Posted February 20, 2020
Laura P. Naumann is a personality psychologist who teaches at Nevada State College. Before joining the faculty at NSC in 2013, Dr. Naumann was an assistant professor at Sonoma State University (2009 - 2013). Dr. Naumann has been the recipient of the National Science Foundation's Pre-doctoral Graduate Research Fellowship and Minority Post-doctoral Research Fellowship. Dr. Naumann received an "Excellence in Teaching" award from NSC in Spring 2016.
Can you recall a moment, experience or person that influenced you or led you to decide that personality and social psychology was the path for you?
In my junior year at UT-Austin, I took a Personality Assessment course with Dr. Sam Gosling. He had recently published his Bedroom and Offices study where strangers made personality judgments based on the stuff within the occupants’ spaces. This research resonated with me because I had a very ornate and carefully decorated dorm room that I believed expressed aspects of my personality. I was excited to learn more about myself and how personality psychology could be used to study others. After this class, I joined Dr. Gosling’s research lab and the rest is history!
What career path would you have chosen if you had decided to not pursue psychology?
If I didn’t go into psychology, I wanted to become a pastry chef because I love baking and trying to make artful presentations of food. :)
In what ways do you feel your background in personality and social psychology makes the biggest impact in your career?
At Nevada State College, faculty and staff play a major role in shaping the growth and development of our college. I am so thankful for my training as a personality/social scientist because it has allowed me to participate in so many campus-wide committees that directly impact the well-being of our campus community. For example, students in Psi Chi recognized that our campus lacked adequate counseling services. I worked with the students to develop a campus-wide survey to assess students’ well-being and their knowledge of services available to them. Our findings illustrated that the lack of counseling services impacted attendance, grades, and ultimately student retention. Because we were able to provide data demonstrating the impact to student success, College Leadership prioritized funding to support mental health counselors on campus.
Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a similar career path in social psychology?
If you are interested in working at a teaching-oriented college, get as much experience working with undergraduate students as you can. Consider seeking out opportunities that allow you to work with diverse students, and think critically about your philosophy for helping students succeed. At my institution, I work with a lot of historically underrepresented minority and first-generation students, so we value instructors who create inclusive classroom environments, use transparent assignment design, and work to demystify the “hidden curriculum.”
Do you have a favorite course to teach and why?
This is tough to answer because I love elements of all my courses, but if I had to answer... I’d say Introductory Research Methods. Students often have a lot of misperceptions about the course and think they are not “research people.” I try to make the topic as approachable as possible—by giving students the opportunity to act both as participants and as researchers. Students work in groups to collect data via unobtrusive observation and then analyze their results. It’s always satisfying when students become invested in whether they find statistically significant results or not and come to realize that they actually enjoy conducting research.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
There are so many neat studies and fascinating phenomenon in psychology that blow students’ minds. I also enjoy examining current events through a psychological lens to help raise students’ awareness about important social issues and hopefully spur them to take action or seek change.
Outside of psychology, how do you like to spend your free time?
My latest addiction is breaking out of escape rooms. I’ve probably done over 30 and like to try new ones when I visit different cities. I love them so much... I created my own escape room in my house for my spouse’s birthday!