Spring 2017 Psychology Department Newsletter

Hello SJSU Psychology Alumni!

We hope you enjoy the alumni newsletter for the Spring 2017 semester. As always, please keep in touch and let us know if you’d like to contribute a column to the newsletter.


Erin Woodhead, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Editor 

Click on the image below to download our latest issue or download previous issues at our Newsletter Archive.

Fall 2017 Psychology Capstones

Fall 2017 Psychology Capstone Topics  – PSYC 190

Torabian Sec 1 MW 12:00 – 13:15 TBD
Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, and Intellectual Disability

Klaw Sec 2 MW 15:00 – 16:15 DMH 359
Warriors at Home: Veterans and the Transition to College and the Civilian World

Feist Sec 3 TR 10:30 – 11:45 DMH 356
Critical Thinking (Don’t Believe Everything you Think)

TBD Sec 4 TR 12:00 – 13:15 TBD

Fanos Sec 5 M 18:00 – 20:45 DMH 359
Psychological Trauma in Childhood and Adolescence

Fanos Sec 6 W 16:30 – 19:15 DMH 347
Psychological Trauma in Childhood and Adolescence

Caffrey Sec 7 TR 15:00 – 16:15 DMH 359
Current LGBTQ Issues in Psychology

Psyc Capstones Fall 2017 (PDF)

Psychology Career Guide


With over 115,000 students graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology every year competition for coveted career placements has never been higher.

To help these students begin thinking about their futures before entering the job market, we’ve created a guide of the best careers for psychology majors. It highlights several common paths of employment, as well as a few out-of-the-box options. The guide also explores useful workplace skills learned in the major and provides a collection of resources to help new psychology graduates.

Best Careers for Psychology Majors

New Faculty Research Passions

We are thrilled to welcome two new faculty to our department this year. Drs. Valerie Carr and Susan Snycerski are profiled in this fall’s College newsletter, Together. Follow the link to learn about all of our College’s new faculty, as well as our new Dean, Dr. Walt Jacobs.


Dr. Valerie Carr 

Carr, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA before spending seven years as a post-doctoral fellow and research associate at Stanford University before coming to San José State, has found that two sub-structures of the hippocampus deep within the brain play a role in determining how vivid a memory is.“When you study memory, you realize how imperfect and fallible it is,” says Carr, newly hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. She brings an interest in the use of neuroimaging methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to get a better understanding of the brain structures involved in episodic memory—our recall of autobiographical events and emotions.

In more recent research she has found that age-related changes in these areas – the dentate gyrus and Region CA 3—may account for the difficulties older people have in accessing these episodic memories.

Now, Carr is exploring whether exercise-based interventions might help people at risk for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease by spurring the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus. “What does that exercise regimen need to be?” Carr asks. “That’s my main interest.”

It can be challenging to work with older adults who have mild cognitive impairment, she says. “It’s very likely they’re going to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It can be depressing. A lot of my sense of self-worth comes from thinking that I’m fighting for those people. That gives me a sense of satisfaction in my job.”

380_susan snycersky_2


Dr. Susan Snycerski

She asks students to anonymously self-report their drug use while also testing for signs of neurocognitive impairment. Based on the small sample she has collected thus far, most San José State students don’t abuse hard drugs, but a fair number combine caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and marijuana in various ways., Snycerski says.These days, she’s looking at simultaneous poly-drug use, where someone takes two mind-altering substances at once. “There isn’t a lot of research in that area,” says Snycerski, who recently joined the Department of Psychology as tenure-track assistant professor after 10 years as a lecturer.

The Warren, Mich., native earned her master’s and Ph.D. from Western Michigan University, where she studied the effects of drugs in animal models. Later, she did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute on Drug Abuse researching gamma-hydroxybuterate—better known as the date rape drug GBH.

Snycerski and her husband, Sean Laraway (an associate professor in the department), moved to San José in 2004 without having jobs. He started teaching at San José State that year as a lecturer and joined the tenure track in 2008. Snycerski began teaching classes as a lecturer in 2005 and she has also served as a major advisor since 2008. “I really enjoy it,” she says. “It’s a great way to communicate with the students outside the classroom.”

Snycerski says she’s excited about having more time and resources for research. “It’s a nice change,” she says. “I’m looking forward to my new role.”

Reprinted from Together, the College of Social Sciences newsletter, Fall 2015.

Awarding Winning Presentations


Congratulations to Psychology majors Jessica Ballin and Rebecca Sandoval on their award winning presentations at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), in Seattle, WA this November 11-14.

ABRCMS is one of the largest, professional conferences for underrepresented minority students, military veterans, and persons with disabilities to pursue advanced training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). ABRCMS attracts approximately 3,600 individuals, including 1,900 undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students, 400 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists and 1,300 faculty, program directors and administrators. Students come from over 350 U.S. colleges and universities.

A group of SJSU students and faculty attended this year’s conference to present the research they’ve been conducting here at SJSU.  The students are participants in the MARC, RISE, LSAMP and CoSRaTS programs housed in the College of Science.  Five students received an award for their presentations:  Jessica Ballin (Psychology, MARC), Rebecca Sandoval (Psychology, MARC), Fauna Yarza (Biological Sciences, RISE), Elivia Silva (Biological Sciences, RISE) and Adrian Riives (Chemistry, RISE).

Congratulations to all of our remarkable young researchers!

Essay Contest Winner Announced

2015 D’Arpino Essay Contest

Dr. Glenn Callaghan has won the 2015 D’Arpino Essay Contest. The contest asked participants, in one page or less, to answer the questions, “WHO and WHAT am I?”. Students and faculty in the Department of Psychology were eligible to submit essays and eight brave souls rose to the challenge. The anonymous essays were judged by Emilio “Chick” D’Arpino himself and, while all of the entries were excellent, Dr. Callaghan’s was judged best. Read the winning essay below.

Photo: Dr. Glenn Callaghan receiving award

Who and What Am I?

Essay Contest Response

Glenn Callaghan

I will offer a brief response and then elaborations to the two thought provoking questions.

Who am I? I am me.

What am I? A social being seeking to connect and find meaning.

Here are the elaborated answers.

Who am I?

I am me.  I am the sum of an ontogenic history, a sense of self that has evolved over time and place to become the context of my own experience of thought and feeling, a self that both responds to, and narrates, my existence. I am both unique at the idiographic level of existence and also part of a collective whole at the larger epistemic level of evolution. The “me” that exists is ephemeral; it is a sense that accidently (or by design) accompanies a body made to survive and to adapt.

What am I?

I am a social being seeking to connect and find meaning. I am if nothing else a social primate, raised to interact and connect with others. That is part of my evolution at a genetic level. While some of us seek more contact, and others less, we are all social animals. Connection can be understood as a deeper form of contact, one that sustains an existence beyond survival. Finding meaning is what makes us truly human. I seek meaning and understanding – I seek answers to questions and reasons for why we do what we do.

Who am I? I am me, this me. What am I? One who seeks connection and meaning.

UC Davis School of Law – King Hall Outreach Program

UC Davis School of Law
announces the

King Hall Outreach Program
Winter Session 2016

Application materials are now available here.
Apply by Friday, January 8, 2016

The King Hall Outreach Program (KHOP) is a no-cost program consisting of four Saturday workshops to prepare college students and recent graduates from underrepresented communities to excel in the law school application process.

Over 41 percent of KHOP alumni have graduated from, or enrolled in, ABA accredited law schools including UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Hastings, Northwestern University, Boston University, and many others. In 2014, the KHOP received the California State Bar Education Pipeline Award for its important role in diversifying the legal profession.

Kevin Jordan: 2015 President’s Scholar

Washington Square: Feb 2015

by Allison Arbuthnot Sanders, staff writer

The President’s Scholar Award recognizes a faculty member who has achieved widespread recognition based on the quality of scholarship, performance or creative activities. This year’s winner comes from the College of Social Sciences. He will be honored at the 16th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11, 2015. Tickets are available for purchase.

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’14 MFA Photography

To examine Kevin Jordan, professor of psychology and this year’s President’s Scholar, by the numbers is impressive. In 30 years of service to the university, Jordan has supervised 80 master’s theses, secured nearly $200 million in research funding, and authored or co-authored (often with students) some 80 academic papers and presentations. This marks the seventh professional award he’s received from SJSU, NASA and the Western Psychological Association. He’s also a veteran surfer who has been braving waves for 50 years.

“I don’t fit the traditional mold of a scholar, but it’s wonderful to train scientists and get them in the right place to do great science.”As project director of numerous cooperative agreements between San Jose State and the Human Systems Integration Division at the NASA Ames Research Center, Jordan’s current human factors research supports the Congress-mandated Next Generation Air Transportation System project, which aims to improve safety and efficiency of air travel while minimizing environmental impact by 2025. It’s a tall order that Jordan and his team are tackling though research on the visual perception and ergonomic issues of air traffic control operations.

“Our team is making great inroads with the Next Gen Air Transportation System project,” says Jordan, citing outcomes like new virtual vision technology that allows planes to move through fog and software solutions for safely sequencing planes arriving on runways. Says nominator Sheila Bienenfeld, former dean of the College of Social Sciences: “Professor Jordan’s research has an impact on the lives and safety of all air travelers, as well as anyone involved with aviation.”

Not bad for a researcher self-taught in human factors. “The SJSU job description I applied to in 1984 said ‘human factors or visual perception,’ which was my specialty,” says Jordan with a laugh. “When I arrived, the dean kept introducing me as his new human factors person. I would correct him: ‘No, I’m your new perception person!’ Eventually they said it enough that I believed them. Necessity is a great teacher.”

Jordan says the hallmark of his career has been his work with graduate students as research assistants. “It’s the most gratifying thing in the world to know that I’ve contributed to the next generation of scientists who will contribute to the next generation of breakthroughs.” Though he spent over two decades on campus, Jordan hasn’t been in the classroom for five years. “I loved teaching,” he says. “I miss it immensely. But you come to a point in your career where you have to ask yourself: How can I best serve the university? And I do that through research at NASA Ames.”

Kevin Jordan Receives the Wang Family Excellence Award

Image: Wang Family Excellence Award 2015

JordanDr. Kevin Jordan has been awarded the Wang Family Excellence Award in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Public Service.  The award acknowledges Kevin’s unique and distinguished contributions as a CSU faculty member over his remarkable career.

The Wang Family Excellence Award recognizes four outstanding faculty members and one outstanding staff member who, through extraordinary commitment and dedication, have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements. Their activities advance the university’s mission, bring benefit and credit to the CSU, and enhance the CSU’s excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.

The Wang Family Excellence Award was originally established in 1998 when then-CSU Trustee Stanley Wang provided $1 million to recognize the remarkable contributions of the CSU’s faculty and administrators over a 10-year period. Trustee Emeritus Wang has generously agreed to reinstate the award with a $300,000 gift that will provide a $20,000 award to each of four faculty members and one staff member annually for three years, beginning in 2015.

Congratulations to Kevin and thank you for all you’ve done for our students, department, and university.