Alli Cipra: Incorporating Research Across the Curriculum
For Governors State University Psychology Professor Alli Cipra, research has been the foundation of both her education and career. Having studied at research-based universities, she saw the benefit of being involved in laboratories as a student. This means you might walk into the psychology classes that she teaches and discover students dissecting sheep brains to better understand the connection to behavior.
During her graduate program, Dr. Cipra found her passion for teaching, which she combines with her expertise to help integrate research across the curriculum.
Since joining Governors State in 2014, Cipra has founded the Social Development Lab, which allows students to incorporate research experience into their educational journey. Housed in the College of Education's Psychology & Counseling Research Lab, the Social Development Lab allows Cipra to create a wide range of opportunities throughout the university; here, students across all disciplines and fields of study are encouraged to conduct and present their own research.
Cipra’s academic research, publications and service to the university, recently earned her an elite spot among the ranks of tenured faculty members.
Cipra said her tenure status reinforces her goals to support and mentor not-yet-tenured faculty, as well as students. “I've been an elected faculty senator for several years and believe this has helped me understand the way the university works. My goal is to help establish and maintain a positive, productive, and fun campus environment.”
GSU Newsroom: How did you find your way to GSU in 2014?
Cipra: When I was a graduate student, I actually taught development to education majors, which was a great experience. Then, I was hired as faculty at a small liberal arts school. While I enjoy teaching, there was no support or opportunity for research there, and I found that opportunity in a faculty position at GSU in 2014. Although GSU is a teaching-focused university, it allows for research productivity. I think it’s a perfect fit for my career interests.
GSU Newsroom: Do you prefer teaching or research? Why?
Cipra: I really think they should work in tandem. The most accurate response is that I really like research, but I love teaching. I incorporate research into the classroom environment in a variety of ways. In Biopsychology, we complete a (sheep) brain dissection lab. In addition to the anatomical experience, students are required to address various brain myths by looking at current neurological research to make their case. I do similar activities with other commonly held beliefs in my Thinking & Writing class as well as in my Research Methods & Design class. I stress the importance of being critical consumers of information and media. Students should not only look for support for a specific claim, but should evaluate the credibility of that support. We discuss that careful and methodologically sound research studies are the gold standard for evidence.
GSU Newsroom: Why was it important to create the Social Development Lab? What need does it fill?
Cipra: Creating a good research program and space has been a primary goal for me since joining Governors State. While GSU is a teaching university, research is an integral part of a quality education. The College of Education, where the Division of Psychology & Counseling is housed, has never had a dedicated research facility. Our students have a desire to learn about, participate in, and conduct research.The lab helps us invest in faculty research and student education. My lab in particular is focused on mentoring students in the research process and cultivating an interdisciplinary approach to real world problems. We currently have research assistants (RAs) from psychology, counseling, biology, social work, education, English, and art as well as community members with no previous association to GSU. We’re working really hard to bring the community into the lab and to bring our research to the community.
Cipra: GSU Newsroom: What’s next for you?
Cipra: I will continue to run the research lab, teach courses, and coordinate the Mastering College program for the foreseeable future. During my upcoming sabbatical in the Spring 2022 semester I will create an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed academic journal housed at GSU. This journal will have an option for publication of student research in every edition and provide even more opportunities to bring the research experience to our GSU students and community!