Discover Our Psychology Research Labs and Projects
The Ph.D. program at Wheaton College follows a scholar-practitioner model. Students are trained as productive scholars who are good consumers of research and capable of contributing to scholarship in the field. Faculty members have been recruited, in part, because of their promise as scholars. As a consequence, opportunities for productive research and scholarship are available in the Ph.D. program. Some of the areas of research focus are listed below.
School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy Faculty Research Labs
Dr. Sally Schwer Canning
Dr. Canning directs the Urban Community Health Lab. The aim of this lab is to foster the health and flourishing of children, adults, and families living in poor, urban communities as well as the professionals and volunteers who serve there.
Currently, there are two active streams of research, affectionately known as Sisters’ Keepers and Going the Distance.
The first seeks to understand and support the health of patients at the Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago. Current projects target depression and domestic violence in women and low birth-weight in their babies. Another examines language and perceptions of Spanish-speaking online discussion group participants describing pregnancy and postpartum and mood experiences. Future projects could involve other patient groups and concerns within behavioral health.
The second line of research is aimed at understanding and encouraging healthy practices, well-being and faithfulness in individuals and faith-based community organizations serving in high-stress, poor contexts.
Dr. Ward Davis
Dr. Ward Davis directs the Psychology and Spirituality Research Lab (PSRL), which is a research team in the Psychology Department at Wheaton College. PSRL is comprised of Wheaton graduate and undergraduate psychology students. The mission of PSRL is to advance the scientific study of spirituality to promote health and well-being. At PSRL our research and resources focus on the intersections between psychology and spirituality, with an emphasis on Christian spirituality. Our activities primarily include: (a) writing scholarly articles and book chapters; (b) conducting original research and disseminating our findings; and (c) offering downloadable resources for use by scholars, scientists, practitioners, and leaders, as well as the interested public.
Dr. Christin J. Fort
Dr. Fort co-directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Collaborative.
Dr. Christin J. Fort specializes in the integration of the disciplines of psychology & theology. As the inaugural Director of Integrative Dialogue at Wheaton College, her work spans the intersection of Church teachings (or doctrines) and their implications for mental health. Dr. Fort’s publications and current research focus on providing more robust theoretical grounding for the integration of psychology and theology, as well as practical frameworks for using these theories in clinical contexts. Thematic issues that she addresses in her scholarship and with students in her research lab include (but are not limited to) the topics of race, ethnicity, activism, intersectionality and faith. Dr. Fort’s research lays the foundation for her service as a clinical practitioner. As a practicing psychologist she is honored to work with clients who struggle to find meaning and purpose in the midst of pain and suffering. This experiential knowledge of the ways that human beings search for (and create) meaning through our experiences of pain and suffering serves as a catalyst for her research and offers practical application points for use in academic contexts.
Dr. Tao Liu
Dr. Tao Liu co-directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Collaborative.
Dr. Liu's research interests include issues of multiculturalism, gender and race. Specifically, Dr. Liu has recently explored the intersections of race and gender in discrimination experienced by Asian males. She intends to continue studying the stereotypes ethnic minorities, especially Asian Americans, and how the stereotypes affect individuals’ mental health. She is also interested in developing interventions to help those who experienced discrimination to cope with racial trauma.
Dr. John McConnell
Dr. McConnell co-directs The Multicultural Peace and Justice Collaborative.
Dr. McConnell places a strong emphasis on research methodology and statistics. He studies social justice, peace, and forgiveness in multicultural contexts. He applies principles and methodologies of social psychology to many applied and clinical topics, including bias and prejudice reduction, intergroup harmony, social justice for oppressed populations, and multicultural clinical judgment errors. Additionally, he researches self-forgiveness.
Dr. Benjamin Pyykkonen
Dr. Pyykkonen directs the Neurocognitive Functioning Lab. This lab will continue to explore the relationship between neurocognitive functioning, psychological functioning, and functional status. Of particular interest is the identification of cognitive and emotional factors that enhance aspects of functional independence including employment capacity, independent living, and reduction in level of care in the elderly. In addition to multiple meta-analytic studies and developing normative data, recent projects have increasingly emphasized early identification, caregiver interventions, and religious coping, as they might relate to functional status. Much of the work in this lab is designed to better identify these very factors related to functional status in individuals with CNS injury from any number of etiological factors e.g., head injury, progressive dementing conditions, epilepsy, metabolic processes, infectious processes, hydrocephalus, alcoholism, and cancer.
Dr. Sandra Yu Rueger
Dr. Rueger directs the Youth Risk and Resilience Lab (YouRR Lab) The focus of YouRR Lab is better understanding protective factors to support healthy development in populations at-risk for depression and anxiety, including children, adolescents and young adults. Dr. Rueger’s research interests focus on individual differences in response to stress, and the risk and resilience factors related to adaptive coping and persistence in the face of negative events. She is particularly interested in vulnerabilities related to pessimistic thinking patterns, the protective role of an individual’s positive attributional style and social support, as well as the use of substances as a maladaptive coping response to stress. Most recently, she has been studying hope as a protective factor. Differences based on gender or ethnicity/race are of particular interest, and projects from her lab include a focus on African American, Latinx, and Asian American youth and families. She is currently collaborating with the Center for Asian Health Equity at the University of Chicago as a Co-Principle Investigator on the “Coalition for Healthy Asian Minds” Project funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Affordability Cures Research Grant ($1.5 million) to develop interventions to reduce stigma and encourage mental health care in the Asian American communities in Chicagoland. Dr. Rueger also has interests in the development and testing of psychometrically sound assessment instruments used in research, and synthesizing knowledge from previous research using meta-analytic strategies.
Dr. Mark Yarhouse
Dr. Yarhouse directs the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Lab. The mission of the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Lab is, from a Christian worldview, to further our understanding of sexual and gender identity, and the intersection of these identities with religious identity, and to be a resource to students in training and those in the community who are stakeholders in these discussions. We do this through research, training, and consultations.