Professional and Teaching Background:
I’d like to take a minute and introduce myself and tell you about my professional and personal background. I have been teaching psychology since 2002 at both the community college and university levels. But, let me back up further…I earned my Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology in 1997 from Illinois State University. I set out to become a therapist and help people cope with life’s struggles and personal mental health issues. I worked for a couple of years as a therapist and also as a social worker helping people who were chronically mentally ill and in a state of mental health crisis. Working in the mental health field is incredible, but I also found it very difficult (emotionally). So, I switched jobs and became a counselor at a local community college.
Over the next 7 years, I worked with both community college students and university students, and I helped them with academic planning, study skills, personal growth, and career choices. I loved this work and I felt that I found my niche counseling college students. Still, there was this nagging voice in my head that kept telling me to try teaching, particularly, teaching psychology. So, I began a part time job at a community college teaching Introduction to Psychology. I counseled students during the day and taught psychology in the evenings. This was before I had children, so I had the time to work outside the home 12-14 hours a day! From the very first semester I taught; I knew that this was the career for me. I absolutely loved it! Then, in 2004, I was hired as a full-time community college instructor. From 2004-2009, I taught as a full-time community college instructor, both online and regular classes. Along with Introduction to Psychology, I taught Abnormal Psychology, Human Sexuality, and Lifespan Development. In 2009, I was hired by a major University (Purdue to be specific) to teach Introduction to Psychology in large lecture hall sections. What a wonderful opportunity for me! But again there was that nagging voice in my head saying that I could do more and push myself farther.
If you read the paragraphs above, you will see that I did all of that with a master’s degree in psychology (and people say a degree in psychology isn’t worth it!). Still, what about a Ph.D.? Doesn’t every professor need one? Well, not necessarily, but it sure helps if you want to work at a major university. So, I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Purdue studying Human Development and Family Studies in 2010. I completed my degree in August of 2015. I was hired by Penn State as a full-time instructor in the fall of 2014. This is my dream job! I am so excited to be at this highly esteemed university teaching the subject that I love.
On a personal note, I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois (“Sweet Home Chicago”). Most of my family still lives near that region. Since I graduated with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Illinois State University in 1997, I have lived in four different states: Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. With each major move, I found a way to propel my career forward. The list of colleges and universities that I have worked for include Pellissippi State Community College (Knoxville, TN), Oakland University (Rochester Hills, MI), Macomb Community College (Warren, MI), Ivy Tech Community College (Lafayette, IN) and Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). What a wild ride it's been! I've been at Penn State since 2013 and plan to finish out my career in Happy Valley.
Along with being a college professor, my partner and I own a small retail business in town called IGAR Games (your "friendly local game store"). I am a proud mom of two amazing daughters, Maggie and Grace. I am a dance and Pilates enthusiast. Additionally, I am passionate about rescuing dogs…always “opt to adopt”! In my life I have rescued 7 dogs in total.
While, I am not a research faculty member, I do have experience conducting and presenting original research in psychology. Most of my research has focused on human development, health, coping, and psychological well-being. I have experience collecting original data, including survey data with college students, survey data with a sample of incarcerated juvenile delinquents, and experimental and biological data involving families with infants. I served as a Research Assistant for the Family Physiology Project at Purdue University from 2011-2012. The goal of this federally funded project was to examine how various family interactions are related to stress physiology and how infants react to stressful stimuli. Specifically, this project assessed cortisol and salivary alpha amylase. My duties as a research assistant entailed running families with infants through a 2-hour lab protocol and collecting survey data and biological data in the form of saliva samples. I also trained in coding infant behavior as the infants reacted to various environmental stressors.
In 2015, I completed my dissertation project, which took two years to conduct and write. I conducted two empirical studies about how adults cope with chronic illness as they age and how psychological factors can impact their health. I utilized longitudinal data to study the effects of illness over time and how psychological factors might buffer the negative effects of chronic illness. I co-authored a book chapter that included some of my dissertation’s findings.
I have completed four advanced level graduate statistics courses including multiple regression, ANOVA, multi-level modeling and structural equations modeling. I have experience in both SPSS and SAS software to statistically analyze data. Below is a summary of some of the research projects and papers that I have authored or co-authored (Please note, my former name was Beth LeBreton):
Gerace, B.A. (1995, April). The effects of self-esteem and coping style on juvenile delinquents. Paper presented at the Psychology Department Honors Colloquium, Illinois State University, Normal, IL.
Gerace, B.A. (1997). The effects of parenting style and family structure on the development of late adolescent autonomy. Original thesis submitted to fulfill the requirements of Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, Illinois State University, Normal, IL.
LeBreton, B.A. & Mroczek, D.K. (2012, March). Child abuse, personality and body mass index: A longitudinal perspective. Presented at the International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society, Chicago, IL.
Hollich, G.J., LeBreton, B.A., Wesselmann, E., Guidry, B.W., Schneid, E.D., Scherer, K.T., Suhr, L.L., Ekanayake, V.K., & Vanderdrift, L. (2012, May). Benefits of hybrid course revision for introductory psychology. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.
LeBreton, B.A. (2013, April). Latent variable models investigating childhood abuse, personality and adult weight. Poster presented at the symposium on Health Communication and Family Dynamics: Beyond the Patient-Provider Relationship. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
LeBreton, B.A. (dissertation completed 2015). The longitudinal effects of chronic illness on functional limitations and psychological well-being: Do age and control beliefs matter? Advisor: Elliot Friedman, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Friedman, E., LeBreton, B., Fuzzell, L. & Wehrspann, E. (2018). Biopsychosocial patterning of multimorbidity and its consequences. In C.D. Ryff & R.F. Krueger (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Integrative Health Science, Oxford University Press.
If you took the time to read this…thank you. I look forward to being your instructor this semester. I’ll see you in class!
P.S. My last name is pronounced "jur-a-see", but most students call me "Dr. G" because it's easier!