Helping Students Make an Impact

Amanda Zelechoski, J.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

“I design my research projects with students in mind,” says Amanda Zelechoski, “so they can have plenty of hands-on experience of real psychology.”

Professor Zelechoski, who holds a law degree as well as a Ph.D. in psychology, has an active research agenda focusing on trauma associated with the criminal-justice system. Both undergraduate and graduate students at Valpo assist her in her work, providing critical support and gaining valuable skills.

One project examines the link between trauma and the risk of recidivism among juvenile offenders. “We’re asking: ‘What role does trauma – both to the children and to their parents – play in their risk of reoffending?’” Professor Zelechoski shares. Students involved in the project conduct field work at the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center.

“I make sure that all my research assistants are assigned a variety of tasks. Often, the least senior person in a lab gets stuck doing nothing but data entry, but I want my students to have a chance to do meaningful work,” she says. “Students in my lab learn how to do trauma interviews and how to recruit parents to participate in the study, as well as how to compile and interpret the data.”

Professor Zelechoski starts training students to conduct research in the courses she teaches. “Most of my classes involve experiential activities where students do field work in the community,” she notes. “That gives them an idea of what research is really like. Often, students who think that research isn’t the sort of thing that interests them find it fascinating once they’ve gotten their feet wet.

“So many of our students are motivated by a desire to help others. We work with underserved populations, and students realize, ‘I can ask questions about things that have a real impact on people’s lives and get answers to those questions!’ and they’re hooked,” Professor Zelechoski observes.

photo of Amanda Zelechoski