The Psychology Department at Montclair State University is a community of diverse scholars and teachers who work to ensure that students in our undergraduate and graduate programs are able to use the science of psychology to understand the world and its people. We strive to help students learn the value of evidence-based practices in understanding, predicting, controlling and solving problems in a complex, diverse and information-rich world. We further achieve our mission by demonstrating that psychological science does improve and impact humanity.
Faculty members engage in:
Inspired teaching to support student learning and success
Thoughtful research to understand and improve the human condition
Exemplary service to the broader community
Our majors, minors and graduate students benefit from our approach to become competent decision makers across life’s opportunities.
Yoav Arieh, Chair and Associate Professor, has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Bar Ilan University. His research interests include selective attention, sensory integration/multisensory processes and auditory perception. He teaches courses in experimental psychology and quantitative methods.
John Paul Wilson, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Toronto. His research is broadly focused on the interplay of perceiver and target identities in social perception. It also focuses on first impressions, face memory, and social judgments. He teaches courses in social psychology.
Milton A. Fuentes, Professor, received a PsyD in Clinical Psychology from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. He completed a pre-doctoral fellowship in clinical and community psychology at Yale University and post-doctoral training in epidemiology at Columbia University. He is a founding member and former president of the Latino Psychological Association of New Jersey and the 2012 President of the National Latina/o Psychological Association. His research interests are in the areas of Latina/o and multicultural psychology, child/family psychology, pedagogy, and motivational interviewing. He serves as a consultant to several programs, including the Puerto Rican Family Institute and the Violence Prevention Office of the American Psychological Association, where he directs the ACT Mid-Atlantic Regional Center. He is licensed to practice psychology in New Jersey and New York. He teaches courses including Introduction to Psychology and Systems of Psychotherapy.
Julia Coyne, Director of the School Psychology Program, received a PhD in School Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She holds New Jersey and national certification in school psychology. Her research interests include post-injury cognitive rehabilitation in learning, supporting learning in multi-tiered systems, crisis intervention and prevention, and international school psychology. She teaches the School Psychology Externship class and oversees psychoeducational assessment services and training at the Psychological Services Clinic. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric rehabilitation research at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, N.J., where she conducted funded research.
Paul Amrhein, Professor, received a PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research interests include language use in natural contexts (conversations, therapeutic interventions) and how bilingualism contrasts with monolingualism with regard to memory access and production of knowledge representations across the lifespan. He teaches courses in research methodology and statistics.
Meredyth Appelbaum, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford University. Her research examines the methods people use to coordinate in face-to-face conversation and how this coordination facilitates mutual understanding. She teaches courses including Introduction to Statistics, Psychology Research Methods, and Psycholinguistics (Psychology of Language).
Kevin Askew, Associate Professor, received a PhD from the University of South Florida. His research interests include “cyberloafing” and personal computer use at work; and the intersection of psychology and technology. He teaches courses including Quantitative and Statistical Methods, Interventions for Successful Organizations, and Personnel Psychology.
Michael Bixter, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Stony Brook University with a graduate certificate in Quantitative Methods. He then completed two postdoctoral research positions, the first at Georgia Tech and the second at Arizona State University. His research interests include decisions about delayed and risky rewards, how decisions are made in small-group situations, and how decision making and other cognitive processes develop across adulthood. He teaches courses in statistics at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Jennifer Bragger, Professor, has a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Temple University. Her research interests include leadership development, the job interview, faith at work, work-family conflict, and stereotypes at work. She teaches courses including Leadership Theory and Development, Performance Management, Personnel Psychology, Organizational Psychology, and the cooperative learning course in Leadership Development.
Nicole Conklin, Instructional Specialist, is a Conservation Psychologist, studying human behavior and emotions as they relate to the natural world. While obtaining her PhD at Antioch University New England, her research focuses on implementing reflective interventions in zoo and aquarium settings to strength visitors’ cognitive and affective outcomes and promote proenvironmental behavior. Nicole also works on a nationwide project that assists zoos and aquariums in engaging and co-designing zoo programming with the low-income communities surrounding their facilities. Additionally, she is a conservation psychology coach, assisting clients such as U.S Fish and Wildlife Refuges in implementing these co-design principles. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys staying active through Crossfit and spending time with family and friends.
Samantha Coyle, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in School Psychology from Northern Illinois University. Her research interests involve investigating the positive and negative features of peer relationships, specifically social support and bullying victimization in relation to internalizing disorders in adolescent youth; she is also interested in research on assessment, prevention and intervention practices addressing social-emotional, behavioral and academic challenges of children and adolescents. She teaches courses in Cognitive Assessment and Adolescent Psychology.
Jason J. Dickinson is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Robert D. McCormick Center for Child Advocacy and Policy. He received a PhD in Legal Psychology from Florida International University. His research interests include children’s eyewitness testimony, forensic interviewing, and investigative decision-making. His research has been supported by several grants from the National Science Foundation and he regularly consults with the legal community to help translate research into public policy. He teaches courses on forensic psychology, forensic interviewing, statistics and human sexuality.
Jeremy Fox, Associate Professor, received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University at Albany, State University of New York. His research interests include the developmental psychopathology of anxiety and depression, temperament and emotion regulation, parenting, screening and early intervention of childhood anxiety, and school-based mental health and dissemination issues. He is a licensed clinical psychologist who teaches courses in child psychology, clinical assessment, ethics, and evidence-based therapy.
Alexandra Gaynor, Assistant Professor, earned her PhD in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience from the City University of New York, where her research focused on cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying memory processes. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, investigating the role of cancer history in neurocognitive dysfunction in older adults, and then expanded upon this work at Columbia University, where she examined the impact of modifiable lifestyle factors on brain and cognitive aging. Dr. Gaynor’s ongoing research uses non-invasive brain stimulation and neuroimaging methods to investigate the roles of disease history and lifestyle on neurocognitive aging in healthy and clinical populations.
Manuel Gonzalez, Assistant Professor, received his PhD in industrial-organizational psychology in 2020 from Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Much of his research revolves around two broad topics: (1) the influences of emotions in the workplace on personal, interpersonal, and organizational outcomes, and (2) justice-related and ethical issues in the workplace, with a recent focus on fairness issues that emerge when utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning. These topics sometimes bring his research into additional areas such as personality, leadership, and even music in the workplace. Dr. Gonzalez has also worked as a consultant in the area of personnel selection and assessment, which has helped to inform his research. Outside of his work, Dr. Gonzalez is a loving husband and father, pun enthusiast, metal head, and caretaker of two endearingly unintelligent cats.
Sally Grapin, Associate Professor, received a PhD from the University of Florida. Her research interests include assessment, prevention and intervention practices for students with reading and other learning disabilities. She teaches courses including Practicum in Assessment I, Practicum in Assessment II, Practicum in School Psychology, and Therapeutic Interventions in the Schools.
Cheryl Gray, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of South Florida. She specializes in leadership and employee well-being. Her primary line of research investigates how to be a supportive supervisor and coworker. Dr. Gray teaches courses on a variety of I/O Psychology topics, and she enjoys involving students in her research projects. She also enjoys consulting with organizations that share her passion for enhancing employee well-being. For an overview of Dr. Gray’s work, check out this podcast episode.
Erin Kang, Assistant Professor, received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Stony Brook University in 2020, with an advanced graduate certificate in Quantitative Methods. Her research focuses on integrating science and practice, via understanding processes that shape clinical presentations in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), investigating neural mechanisms of clinical phenotypes and plasticity in ASD, and applying these insights to evidence-based interventions for social functioning. Her research incorporates contemporary analytic methodologies, including advanced quantitative methods and neuroscience. She teaches clinical courses is the graduate and undergraduate programs.
Christopher M. King, Associate Professor, received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Drexel University, as well as a JD. His research interests include forensic mental health assessment, correctional psychology, police and public safety psychology, and mental health law. He teaches courses within his specialty area, including Psychology and Law, Forensic Psychology, and Interventions in Forensic Psychology. He is a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and New York State.
Mele Kramer, Clinical Specialist, completed her M.S. and Ph.D. In IO Psychology with a concentration on IO Consulting, from Walden University. Her undergraduate studies were completed at New York University with a B.S. in Studio Art, Psychology, and continued her Masters level studies in Art Therapy. She has worked in the corporate industry for over 20 years with recent consultant work in cardiovascular healthcare focusing on Leadership Training and Development with hospital clinicians. The education emphasized “transition of care” education and training, and healthcare processes. This included alternative options for preventative and post-follow-up care to optimize costs, healthcare services, and wellness. Her Ph.D. focuses on Diversity Leadership and impacting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) positive social change in the workplace.
Rick Laguerre, Assistant Professor, received a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Connecticut in 2022, with advanced graduate certificates in Quantitative Research Methods and Occupational Health Psychology. He is the director of the Continuous Optimization of Individuals and Organizations (CoIO)Lab. His research program focuses on individual differences (e.g., motivation, subjective age, core self-evaluations) and work environmental features (e.g., human resource practices) important for successful aging and longevity at work. He has published on methodological issues in the organizational sciences, as well as topics that pertain to the intended-implemented gap of human resource management. As part of a larger collaborative effort, he has published on issues surrounding Total Worker Health and work-/non-work factors that impact employee well-being.
Laura Lakusta, Professor, received a PhD in Cognitive Developmental Psychology/Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests include cognitive and language development in infants and children, specifically on the development of spatial concepts and spatial language acquisition. She has published in several peer-reviewed journals including Cognition, Language Learning and Development, and Cognitive Science and is the recipient of research funding from the National Science Foundation. She teaches courses in developmental psychology, child psychology, and research statistics. More information can be found on her website.
Sandra Lewis, Professor, received a PsyD from Rutgers University/GSAPP and is currently Director of the African American Studies program at Montclair State. Her research interests include racial microaggressions and the role of culture in health, mental health, and well-being, particularly among black women. She teaches courses in introductory research and clinically-oriented courses. She has served on the New Jersey Amistad Commission since 2006.
Shannon O’Connor, Assistant Professor, received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Michigan State University in 2018. She then completed an NIMH-funded Midwest T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship for Eating Disorder Research at the University of Chicago from 2018 to 2020. Dr. O’Connor’s research interests center on how key environmental risk factors interact with genetic risk for eating pathology, such as binge eating and weight preoccupation. Her work primarily examines the interaction between genetic risk and peer and parent influence and the role of food insecurity as an environmental risk factor for eating disorders. She teaches clinical courses in the graduate and undergraduate programs.
Jennifer Pardo, Professor, received a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Yale University. She is the director of the Speech Communication Laboratory. Her research centers on the production and perception of spoken language, with an emphasis on understanding variation and convergence in phonetic form. She teaches courses in cognition, perception, and psycholinguistics. Publications resulting from her research have appeared in Journal of Memory & Language, Frontiers in Psychology, and Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.
Barbara Prempeh, Clinical Specialist, received a PsyD in Clinical and School Psychology from Kean University and is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist in NJ. Dr. Prempeh serves as a counselor for Rye Country Day School, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and Equal Justice USA, Inc. At the state level, Dr. Prempeh serves as the Vice President of the New Jersey Association of Black Psychologists. Dr. Prempeh’s research focuses on the effect of trauma on pedagogy. At MSU, she teaches, supervises, and advises students in the school psychology graduate program.
Ruth Propper, Professor, received a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology from the University of Toledo. She is the director of the Cerebral Lateralization Laboratory. Her research interests include the contributions of the cerebral hemispheres to mood, cognition and perception and the mechanisms by which hemispheric activity can be altered, thereby altering emotions, cognition and perception. She teaches courses focusing on neuroscience and research methodologies.
Jazmin Reyes-Portillo, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University. Her research interests include: examining the use of digital health technology to reduce mental health disparities among racial/ethnic minority youth as well as examining ways to improve the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based practices in schools and community clinics. She teaches courses including Abnormal Psychology and Professional Issues in Multicultural Psychology. Reyes-Portillo has been successful in obtaining external funding and has published in journals such as Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.
Ofelia Rodriguez, Ph.D, Associate Professor, received a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from Seton Hall University. She is a certified School Psychologist and licensed Clinical Psychologist. Her research interests include clinical psychology, multicultural psychology, Latino/a issues, issues of diversity, bereavement, addiction, trauma, sexual abuse, and women’s issues. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and authored a book on the impact of childhood traumas on adults. She directed the School Psychology program until 2006, since then she has focused on training undergraduates by teaching courses such as Introduction to Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Psychology of Women, and Clinical Psychology.
Joshua Sandry, Assistant Professor, received a PhD from New Mexico State University. His research interests include understanding how attention and memory interact to create new long-term memory representations in both healthy and neurological populations. He teaches courses including Experimental Psychology, Introduction to Statistical Methods in Psychology, Perception, Physiological Psychology, Human Learning and Memory, and Cognition. Sandry’s lab is called the Cognition and Neurocognitive Disorders Research Lab.
Valerie Sessa, Professor, received a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University. Her research interests include leadership development in college students and continuous learning at the individual, group, and organizational levels. She teaches courses including Leadership Theory and Development, Groups in Organizations and Work Attitudes and Motivation. She is the author of three books: Executive selection: Strategies for success, Jossey Bass (with Jodi Taylor, 2000), Continuous learning in Organizations: Individual, group, and organizational perspectives, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (with Manny London, 2005), Work group learning: Understanding, improving, and assessing how groups learn in organizations, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (edited with Manny London, 2008), and has one book in progress: College Student Leadership Development: Learning from Experience, Taylor and Francis.
Dr. Spat-Lemus, Clinical Specialist, received her PhD in Clinical Psychology with Health Emphasis and training in Clinical Neuropsychology from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University. She completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neuropsychology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Spat-Lemus conducts research/publishes on the neurocognitive performance in patients with neurological/medical disorders, as well as on the cross-cultural aspects of neuropsychological testing and treatment. Most recently, she was a clinical neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology at Weill Cornell Medicine’s (WCM) Department of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Spat-Lemus currently serves as the Director of the Clinical MA Psychology Program at MSU.
Kenneth Sumner received a PhD from Bowling Green State University and is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs. His research interests include leadership, attitudes, and psychometrics.
Akina Umemoto, Assistant Professor, received her PhD in Cognition and Brain Sciences Program in psychology from University of Victoria, BC, Canada, in 2016. Her research has centered around the overarching questions examining 1) how the reward system works, 2) the role of cognitive control in modulating reward- and effort-based behaviors, and 3) the underlying mechanisms of alterations in these processes in mental disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. Dr. Umemoto uses a combination of psychophysiological methods (electroencephalography (EEG) and pupillometry), experimental manipulations, and behavioral and self-report measures to answer her research questions. Outside of her work Dr. Umemoto enjoys running and yoga, and has love for dogs and nature.
Carrie Masia Warner, Professor, received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from West Virginia University. Her research interests focus on how to improve child and adolescent mental health services, specifically the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based interventions for anxiety and mood disorders in schools and pediatric medical settings. She teaches courses related to clinical externship, abnormal psychology and evidence-based interventions. Masia Warner has published extensively in top journals and has had great success securing external funding. Previously, she served on the faculties of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center and the Department of Psychology at William Paterson University. She also completed a post-doctoral NIMH research fellowship at Columbia University.
Yingying (Jennifer) Yang, Assistant Professor, received a PhD in developmental/cognitive psychology from the University of Alabama. Her research interests include a variety of cognitive development phenomena (such as attention, learning, memory, and problem solving with a focus in spatial processes) in typical and atypical development (such as people with intellectual or developmental disabilities). She teaches courses in statistics, research methods and developmental psychology. Yang has also been successful in attracting external funding and has published in journals such as Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and Research in Developmental Disabilities.
Tina Zottoli, Associate Professor, received a PhD from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY Graduate Center and is a NYS licensed clinical psychologist. She teaches Forensic Psychology in the Undergraduate program, Criminal Forensic Assessment, Research Methods and Psychological Science and the Law at the graduate level. She has co-authored several publications, including “The feedback related negativity (FRN) in adolescents,” Psychophysiology (with J. Grose-Fifer) and “A first look at the plea deal experiences of juveniles charged in adult court,” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health (with T. Daftary-Kapur). Dr. Zottoli is the director of the Legal Decision Making Lab at MSU. Her scholarly interests lie primarily in adolescent decision making and legal competencies, and her research program is presently focused on guilty plea decision making and wrongful conviction by guilty plea. Dr. Zottoli also maintains a small clinical practice in New York, providing consultation, forensic evaluation, and expert testimony across a range of criminal and civil contexts. Lab website: https://msudecisionmakinglab.com
Irwin Badin received a Ph.D. in Psychology from New York University and went on to post graduate training at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. He began teaching at MSC in September, 1970. He was there until June 2013. They were the best years of his life. He taught every semester while he also administered the newly established system of providing students with faculty advisors. For most semesters he taught a large section of Introduction to Psychology (usually over 100 students). He was one of the first faculty to make use of Audience Response System clickers. This enabled him to simultaneously collect both opinion responses from his students as well as test results. He also redefined the class, Systems of Psychotherapy, so that it surveyed the wide range of psychotherapies that are available. Being a certified psychoanalyst, he was able to provide a comprehensive description of how the field of psychotherapy originally started. Dr. Badin also served as the Director of The Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of NJ, a leading psychoanalytic training institute in New Jersey.
Deborah Fish Ragin, Professor Emerita, received a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University. Her research interests include health psychology with emphasis on health disparities and health policy, research methods, and data analysis. She is the author of Health Psychology: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Health, 3rd edition, by Taylor & Francis (2017).
Paul Locher, Professor Emerita, received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Temple University (1973). The major focus of his work is the influence of pictorial symmetry and balance on the creation, perception, and aesthetic evaluation of visual art. Dr. Locher also explores the effects of presentation format (original paintings housed in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art versus slide-projected and computer-generated images and paper reproductions of the originals) and viewer training in the visual arts on the perception of pictorial and aesthetic qualities of paintings.
Dr. Montesinos’ professional career spans more than forty years in which he has been a Director of Rehabilitation in a large psychiatric hospital, Coordinator for a Clinic for migrant farmworkers in Illinois, and Director of a Cardiovascular Risk Reduction program in East Harlem. During his 29 year tenure at MSU, Dr. Montesinos consistently contributed to the governance process at the Department, College and University levels, participating and chairing a number of initiatives and committees.
“I feel grateful for the people I met and the personal growth I experimented during my years at MSU, the institution provided me with a myriad of opportunities. Today I am enjoying retirement (never too far from academia) but with so much more time to stop and smell the roses.”
I am grateful for my many years in the Montclair State community. I now value writing about research inspired by Montclair State, spending time with family, mentoring an international graduate student, and lots of walking.
Peter Vietze, Professor Emerita, received his PhD in Psychology from Wayne State University (1969) after graduating from SUNY Binghamton (1965). He completed his postdoctoral training at University of California, Berkeley at the Institute for Human Development. Prior to coming to Montclair State University in 2007 to serve as chair of the Psychology Department he had a long career in academia (Peabody College of Vanderbilt University), research and research administration (NIH, NYS Institute for Basic Research in DD & City University of New York). Dr. Vietze has research interests ranging from infant learning and development, autism and developmental disabilities and parent-child interaction. He has been a fellow of the American Psychological Association. He has trained more than 10 PhD. and 35 MA students. In his retirement Dr. Vietze is in private practice with clients ranging in age from 4 to 84.
Debra A. Zellner, Professor Emerita, received her PhD in Psychology from American University and went on to postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and the John B. Pierce Foundation at Yale University. She is currently an Affiliated Faculty member at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Her research has been covered in such outlets as The New York Times, El Pais, Time Magazine, and CNN. Her wide-ranging research interests include multimodal effects on odor and flavor perception, cultural influences on food cravings, factors influencing food choice and liking, and contextual influences on hedonic judgments. Dr. Zellner has served as both Co-Executive Editor and Associate Editor of Appetite and is currently on its Editorial Board. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the Psychonomic Society, and the Eastern Psychological Association where she served as President.