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Passion for Teaching Benefits Hopeful Psychology Majors

Image of Don Christensen
Don Christensen (Ph.D. Adult Clinical, 2000)

Don Christensen’s graduate work in the UW’s Adult Clinical Psychology program focussed on the relationship of psychological factors to athletic success. Under the mentorship of UW psychology professors Ron Smith and Frank Smoll, Don worked with minor league baseball teams in the Houston Astros farm system, and with golf teams in the Pac-10 Athletic Conference.

Today, you can find Don at Shoreline Community College, mentoring and enhancing the performance of students eager to make the cut for admission to the University of Washington. “Though I was trained as a clinical researcher,” says Dons, “I found that I was more drawn to teaching and decided to see if I could make that my profession.”

An early teaching assistant position for UW professor Michael Passer’s Psychology 209 course may have sown the seeds for Don’s eventual shift in career focus. “I learned a lot and really enjoyed watching Mike (Passer) teach,” remembers Don, “ he was very passionate about his teaching and I guess his passion was a little contagious.” This passion for teaching was nurtured as Don progressed in his graduate education, eventually becoming the Department lead TA.

As an undergraduate, Don entered Stanford University on a golf scholarship, intending to pursue a degree in engineering. (An interesting side note is that Don’s mother teaches engineering at Shoreline Community College and has an office just a few doors down from his.) While at Stanford, Don found himself drawn toward the study of psychology. Clearly the right fit, Don excelled as a psychology major, joining the honors program and being selected as an Academic All-American during his junior and senior years.

Today, Don’s enthusiasm for the study of psychology and his love of teaching benefit local community college students, many of whom aspire to enter the UW’s undergraduate psychology program. Since earning his Ph.D. in 2000, Don has taught throughout the Puget Sound region—at Highline, Shoreline and Tacoma community colleges, as well as the UW. Now a tenured faculty member at Shoreline, Don enjoys the relatively small class sizes and the ability to get to know his students. Don teaches a broad range of courses at Shoreline, including General Psychology, Biopsychology, Research Methods, Abnormal Psychology, and Personality, and has plans to develop a Human Performance Enhancement course.

While he still manages to fit in a bit of sport psychology consultation, working with individual athletes and presenting to groups, Don’s primary professional focus is being teacher and mentor to his Shoreline students. He helps to provide them with a window on the UW and all that the Psychology Department has to offer—even encouraging especially motivated students to volunteer in Psychology Department labs. Like the athletes with whom he consults, these community college students benefit not only from Don’s academic expertise, but also from his ability to help them find the motivation to strive for their personal best.

Hunt Fellowship: Helping to support Graduate Student Independence

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Earl “Buz” Hunt, Ph.D. and Family

Upon his retirement from full activity with UW Psychology in 2001, Professor Earl “Buz” Hunt and his wife Mary Lou Hunt decided to establish the Hunt Graduate Support Fund. Their initial contributions were leveraged by matching funds from the Graduate School and the College of Arts & Sciences and were soon reinforced by additional contributions from Mary Lou and Buz, members of their family, and various friends.

Buz and Mary Lou tailored the focus of their gift to match what they saw as a growing problem for graduate students seeking to conduct independent research. As Buz explains, “The fellowship is to be used to support a graduate student who wished to explore thesis work outside of the purview of the advisor’s grants. I always tried to find a way to sponsor graduate student ideas, and over the last few years I have become concerned that, with increasing grant competition, faculty PIs are forced to take a very narrow view of what they can let a graduate student do. To me, this defeats the purpose of the let someone become an independent investigator.”

Buz came to UW Psychology as a Professor in 1966, after serving on the faculties of Yale University, UCLA, and the University of Sydney (Australia). In addition to serving in UW Psychology (including seven years as chair) Buz was instrumental in founding the Computer Science Department at UW, and maintained an adjunct appointment in that department.

In an age of specialists, Hunt was something of a generalist. His publications covered such diverse topics as artificial intelligence, human intelligence, animal studies of the psychopharmacology of memory, psychological contributions to the learning of science and mathematics, and the importance of cognition in the workforce. Hunt was also active in developing the infrastructure of science and education.

Harry and Claire Peterson: Alcor Graduate Fellowships

Image of Harry and Claire Garlick Paterson
Harry and Claire Peterson

The first recipients of the Alcor Graduate Scholarships in Psychology were named this past year. The seven students, one from each area of the department, each received a $5,000 stipend to allow them to devote time to research and teaching.

The Alcor Scholarships address a critical need for UW Psychology by providing opportunities for summer support for graduate students. Our state funding allows us to guarantee only 9 months a year of graduate support, yet students’ academic progress demands that they stay engaged with our program yearlong. Opportunities to bridge this funding gap help tremendously in the lives of the students and in our success in the tough competition for the best graduate-school applicants.

The Alcor Scholarships are made possible by a bequest from Harry and Claire Garlick Peterson to the College of Arts & Sciences to support students in Psychology and Symphonic Music programs. Harry spent his career as a psychologist in the field of corrections, mostly in the Puget Sound area. Claire was a bassoonist for the Seattle and Vancouver symphonies and was Harry’s first wife. Alcor is the name of the second star in the handle of the Big Dipper constellation. It figures in many myths and had a personal significance to Harry and his spouse.

Harry initially established the Alcor Scholarship Fund by creating a charitable gift annuity to UW in 2002. The Fund was fully funded from Harry’s estate after his death in 2003, in accordance with the wishes of Harry and his second wife, a psychiatrist who had previously established a professorship at another university. The sense of fulfillment they felt in hearing about the uses of that professorship encouraged Harry to establish the Alcor Scholarship Fund.

We are all deeply grateful to Harry and Claire Peterson for their generosity and vision of how to make a positive impact on the lives of our students and the success of our department. If you also would like to make an impact, please contact Steve Buck, Chair, at for more information about planning gifts to UW Psychology.

Graduate Student Accomplishments

TJoyce Yi - Awarded the Graduate School Dissertation Fellowship for use during the 05-06 school year.

Raphael Bernier - Awarded a Huckabay teaching Fellowship for use during the 2004-05 academic year.

Sharon Berry - Awarded Lizette Peterson-Homer Injury Prevention Grant from APA Division 54 and the American Psychological Foundation. ($1,000)

David Pantalone - Awarded Travel Grant for Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences from UW’s Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences.

Katie Witkiewitz, - Accepted tenure-track position in the Psychology Department, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dorothy Mandell and advisor’s research on how young primates learn about their world was featured in the Seattle P.I. on August 3.

Janice Kuo was awarded a very competitive NIMH Predoctoral Fellowship for her project “Psychophysiology and Emotion Regulation in Borderline Personality Disorder.” “Against daunting odds... Janice Kuo persisted in seeking this type of funding, and her exceptional abilities, incredible hard work and notable persistence has paid off, literally.

Erin Harley and advisor’s research on identifying someone close up or at a distance is featured in the on-line University Week and will be in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. (Erin recently earned her doctorate here and is now a post-doc at UCLA.), click on “Witnesses’ eyes deceive them when distance is too great.”

Patricia Kuhl, Andrew Meltzoff, Daniel Bernstein, Maritza Rivera-Gaxiola, and Lindsay Klarman. Their work at Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences is the cover story of the Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest magazine.

Sona Dimidgian will receive the APA 2005 Division 12 Student Research Award. She is in her 8th year and on her second year of clinical internship. Her advisor is Bob Kohlenberg.

Karen Toth received the 2005-06 Gatzert Child Welfare Fellowship for her dissertation research. Karen Toth is a PhC at the UW Autism Center. Her advisor is Geri Dawson, Child Clinical.

Sheila Crowell received the Lizette Peterson-Homer Injury Prevention Grant sponsored by Division 54 and the American Psychological Foundation. This grant supports research related to the prevention of injuries in children. Her advisors are Ted Beauchaine and Geri Dawson.

Michele Bedard whose NRSA -- Fragmentation and Disorganization in PTSD -- is being funded (on the first shot!). Michele is in Adult Clinical; her advisor is Lori Zoellner.

Mara Sedlines received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship award. Mara is a second year student, working with Yuichi Shoda.

2005-2006 Psycholgy Graduates

Doctoral Degrees

Sona Dimidjian

(Robert Kohlenberg, advisor)

Kimberly Mallett

(Mary Larimer, advisor)

James McPartland

(Geraldine Daqson, advisor)

Mark Oaks

(Susan Joslyn, advisor)

Jacqueline Elzabeth Pickrell

(Elizabth Loftus, advisor)

Brandon Reeves

(Michael Beecher, advisor)

Anne R. Thissen-Roe

(Earl “Buz” Hunt, advisor)

Katie Witkiewitz

(G. Alan Marlatt, advisor)

Dan Kawika Yoshimoto

(John Gottman, advisor)

Distinguished TA Awards 2005

Dawn DeGere , Michael Perry, and Erin Hunter

Dawn DeGere , Michael Perry, and Erin Hunter

Dawn DeGere, Erin Hunter, and Michael Perry, winners of the 2005 Department of Psychology Distinguished Teaching Awards for Graduate Students. Dawn DeGere is in Social/Personality; her advisor is Yuichi Shoda. Erin Hunter is in Child Clinical; her advisers are Lynn Fainsilber-Katz and Ted Beauchaine. Michael Perry is in Cognition and Perception; his advisor is John Miyamoto.

Master’s Degree

Nichole Renee Bush

Kenyattqa Niobe Reid Etchison

Paige Andrea Keys

Rebekah Anne Skiver Thompson

2005 Alcor Award Winners

From Left to Right - Angela Davis, Kristen Stecher, and Carissa Leeson. Not pictured, Denise Davis, Anjali Kumar, Kristen Rytter, and Kari Stephens

From Left to Right - Angela Davis, Kristen Stecher, and Carissa Leeson. Not pictured, Denise Davis, Anjali Kumar, Kristen Rytter, and Kari Stephens