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Pamela M. Propsom

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Why Psychology?

The question is, why not? Psychology is incredibly interesting and relates to almost every aspect of life.

Current Research focus

MPA (Leah Mahlka, Madeleine Storm, and Pam Propsom)

My research always involves teams of student collaborators. My most recent past project involved using a social norming approach to reduce students’ risky drinking at DePauw. My current interest is aimed at improving the science and math educational experience for students. Research suggests that traditionally underserved students (e.g., students of color, first-generation college students) do not persist and succeed in college science and math courses at the same rate as majority students, despite similar levels of interest. My student research team has been conducting focus groups with students on DePauw’s campus to help determine what factors make the classroom environment less welcoming and serve as roadblocks. We share the themes identified with science and math faculty in the hopes that this will raise their awareness regarding these inequities and motivate them to make changes to improve the learning experience for all students.

Other Research Interests

i. Social Norming and Alcohol Use

For the past 7 years a student research group (SOAR: Student Organized Alcohol Research) and I have been conducting a survey of DePauw student alcohol attitudes, perceptions and behaviors. We find that students are often inaccurate about their peers’ attitudes and behaviors, and this might contribute to increased perceived pressure to drink.  The social norming perspective regarding alcohol use suggests that if we provide students with more accurate information about other students’ behaviors (which indicates that student drinking is often more modest and responsible than we anticipate), they might decrease their own risky drinking.



Student Alcohol Survey

We have developed and administered an alcohol survey every year for the past 7 years, gathering data from over 7500 DePauw students.  After analyzing the data, we report it back to the students in posters (examples on this pasoarge), newspaper ads, and on promotional items, attempting to correct alcohol-related misperceptions. Over time we’ve found that student estimates of their peers’ alcohol use have become more accurate, but this has not been accompanied by the expected decrease in alcohol use. This has led SOAR to discuss new directions for alcohol research at DePauw. SOAR’s activities were crucial in our application for and awarding of a $28,000 grant from the NCAA for alcohol education with student-athletes..

Faculty/Staff Alcohol Attitudes and Behaviors

Although there is a great deal of published research on students and drinking, there is little information about faculty and staff drinking attitudes and behaviors, and their perceptions of student alcohol consumption. Our research group surveyed DePauw faculty and staff about their own alcohol behaviors and attitudes, and their perceptions of DePauw students’ drinking. We found that faculty and staff were correct in some of their perceptions, but there were also a number of misperceptions; for example, they fail to recognize some of the factors related to increased alcohol consumption (i.e., athletic status, ethnicity, gender). In addition, many overestimated the “liberalness” of DePauw student attitudes regarding drinking, which is consistent with the social norming perspective. Our SOAR group presented this work at the 2012 MPA Annual Meeting in Chicago (see poster).

Publications (* denotes DePauw student)

Roberts, J. R., Propsom, P. M., & Tobin, W. M. (accepted). Developing shared vision: A case study documenting a     STEM general education change process at a small liberal arts school. Journal of College Science Teaching.

*Lear, M. K., *Weinstein, L., *Smallwood, A., *Satterfield, K., & Propsom, P. (2014).  Informed of the norms? College faculty and staff drinking behaviors and perceptions of student alcohol consumption.  Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 58, 17-27.

Hull, J.G., Van Treuren, R.R., Ashford, S.J., Propsom, P.M., & Andrus, B.W.  (1988).  Self-consciousness and the processing of self-relevant information.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 452-465.

Hull, J.G., Van Treuren, R.R., & Propsom, P.M.  (1988).  Attributional style and the components of hardiness.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 505-513.

 Poster and presentations

Roberts, J. R., & Propsom, P. M. (2017, Nov.). Developing a shared vision for STEM general education reform ata liberal arts college. Poster presented at the AAC&U’s “Transforming STEM Higher Education: Discovery, Innovation, and the Value of Evidence” Conference, San Francisco, CA.

Propsom, P. M., Roberts, J. R., & Tobin, W. M. (2017, April). Assessing student improvement in scientific literacy. Poster presented at the meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

*Storm, M., *Bi, R., *Cusack, G., *Delgado, J., *Lester, K., Propsom, P., *Rhodes, M., *Salazar, S., *Smith, N., *Witherspoon, L., & *Mahlka, L. (2017, April). Student-led focus groups identifying barriers for underserved STEM college students. Poster presented at the meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

Propsom, P. M., *Binder, J., *Janowski, K., *Lear, K., *Satterfield, K., *Smallwood, A., & *Weinstein, L. (2012, May).  Alcohol perceptions of college faculty and staff members.  Poster session presented at the meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

Propsom, P. M., & *Jones, J.  (2010, May).  Student Organized Alcohol Research (SOAR): A model for undergraduate research. Poster session presented at the meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL

Propsom, P. (2009). Writing in the sciences and social sciences.  Presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA.

Propsom, P. (2008). A social norms approach to reducing binge-drinking on a college campus.  Invited talk at the University of Padua, Italy.

Hertenstein, M. J., Propsom, P., *Porter, J, & *Auld, L. (2007).  The changing landscape of academic jobs in psychology: A content analysis of job advertisements.  Presented at the Meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco CA.