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Laura Lakusta Receives University’s Distinguished Scholar Award

Posted in: CHSS News, Psychology

Professor Laura Lakusta

Laura Lakusta, professor in the Department of Psychology, has received the University’s Distinguished Scholar Award. This annual award recognizes a faculty member who has developed a distinguished record of scholarly or creative achievement and allows them to pursue their scholarly activities for one semester.

“The University Distinguished Scholar Award will provide me with the support that is necessary to implement two active, competitive research programs – one focusing on cognitive and language development and one focusing on leadership development,” says Lakusta. “The outcomes are expected to be significant, with both projects expected to bring in large amounts of external funding, be presented at national and international conferences and published in high impact peer-reviewed journals.”

How do nature and nurture work together to drive human development forward? This question dates back to early philosophers such as Plato and Locke and frames the overarching theme of Lakusta’s scholarship. Over the next academic year, Lakusta will continue exploring this question in the domains of language and cognitive development, and will also move forward a new line of research studies exploring the impact of nature and nurture in the domain of leadership development.

The studies of language and cognition – supported by the National Science Foundation – test whether and how representations of spatial knowledge in children 6 months to 5 years can be influenced by environmental input. The new studies of leadership development, in collaboration with Jennifer Bragger, will explore the broad questions of whether children are predisposed to develop into certain types of leaders and how environmental context may influence leadership development.  Specifically, Lakusta and Bragger will test how children, adolescents, and adults perceive the distinctions between different leadership types, and whether Theory of Mind development, humility, and self-awareness play a role in leadership emergence.

“The findings from the new leadership development studies are expected to highly impact society; our society needs and demands effective leadership, yet too often lacks effective leadership,” says Lakusta. “Exploring the foundations of leadership understanding across development is an integral step in solving this problem.”