Holy Cross Professors Discuss Teaching and Conducting Research at a Liberal Arts College With Israeli Colleagues

March 10th, 2014 by 


Earlier this academic year, psychology professors Andrew Futterman and Amy Wolfson gave a joint presentation on teaching psychology at a Jesuit, liberal arts college and engaging Holy Cross students in their research on sleep and aging. Their talk was addressed to the faculty in the department of behavioral sciences at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College in Jezreel Valley, Israel. They were invited by associate professor, Orna Chisinski, who first met Wolfson at the Sleep Research Lab at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School nearly 20 years ago.

“The theme of our talk was to give a sense of what a liberal arts undergraduate education is like and the challenges facing higher education in the U.S. today, while at the same time sharing how we teach and engage students in our research in a liberal arts college setting,” said Futterman.

Wolfson explained that their Israeli colleagues teach undergraduates in a very different setting. Their students begin college after serving three years in the military. Whereas students in the United States often discover their academic and career related interests while in college, most Israeli students begin their college experience already knowing what they want to study and what career field to enter.

Wolfson also spoke on involving students in her research on sleep/wake patterns in adolescents. Her research findings indicate that middle and high school start times should be delayed in order to improve the sleeping and waking lives of adolescents. She has also examined the negative implications of early school start times and caffeine use on adolescents’ sleep, academic performance, and emotional regulation. From her research, Wolfson has developed the Sleep-Smart Program, a preventive intervention program for increasing total sleep time of adolescents. While in Israel, she presented her research findings and discussed the manner in which Holy Cross students continue to collaborate with her in collecting research data.

Futterman described how his research with students examines health and mental illness consequences in response to spousal loss. The study follows 212 elders who lost their spouse, and another 170 elders who were case controls. So far, Holy Cross students have helped in creating 15 posters and three publications for Futterman’s bereavement study. While in Israel, Futterman explained how he and his students conducted a three-factor (distress, thoughts, and acceptance) model experiment on grief. In this study, non-acceptance, or denial of loss, was the only factor that predicted long-term negative bereavement outcomes.

Wolfson has been at Holy Cross since 1992 and is the associate dean of the faculty and professor of psychology. She was recently appointed vice president for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland. Futterman, her husband and colleague, has been at Holy Cross since 1990 and is chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee.

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