Issue 4
Fall 2020

From the Chair's Desk 

Protests for racial justice. Natural disasters. Pandemic. 2020 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? 

Through it all, faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Psychology have spoken up, stepped out of their comfort zones, and adapted to an ever-changing situation. In this edition of the Psyclone newsletter, we bring you a few short stories of faculty, staff, and students who have adjusted, tried new things, and supported each other during this phase of the pandemic. 

The fall semester found us preparing to deliver a mix of online, face-to-face, and hybrid (with both online and face-to-face elements) courses. Our faculty and graduate teaching assistants tried many creative approaches to keep students engaged and involved in coursework, including bringing in outside speakers virtually, online discussion groups through Zoom, and online team projects. In a mid-semester survey that checked in to see what was going well and what wasn’t, students were very supportive of faculty efforts. One student wrote, “I know it's probably tough to find effective ways to teach us well online, but I think you've been doing a great job so far and I appreciate your flexibility and ingenuity with all of this. Stay healthy!”

One of our top priorities is getting our first-year Psychology majors off to a good start. Our first-year learning communities create a supportive environment for students to learn about the university and build relationships. Upperclass peer mentors working with the learning communities answered anxious questions, organized team-building activities, and even put together goody bags for the students near the end of the semester. Reflecting on how the semester went, one first-year student wrote, "I can't wait for next semester, and all the new memories we'll make together!"

We appreciate your support through this process. Please consider donating to the Psychology Graduate Research Fund, which supports the costs of materials, software, or other resources needed for graduate student dissertations, or the Psychology Excellence Fund. 

We hope you stay healthy and safe, and that the upcoming holiday brings peace and joy.

Susan E. Cross, Chair
"Insanely Adaptable!"

That is how ISU Communications Manager Brittney Rutherford described how dining, residence life, and public health work together for the betterment of students during the era of COVID-19. Unlike some schools that closed their residence halls, ISU elected to test incoming students and shuttle students to a dorm if they tested negative, to isolation housing if they tested positive, and to a quarantine dorm if they were exposed, said Rutherford. “There are rules students are expected to follow, like no gatherings and no more than one guest,” said Rutherford. And students have complied. “They are learning to live on campus and a dorm, and they have proven to be adaptable and resilient.”

When it comes to eating, ISU has increased the portability of food. Meals can be ordered to go or put in clamshell containers while in the food line. If students eat in the dining hall, tables are separated, and chairs are less numerous.

Rutherford wants alumni to realize that cooks, custodians and resident advisors are not working from home. They are on campus with the students. “We are here to support students and insure they have a great experience at ISU,” said Rutherford. 

Any food in the dining center at Friley Windows can be “to go.” New Friley Windows opened in August 2017 after sitting vacant since 2003.  

Students socially distance themselves, but masks are dropped while eating. 
Dine in, which was the old normal, is still possible. 
Psychology Classes in a Pandemic
The pandemic has created many challenges for faculty and students alike. Faculty who are teaching face to face are also recording their lectures for students who are sick or quarantined. Students are working hard to stay on top of the requirements of multiple courses without the structure provided by attending class. Buildings are plastered with signs for the school’s Cyclone Cares campaign. Briefly, Cyclone Cares emphasizes wearing a mask in public, staying six feet away from others, frequent hand washing and staying home if you are sick. Here are some photos that take you inside two psych classrooms in the fall semester. 
Dr. Stephanie Madon
The Psychology and Law class (Psych 383) taught by Dr. Stephanie Madon maintains social distance.
Dr. Kristi Costabile's class on Close Relationships (Psych 484) is anything but close this semester!
Dr. Kristi Costabile
A COVID-19 Story
Social psychology graduate student Marielle G. Machacek, M.A., from St. Petersburg, Florida, has found COVID-19 a real challenge to her life as a teacher, researcher and ordinary citizen. Those challenges ranged from sharing an office and online classes to maintaining her motivation, productivity, and mental health.
When academic life shifted from in-person classes to online in March, Machacek said, “My brain was not happy.  It took much more effort to get up at a decent time, start working, and stay focused for an extended period. My sleep schedule was so far off in the summer, I was making lecture videos for my summer class at 2 or 3 a.m. and sleeping in much later than the rest of the working world.”

The fall brought little improvement. “Teaching my two sections of Psych 211 (Career Opportunities in Psychology) was one of the more difficult things I had to work with this semester,” she said. When 15 to 20 of her 60 students were exposed to COVID-19, it required double the work for a few weeks. She had to “assist in prepping the materials for an in-person lecture, make sure students had access to a recording of the lecture if they were out, and consistently follow up with students to make sure they were getting all the information.” When the course shifted to all online, Machacek’s work and stress level decreased.  

Thanks to the support and encouragement of her advisor Dr. Kevin Blankenship, “I will make it through the program as a strong researcher and teacher, despite the setbacks I’ve had since March.”  

The Effect of COVID Stress
How has COVID affected the mental health of students at ISU? Professor Nathaniel Wade is the Director of the Counseling Psychology program and the Director of Network Community Counseling Services, a service for students and those in the larger Ames community. He and his staff of five counselors have found that the main effect of the pandemic is increased anxiety and depression. “If you think in terms of a stress model,” he wrote in an email, “stress increases the need for resources to address and manage the stress. When those resources are available, the stress has a negligible impact. When resources are low, stress can have a larger impact. During the pandemic, most people have fewer resources for coping. So, the additional pandemic stress that comes from isolation and fear (of getting sick, of dying, of losing one’s livelihood) is harder to cope with. A typical response is then greater anxiety and depression.” For those students who feel isolated and alone, the pandemic has created “a situation that can be very difficult to manage,” he added.

Network is affiliated with Iowa State University and the Psychology Department, but receives no university or department funds. It charges a modest fee for group and individual counseling sessions. The program is a primary training site for doctoral students in counseling psychology at Iowa State University and it also conducts continuing education for licensed mental health practitioners.  

ISU Psychology Alum is Iowa Nice Guy and More

When the Iowa caucuses revved up in January 2012, The Atlantic online linked viewers to a new video by Scott Siepker, 2005 ISU Psychology alum, and his buddy Paul Benedict. The now famous video, Iowa Nice, demonstrated that Iowans may be friendly, but they are not defenseless. Scott details in direct but salty language that Iowa is the center of the universe. If you haven’t seen it go to

For 2012 and 2013, Siepker brought his Iowa slant on life to ESPN for a weekly segment of Iowa Nice Guy riffing on college football.

Scott is that rare bird who hitched his psychology degree to a career in theater, film, and television. He, Benedict and three others are Iowa Filmmakers, a creative collective based in Des Moines. Scott is perhaps best known as the co-host of the Emmy nominated series for Iowa Public Television, Iowa Outdoors.
Recently three psychology grads, Scott, Dee Vandeventer (’75), and Laura Jackson (’80) spoke at the spring 2020 virtual convocation for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Scott’s advice was in keeping with his personality: “Have fun!” 

Everyday Psychology

I have heard many psych alumni say that they use psychology every day. I approximate that goal. My recollections occur several times a week. Here is an example. I try to go to the gym three times a week. The most exhausting exercise I do is two miles of cardio. The device I prefer involves moving my arms and legs. It is tiring and sweat producing and it keeps me busy for 25 minutes. I follow cardio with more gentle yoga stretches. I start with cardio because of the Premack Principle. David Premack stated it like this: “A less desired behavior can be reinforced by the opportunity to engage in a more desired behavior.” My simple translation of the principle is: Pain before Pleasure. Cardio is the pain and yoga the pleasure. Pain first, pleasure second. Or as our parents would say, “Do the hard tasks first, not the easy ones.”

Do you have a psychology principle or technique that you employ in everyday life? Please email me ( and I’ll include it in the spring issue of PsyClone. 
The PsyClone is published periodically throughout the academic year.
Pete Prunkl, Off-Campus Editor
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