Category Archives: Faculty Post

Welcome Dr. Kennedy-Metz!

Dr. Kennedy-Metz

The psychology department is excited to welcome a new faculty member this year!

Dr. Lauren Kennedy-Metz graduated from Roanoke College with a B.S. in Psychology, a Creative Writing minor, and a Neuroscience concentration. She then went down the road to Blacksburg where she completed a PhD in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health with a concentration in Neuroscience at Virginia Tech.

This year Dr. Kennedy-Metz has returned to her alma mater where she is currently teaching Introduction to Psychology and Cognitive Psychology, as well as serving as the faculty advisor for Psi Chi and RCPA.

When asked what brought her back to Roanoke, Dr. Kennedy-Metz shared that the Roanoke College Psychology Department was her “ideal scenario” for a work environment. She says the department is “where I learned the most about myself, my interests, my strengths as a student and as a human.” She adds that “it’s where I was afforded the opportunities to thrive through the encouragement of lifelong faculty members.” In addition, this native New-Englander shared that “the Roanoke area has always felt like home.”

Dr. Kennedy-Metz brings a unique research background to the department. She summarizes her work as follows:

“My research interests include characterizing psychophysiological indicators of acute stress and developing biofeedback-based approaches to stress management interventions.  Most importantly, I’m interested in taking a tailored approach to both of these things within specific high-stress populations both on campus and beyond (e.g., students, student-athletes, police officers, healthcare workers, kitchen staff, etc.).”

Dr. Kennedy-Metz says she became interested in this topic because the experience of stress is very relatable, but people are often left in the dark about how to respond to it appropriately. However, properly responding to stress is a critical topic, especially for the populations mentioned above.

Speaking to current psychology students, Dr. Kennedy-Metz encourages you to “get involved in things that interest them early on.” She recommends exploring research, clubs, club sports, internships, study abroad and anything else that catches your eye. When trying new things, Dr. Kennedy-Metz says, “worst case you learn that it isn’t for you, and you move on!” She closes with this sage advice. “If you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and end up finding a niche you love, you might look back one day and wonder how different things may have been if you hadn’t taken that first step.”

Be sure to say hi to Dr. Kennedy-Metz when you see her around on the 5th floor of Life Science.

Welcome back to Roanoke, Dr. Kennedy-Metz!

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Dr. Eyad Naseralla

Meet Dr. Eyad Naseralla!

Dr. Naseralla is a first year professor of psychology here at Roanoke College. Dr. Naseralla completed his undergraduate degree at Texas Tech University, and his PhD at St. Louis University. His research investigates perceptions of victims, focusing on victims of sexual violence. When asked about his research, Dr. Naseralla explained, “What I like to do is find things that are common, but also overlooked. Things like reporting. Sexual assault is really underreported, so looking at that and seeing how people respond to that.”

When discussing his research further, Dr. Naseralla gave us his two key takeaways as a researcher, “The two biggest takeaways as a researcher are not to get too caught up with things, I think that sometimes it is better to keep things moving. The second biggest thing is that it’s super important to be conscientious….Being organized and managing your time well. That is really key to doing the things that you love to do.” 

Dr. Naseralla is currently teaching two Psych-101 courses, as well as Psych-319: Psychology and Law. When asked what his favorite part of teaching at Roanoke College was so far, Dr. Naseralla responded with, “The fact that the students here are extremely eager. The smaller classes make things feel more personal. It feels like there is more of a relationship there, and students are really eager to learn and participate. I really enjoy that.” 

We are very excited to have Dr. Naseralla with us at Roanoke College this year!

Dr. Andrea Burchfield

Meet Dr. Andrea Burchfield!
We are excited for her to join our psychology team this year 🙂

Dr. Burchfield gives us a little background information about herself when she writes, “I grew up in Northern Virginia before finding my home in the Roanoke Valley. I earned a BS in Psychology from Radford University in 2006, and then worked as an ABA Therapist with the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center before returning to school. I earned a MA (2012) and PhD (2018) in Psychology from George Mason University, where my research focused on the effects of a mindfulness-based program for parents of children with autism.

I enjoy bringing my clinical experiences into the classroom through sharing relatable stories, exposing students to the practice of mindful meditation, and by using the science of behaviorism to teach course material effectively. My favorite thing about teaching is building relationships with students, and watching them learn and succeed. Therefore, I’m passionate about discovering ways to enhance access to connections, education, and opportunities on campus, particularly for students with disabilities.”

We are lucky to have her here at Roanoke College!


These last few weeks have no doubt been challenging for everyone in some way, shape, or form. With finals starting tomorrow and being away from Roanoke College, we wanted to share some well wishes and updates from some of the Psychology Department professors!

Dr. Buchholz:

We are living through strange and trying times; however, I am heartened by the way we, the students, faculty, and staff of Roanoke College, have risen to the occasion. I am encouraged by the leadership of President Maxey, Dean Smith, and many other staff during these difficult times. I am thankful for our departmental secretary, Ellen, who continues to be the glue that holds our department together. I am proud of the faculty in our department for handling this moment with grace and compassion. Likewise, I am proud of our students for how they have reacted to these challenges. From the many kind words expressed in emails, to the understanding we receive when we can’t figure out zoom or have had some other problem adjusting to teaching online; I am thankful for the kindness and patience of our students. The way our community has come together, even if apart, reminds me of why I love Roanoke College.

 For those of you who are struggling during this moment, I wish you and your families the best, and I want you to know that we are all here for you. For those of you who are graduating, congratulations and I hope to see you at the rescheduled graduation; and for the rest of you, I look forward to seeing you in the fall. Be well, stay safe, and take care of yourselves.

Dr. Carter:

I miss my students! My stats jokes are wasted on my family. I don’t even get an eye roll from a good t-test pun.

Dr. Carter making his kids breakfast during the quarantine (aka Will Forte in The Last man on Earth)

Dr. Carter’s kids completing a puzzle!

I’m extremely, extremely jealous of the people who don’t have anything to do during this quarantine. My wife and I are both trying to work full time while also taking care of two children under three (i.e., requiring constant supervision). So if I’ve learned anything new, it’s just how effective an active bird feeder can be as a babysitter. (Seriously though, getting to spend a lot of time with my kids is really nice. It’s just stressful trying to do so much at once.)



Dr. FVN:

I miss my students! I am super proud of everyone in my classes and in my lab, who have all worked super hard to make the most of this situation. It’s been an experience, but it’s been one we are all figuring out together. 

Dr. FVN’s son and dog!

I’ve especially appreciated the love during student meetings when my son or dog pop in for a hello! They have filled my days while my husband and I juggle our work. In fact, my favorite (non-work) thing has been going on backyard adventures and spending time on creative ways to stay entertained and engaged, like building obstacle courses.


I can’t wait to get back to in-person teaching, I miss my people! And, congratulations to the seniors! 

Dr. Hilton

I have been encouraged in speaking with students in my courses to hear about the diligent work you are all putting in amidst this almost overwhelming uncertainty we face on a daily basis. I applaud all of you for continuing to do your best and finding ways to make this unexpected challenge a time of growth. In addition- I also want to encourage you all to keep in mind that now is the time to practice that self-care we all talk about, yet rarely put into practice if we’re honest…We will have bad days in the coming weeks and we will have good days. Take them in stride, do your best (the definition of which might change daily…), and find whatever ways you can to keep your spirits and hopes up.

I’ve been reading a lot- which is a welcome change; watching a lot of TV (I’m rewatching Community on Netflix right now); and finding time for both quiet space alone and not so quiet time with my family. I also built a pull-up bar on the rafters in my basement with steel pipe so once this thing is all over- I may be able to do a few of those!

Dr. Nichols:

Dr. Nichols and Alumni hanging out on Zoom!

I was able to gather with some alumni from my lab on Zoom on Friday, 4/17, with graduates from 2011 to 2019. All but one of them are in graduate school now, the other one has a PhD and is currently in a post-doc position. The alumni present (in order of graduation) are: Madison Elliott & Paige Arrington (2011), Nikki Hurless, Lauren Kennedy-Metz, & Victoria Godwin (2014), Stephanie Shields & Lauren Ratcliffe (2017), Alex Grant (2018), Noelle Warfford (2019).

Dr. Osterman:

There’s a quote from Freud that has occurred to me a few times since all of this started: “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” I’m not sure if that’s exactly an encouraging or optimistic sentiment, exactly, but if Freud is right, it does suggest that our future selves will be overly sentimental and a little callous toward this very difficult situation we’re all going through right now, which makes them a common enemy against whom we can all fight. That’s something.

The deck couldn’t have been done without this helper!

The deck couldn’t have been done without this helper!

For myself, I walked 101 km in a week and learned that I have no desire to ever walk 101 km in a week ever again. Dr. B and I built a deck, with some help from Dr. B’s son James and our cats. I also took a quiz about which characters from various TV shows I am (it’s actually a very cool quiz by a psychometrician) and learned that I am Tyrion Lannister… I think because I drink and I know things? 

Dr. Powell

This video depicts wow we’re all feeling

There’s a lot of fails when trying to find that perfect backdrop for Zoom sessions #Halo #SpaceShipEncounter

Dr. Powell’s out of this world zoom background!

We’re missing our 5th-floor co-workers and the students, soo much! Our new Coworkers are soo needy!

Dr. Powell’s new needy co-worker!

From the Psychology Department, we wish you all the best with conquering finals this week and next! Stay strong Maroons!




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Mindfulness Meditation: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why You Should Care

Dr. Dane Hilton was asked by a student assistant to discuss mindfulness meditation, specifically about what mindfulness is and the many misconceptions regarding it. Thank you, Dr. Hilton, for taking time to write this post. Enjoy!


Mindfulness meditation is a topic that has exploded into the popular culture in the past 10-15 years. In 2018 alone, dozens of books have been published with Mindfulness as the main subject, with titles including Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids by Whitney Stewart, Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and the cutely illustrated A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness by Ton Mak. A quick search of Google Scholar for the term “mindfulness meditation” included in anything published in 2018 gets you 129,000 hits. I will admit I did not filter through all of those results to verify but the point is this: mindfulness is getting a lot of attention.

As a researcher of mindfulness meditation, I am glad that this topic is getting its time in the limelight. Mindfulness has the potential to improve the lives of humans in a variety of ways, though the questions of how, in what ways, for whom, and under what circumstances are still up for debate and empirical examination. While I am happy on one hand, on the other hand I do worry about issues that arise with the rapid increase in interest surrounding mindfulness. As we all know, popular things are marketable things. They generate buzz, get people to click on your article or blog post (like this one!), and make publishers excited when you come to them with a “cutting edge” book that claims to cure all that ails you. When demand increases, everyone is more than happy to contribute to the supply. Unfortunately, that increased quantity doesn’t equal quality. Quite frankly- you may not even get what you think you are getting…So I want to briefly talk about what mindfulness is, clarify what it is not, and present some literature supporting why I still believe you should care.

Let me be clear: mindfulness meditation is not new. It is not “cutting edge.” It is not a product of new technology or “third-wave” psychology or even a better understanding of human nature. Mindfulness is actually quite old. The mindfulness that most folks think of today is actually rooted in thousands of years of history in Eastern religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The practice itself is not new. What is new is the recognition by researchers in health and medicine that meditation can have profound physical and psychological effects on the body. I will mention some of these toward the end of this post. Regrettably, the influx of passengers on the mindfulness bandwagon- that, I must admit, includes me- has sometimes led to a watering down, or even total misrepresentation, of mindfulness.

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness, simply put, is an open and nonjudgmental stance toward one’s present moment experiences. In other words, mindfulness is an approach to existence marked by awareness and acceptance of the full spectrum of human experience- including all the things we think of as positive (e.g., joy, surprise, laughter, love), negative (e.g., sadness, fear, loss, anger), and anything in between. We can be mindful of physical sensations (e.g., breath, pain, fatigue), thoughts (e.g., “I’m awesome,” “I feel so stupid right now”), emotions (e.g., sadness, happiness, irritation), interactions with others, experiences of the outer world, and even our relationship to ourselves via our inner world. It is an approach to living that allows you to experience fully- embracing, rather than fighting, all the things that come with being human.

So what is mindfulness not? It is not a “tool.” It is not one more technique you pull out of your grab bag of breathing exercises, stress relief tactics, and progressive muscle relaxation scripts to use when life starts getting to you. It is not a shield from the tension and busyness of this thing we call life. Despite the fact that mindfulness is clearly not meant to beat back hectic schedules, difficult relationships, troubling inner thoughts, or anxiety about impending deadlines, much of the information you will find on mindfulness presents as just that- a tool to guard against the horrors of 21st century life. Decreased stress, increased sense of well-being, better clarity of thought, and improved psychological functioning are certainly potential byproducts of regular mindfulness practice but to say that you should engage in mindfulness with those things as the goal is to totally miss the point. All the cool effects of mindfulness that make for attention grabbing headlines are, in fact, just side effects of a more open, aware, and accepting approach to the stuff life slings our way.

Another thing that mindfulness is not is a religion. I think this is an important distinction because in my short time practicing mindfulness and talking with others about it, the issue of whether mindfulness is indicative of a specific religious group or set of beliefs is often a sticking point and potential barrier to individuals looking further into it. While mindfulness meditation certainly does have roots in religion and can even be traced back to specific religious teachings, as I mentioned a few paragraphs back, the basic tenets of mindfulness meditation can fit within any number of worldviews and beliefs. If you believe that life happens now- not 5 seconds ago or 5 seconds from now- then mindfulness might just be for you.

So now that we have a brief outline for what mindfulness is and what it is not, we still have the question of why you should care. The first reason I will suggest is simply an opinion- and probably a philosophical one at that. Life is happening now. Life is happening in this present moment and once that moment passes, it is gone for good. A mindful stance to life helps us to experience these moments more fully- in essence, living more fully. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t want my life to pass by not having had the chance to truly live it. The second reason comes from my practical and scientific side- mindfulness appears to be immensely beneficial to those who practice it. As I said earlier- health and wellness are not the explicit goals of mindfulness practice, but it does have some super nice side effects.

Mindfulness practice has been associated with improved cognitive functioning (Zeidan et al., 2010), fewer depression and anxiety symptoms (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011; Hofmann et al., 2010), improved adjustment to major health problems (e.g., cancer diagnosis; Ledesma & Kumano, 2008), less pain and improved functioning in those with chronic pain (Zeidan et al., 2012), greater engagement in positive health behaviors (Jacobs et al., 2016), improved self-regulation and greater resilience in children (Coholic et al., 2012; Semple et al., 2010), and functional brain changes in areas associated with self-regulation/emotion regulation, higher cognitive function, and memory, among other functions (Gotnik et al., 2016; Gartenschläger et al., 2017). This isn’t even close to a comprehensive list but you can check this article for a well-written overview of some of the benefits of mindfulness practice. There is a reason so many people are studying mindfulness and other forms of meditation. It is an exciting time in research as we come to better understand the numerous effects of mindfulness and the mechanisms by which these effects occur.

I will end this post with a final thought on our conceptualization of mindfulness. You may have seen a picture depicting a cartoon human whose thought bubble is “mind full” while his cartoon dog’s thought bubble is “mindful.” The dog is supposedly more mindful because his thought bubble reflects the environment he is in- sun, grass, trees- while the human’s mind is filled with busyness- thoughts of other people, cars, music, bills, etc. I get the artist’s intention but I still think this misses the mark. Part of being human is that our minds are often wild and out of control. Even in this state, we can be mindful of our experience. It is when we stop fighting against the experience of the moment that we can start to appreciate living in the moment. This is mindfulness.




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