Keanan Alstatt ’19, Michael Trebing ’19, and junior Ben Huynh ’20 will present on their research on developing new tools to measure decision-making in humans, while Colby Dunigan ’19 and Jorge Rodriguez ’19 will present their summer research on color vision, which was supported by Dr. Gunther’s grant from the National Science Foundation. Several other psychology students will be presenting work conducted for class projects or independent study, and from across the college, and we will also see presentations from several students working in Biology (sponsored by Drs. Heidi Walsh and Bradley Carlson) on their work on the effect of obesity on the hypothalamus and from students working with our Global Health Initiative  (sponsored by Jill Rogers and Dr. Eric Wetzel ) on work related to mental health, all of which should be of great interest to students studying psychology and/or neuroscience!

Below, we’ve tried to gather a list of the presentations that are most relevant to Psychology students and students interested in Neuroscience, but we would encourage you to try to see a bit of everything at the Celebration! If you happen to be on campus, we hope to see you at the Celebration this year, and we are very impressed with the wide range of work that our students have done over the last year!

And, you can find the full schedule of presentations and descriptions of the work here (PDF)!

Posters – 1-2:30PM – Detchon International Hall
#5 Colby Dunigan & Jorge Rodriguez Cortically-Stimulating Gratings Reveal Non-Cardinal Colors Better than do LGN-Stimulating Spots
#15 Keith Kline Circulating Carotenoid Levels in Eastern Box Turtles
#27 Michael Tanchevski & Rithy Sakk Heng Palmitate signaling in Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Neurons Induces Inflammation and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in a TLR4-Independent Manner
Posters – 2:30-4PM – Detchon International Hall
#2 Thach Huynh, John Trebing & Keanan Alstatt Validation of a Translational Virtual Experiential Foraging Task for Humans
#10 Christopher Wilson & Lucas Soliday Effects of a High Fat Diet on Rat Hypothalamus Neurons and a Possible Botanical Remedy
#24 Chaz Rhodes Eye Color Change and Variation in Eastern Box Turtles


2:40PM Detchon 112 Hunter Jones Small Town Actions towards a National Epidemic: Experiences with Combating
the Opioid Epidemic at the Montgomery County Health Department
3:00PM Detchon 112 Eric Lakomek A Patient’s Perspective in Obtaining Mental Health Treatment

Summer research – Huynh ’20

Thach “Ben” Huynh ’20 spent his summer conducting research with Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert, looking at differences between smokers and non-smokers in a new decision-making task. For this work, Ben held the Parks Internship, generously supported by the family of Wabash Psychology professor Dr. Eldon Parks in his memory:

Last summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship under the supervision of Dr. Neil Schmitzer-Torbert. Our research project focused on the design and validation of a novel computer task that studies naturalistic decision-making in humans. We refer to this program as the “Movie Row Task” (as it is based on a task originally developed for rats and mice called the Restaurant Row). Overall the internship was an invaluable learning experience that allowed me to acquire new skills (e.g., MATLAB) and gain hands-on exposure to research.

We took much of our inspiration for the summer project from research by Dr. David Redish and colleagues (Steiner & Redish, 2014 and Abram et al., 2016). In the former research article, the authors used a relatively new task to study regret and its representation in the brain in rats. The task, the “Restaurant Row Task” (RRT), was a square maze with four spokes of food dispensers at each corner of the square that represented four different food pellet flavors. Rats would travel among these spokes and wait some time to eat the food pellets whose flavor they liked. The rats had the choice to either wait for the food pellets or skip them for other offers. Redish and colleagues characterized “regret-inducing” instances as cases where rats skipped a good offer (i.e., offers of preferred food flavors with low delay time) only to encounter a bad offer (i.e., offers of less preferred food flavors with high delay time.) The authors found that, in regret conditions, rats showed increasing deliberation (i.e., vicarious trial and error) before entering the bad offer zone, higher probability of accepting the bad food offers, and shorter reward consumption time. Along with behavioral results, Redish and colleagues also presented some neural correlates of regret in rats.

Abram and colleagues (2016) designed a version of the RRT, called the “Web-Surf Task” (WST), to test if results from rats tested in the RRT would “translate” to humans, and provide valuable clinical insights. In this task, participants would “surf” among galleries of four types of videos (cat, bike fail, landscape, and dance videos) via clicking on-screen buttons. The idea behind the design of the WST was that human online information-foraging was similar to animal food-foraging. The types of video stimuli were selected based on their different brain area representation which would support brain imaging studies. Abram et al., (2016) showed that the WST was consistent with the RRT and showed high reliability. However, since the participants in the WST did not travel among options physically, the researchers were unable to observe physical behavior (e.g., travel trajectories, etc.) that may be relevant to decision-making (e.g., vicarious trial and error). Indeed, the lack of physical travel was the most glaring inconsistency between the WST and the RRT.

As such, Dr. Schmitzer-Tobert attempted to design another version of the RRT that would combine the physicality of the RRT and the human compatibility of the WST. This version, the “Movie Row Task” (MRT), allowed participants to travel and watch the galleries of videos (used in Abram et al., 2016) in a 3D environment using the arrow keys. My Behavioral Neuroscience class tested the first design of the MRT using samples from Wabash College in the spring of 2018. We found out that the first version suffered from some instruction flaws that prevented participants from showing clear patterns of preference for the stimuli. In many cases participants either did not show any preference for any video type or showed very high delay for all video types. Thus, for my summer internship, Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert designed a second variation of the MRT that fixed the instruction flaws from the original design. We recruited online workers from the Amazon Mechanical Turk to validate this version of the MRT. In addition to healthy participants, we also targeted nicotine-dependent (i.e., smokers) individuals to investigate the effect of nicotine addiction on decision-making on the MRT.

Our second design fared better than the first one in inducing clear displays of preference among the different stimuli types. We were able to replicate some interesting decision-making phenomena from studies that utilized the RRT for rodent samples such as deliberation (Steiner and Redish, 2014), sunk cost (Sweis et al., 2018), and regret (Steiner and Redish, 2014). Particularly, we succeeded in characterizing regret behaviors in human participants on the MRT. Unlike rats (whose behaviors I highlighted above), human subjects tended to skip bad offers in an efficient manner in regret-inducing instances. For “sunk-cost,” we found that when participants had waited for an offer, they would be less likely to quit the offer; more so with increasing wait time. Finally, some deliberation metrics such as total duration and rotation on the task were sensitive to the delay thresholds of each participant. For analyses involving nicotine addiction, however, we were unable to find significant differences between the performances of smokers versus non-smokers on this version of the task. That said we are excited to further this line of research in future studies.

Because this project was “computational” in nature, Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert taught me how to use MATLAB to analyze and visualize data. Learning MATLAB for me was difficult (given my lack of experience in programming) but rewarding. I still recall the satisfaction I felt when I was able to produce my first complete graph in MATLAB. Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert also allowed me to conduct literature review independently, which helped me to hone my research skills significantly. I hope that these skills would benefit me in my future academic career.

As a concluding note, I would like to thank Dr. Schmitzer-Torbert and the Department of Psychology at Wabash College for a wonderful summer experience. I would also like to express gratitude to alumni and donors who made such an experience possible.


To support our Psychology students simply select
Psych when making your gift.

Today, the entire Wabash community is striving together for #OurWabash! If you aren’t already aware, Wabash is having another important day today and it would be great for you to join me in supporting the College.

Neil Dittmann ’19 and Niki Kazahaya ’18 traveled to the SfN annual meeting in D.C. to present their summer research with support from alumni.

Alexiz Arellano ’18 and Kirby Cox ’18 traveled to the Ohio State University with Dr. Olofson for part of their summer research project funded through alumni donations.

With your help, Wabash will reach important benchmarks that will enable us to leverage more than $400,000 in lead challenge gifts. The goal is to receive 4,180 gifts on 4.18. Doing so will have a lasting impact on our College. Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

In Psychology, the donations we received over the past several years have allowed us to support additional summer research interns, to expand research opportunities for students, and to send our students to present their work at regional and national conferences. For example, donations from last year’s Day of Giving have supported a year-long research project undertaken by Nigel Dao ’18 to assess the effects of obesity on sexual function in male rats. Your donations also helped support student travel to professional conferences, including Niki Kazahaya ’18 and Neil Dittmann ’19, who presented the results of their research on spatial navigation in rats both at a regional neuroscience meeting in Ohio and at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in Washington, D.C. Tung Bui ’18 presented his summer research both at a national social psychology conference in Atlanta in the fall, and again this past weekend in Chicago for a regional psychology conference. At the same time, Kaleb Hobgood ’19 travelled to Butler University to present on his work on the mechanisms relating mindfulness to mental health and decision-making.


Tung Bui ’19 won one of the Wabash College Celebration, Research, Scholarship and Creativity awards for his presentation – “Would attributions help alleviate the envious emotion?”

oday, your support will help provide opportunities to students who will be conducting research this summer and over the coming year. Five students will spend their summer conducting research projects with Drs. Karen Gunther, Bobby Horton and Neil Schmitzer-Torbert. Their research projects will range from probing the mechanisms underlying color vision to efforts to improve and protect spatial memory. Several students will plan to present their work on campus next year, and in regional and national meetings. Funds raised today will cover travel expenses and participant recruitment costs for these projects, which will be critical for our young men to complete their summer research. We think that this will be an excellent opportunity for our students, hope you will consider donating to the Special Psychology Fund today to support student research and professional development.

And, for every gift made to the Special Psychology Fund, the Psychology faculty will match $10 dollars up to $850!  To support Wabash and our Psychology students, when making your gift at, simply select Psych from the drop‐down menu.

Join us as #OurWabash! Support Wabash students and encourage others to do the same!

Best wishes, and thank you again for your support,

Neil Schmitzer-Torbert
Daniel F. Evans Associate Professor in Social Sciences

Psychology Facebook page:

Celebration of Student Research 2018

Carson Powell ’17 discusses his research with his mentor, Dr. Gunther, at the 2017 Celebration of Student Research

At the 18th annual Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creativity, (Friday, January 27th, from 1-4pm in Detchon International Hall), senior Psychology majors Nigel Dao ’18, Tung Bui ’18, AJ Belden ’18 and T.J. Kilbourne ’18 will present the results of their research, from summer internships and class projects. Several other psychology students will be presenting work conducted for class projects or independent study, and from across the college, we will also see presentations from several students working in Biology (sponsored by Drs. Heidi Walsh and Brad Carlson) on topics ranging from hypothalamic neurons to turtle temperament, all of which should be of great interest to students studying psychology and/or neuroscience!

Below, we’ve tried to gather a list of the presentations that are most relevant to Psychology students and students interested in Neuroscience, but we would encourage you to try to see a bit of everything at the Celebration! If you happen to be on campus, we hope to see you at the Celebration this year, and we are very impressed with the wide range of work that our students have done over the last year!

Posters – 1-2:30PM – Detchon International Hall
#5 AJ Belden Box Turtle Boldness: Responses to Simulated Predator vs. Confinement Assays
#9 Tung Bui Would Attributions Help to Alleviate the Envious Emotion?
#15 Nigel Dao Estrogen Influences Astrocyte Density in Forebrain Circumventricular Organs
of Ovariectomized Rats Following Polyethylene Glycol-induced Hypovolemia
#29 Warren Moseman & Alec Bertsch Transcription Factor C-fos Mediates Repression of GnRH Expression Induced by ER Stress
Posters – 2:30-4PM – Detchon International Hall
#2 Nigel Dao, T.J. Kilbourne, & Zane White Exploring the Moral Foundations of Immoral Personality Traits
#6 Zachary Patton Investigating a Relationship Between Maturity and Responsibility
#8 Joe Pich GPS Tracking of Box Turtles using Arduino Circuits
#16 William Robinson American Toad Urination as a Predator Diversion Behavior


2:40PM Detchon 112 Christopher Wilson Palmitic Acid Induces ER Stress in Hypothalamic Neurons: Implications for
Obesity and Infertility

Brain Day 2017 – the Science of Brains!

Prof. Walsh helps a visitor map her somatosensory homunculus

The 9th annual Brain Day will be held at the Carnegie Museum in Crawfordsville on Saturday, October 28th from 1-4pm. This year’s theme is “The Science of Brains!”

Since 2009, Wabash faculty and students have partnered with the Carnegie Museum to lead an afternoon of brain-related activities for all ages. Like Brain Awareness Week, which is organized by the Society for Neuroscience, Brain Day is intended to demonstrate basic principles of brain function, and to help us all better appreciate and care for our brains. The Brain Day program is an annual event for children and families, with hands-on activities to demonstrate how our brains work. Faculty from Wabash’s Biology (Dr. Heidi Walsh) and Psychology (Drs. Karen Gunther and Neil Schmitzer-Torbert) departments will be joined by several Wabash students and other volunteers to lead the event.

With generous funding through the Indiana Humanities “One State / One Story: Frankenstein,”* we will be bringing in a new experiments in mind control and upgrading your taste buds! And, several favorite activities will be back, such as the “remote-controlled” cockroach and lots of brains!

For more information, you can visit our event on Facbook, or visit us on the Wabash Psychology and the Carnegie Museum pages!

*Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the Brain Day program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Summer research – Arellano ’18 and Cox ’18

Seniors Alexiz Arellano ’18 and Kirby Cox ’18 worked this summer with Prof. Olofson, and Alexiz submitted the post below, about their research on attachment:

This summer fellow classmate Kirby Cox and I had the amazing opportunity to work under Dr. Olofson and the Psychology Department of Wabash College. Our research focused on developing a scale that would properly measure the parent–child attachment relationship. It is well established that attachment security is a relationship or secure base that may develop between the primary caregiver and the child overtime, research mostly throughout the strange situation procedure has identified three attachment categories. These are secure, insecure – resistant, and insecure – avoidant attachment (Ainsworth 1973). Secure attachment can be identified as a healthy, high–quality relationship in which children use their parents as secure base for exploration. An insecure–resistant is a relationship in which children have less positive attachment to their caregiver than secure children, one may observe children being clingy or seeking comfort and once distressed they are not easily comforted. Insecure–avoidant children may appear somewhat indifferent towards their caregiver and very independent since they do not tend to physically illustrate distress. However, when looking at physiological tests insecure–avoidant children tend to illustrate higher levels of distress than any other children. Furthermore, when analyzing attachment relationships it is important to note that predictors of attachment differ between mothers and fathers. Recent research has also presented how classic measures of attachment security may not be capturing fathers parenting variability perhaps due to difference in predictors. Therefore, our research specifically focused in developing a proper set of scales that would properly measure both mothers and fathers parenting variability.

Thereafter, Dr. Olofson gave us the NICHD, which is the gold-standard set of measures for assessing attachment security. Kirby and I watched and coded multiple videos using the NICHD scale until we reached good inner rater reliability and essentially felt comfortable with the process of coding. In these videos the parent and child went throughout a structured scenario in which the parent had to help their child find the correct key to open a transparent box where the children’s desired toy was stored. The coding process was very tedious, as we would choose a scale then watch every video a total of four times before coding for each specific dimensions within the scale such as intrusiveness or sensitivity. Kirby and I would code multiple videos each day and reconvene the following morning long with Dr. Olofson to discuss our experience coding. After practically mastering the NICHD scale, our research group had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Sarah Schoppe–Sullivan from the Ohio State University’s developmental program. On our visit we focused in communicating about previous scales that we had worked with, pin pointing their pros and cons along with any particular details that would aid our development of a new scale. With the permission of fellow researchers, Dr. Olofson and Dr. Schoppe–Sullivan developed the Wabash-OSU Scales of Challenge & Overprotectiveness. CPB refers to the extent to which the parent encourages the child to go outside of their comfort-zone and push the limits of their current ability; our research group analyzed both physical and expressive CPB. While overprotection refers to the extent to which the parent conveys over – exaggerated worry or concern for the child’s wellbeing and safety. Similarly to CPB, researchers coded for physical and expressive overprotection. Kirby and I had the chance to observe and code new set of videos utilizing the Wabash-OSU scales, this was extremely interesting since we were finally able to code parent-child interactions utilizing a set of measurements that we helped develop.

The last part of the summer internship consisted of waiting to get approved for the IRB through the Ohio State University Psychology department. However, Dr. Olofson did not just give us the rest of the summer off, instead he encouraged us to continue reading about relatable developmental topics such as temperament, emotion regulation, etc. Next Dr. Olofson challenged Kirby and I to modify the transparent box task so we can eventually code the task utilizing the Wabash-OSU scales. This may have been the most difficult part of the internship since modifying the task not only forced us to think creatively but also to work under unfamiliar areas such as woodwork. Kirby and I had to build 16×16 wooden boxes in which children would be climbing. This was all due to the modifications done to the transparent box task as we hoped to capture CPB and overprotectiveness. Furthermore, we also had to arrange camera angles and select the different type of cameras that would be used to record the new task. Throughout the whole process of modifying the transparent box task, Kirby and I continuously experienced something new from learning how to cut plywood to identifying recording errors. This was an extremely interesting experience and once again reminded me of the careful work that goes in psychology since every tiny detail made a difference when designing the new task.

Initially I did not know what to expect coming into a summer internship at Wabash College, especially since this was my first research-based internship. However, I knew that doing research was what I wanted to focus on this previous summer and from the first day on the job the overall experience was great. I immediately felt an intrinsic motivation to continue working and learning about our attachment research. I can confidently state that I learned a great range of skills throughout my summer internship at Wabash College. Since we learned essential research skills such as designing and managing a psychological experiment to learning how to cut and sand plywood. Furthermore, I believe these skills will help me throughout the rest of my academic and professional career as I plan to attend The University of Texas in El Paso for their clinical psychology master’s program. Clearly, the summer internship will look great in my resume but more importantly it gives me the confidence and experience for the following step in my career.

I would like to thank Dr. Olofson and the Psychology Department of Wabash College for this amazing experience. I would also like to thank the donors, without their generous contribution my and many fellow classmates research experiences’ may not have been possible.