Experimental Research Continues Data Collection

This year’s senior class started off Spring semester strong, testing participants around campus in the first week of class.  Tomorrow, Psychology seniors will be conducting data collection for the 5th and 6th times.  The psychology department needs approximately 900 pieces of participant data between the 10 senior research projects which are currently undergoing.

Research began early this semester due to a few students who are trying to meet the January 31st deadline for APS, the Association for Psychological Science’s 30th annual conference in San Francisco, California.  This is an optional conference, but is the top psychological conference in the country.

Psychology seniors will be attending 3 other conferences this semester, 2 mandatory and 1 optional.  They include the Sierra Nevada College symposium, Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Nevada, Reno, and finally the Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium at UCLA in Southern California.  Students have until February 31st, one month away, to collect, analyze, and submit data to these conferences.

Six of our seniors are also taking Publication Seminar, a course offered here by Dr. Christina M. Frederick, which helps students publish the findings of their studies in Psychology Journals.

The undergraduate research program at Sierra Nevada College is truly special.  While I may be biased, it gives students a huge step up on the way into Graduate school or Master’s Programs.  More updates to come with the progression of our research process!  Thanks for reading.  🙂


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Sybile Moser on the value of Research and SNC’s Psychology Undergraduate Program

Sybile Moser is a senior undergraduate at SNC who will be graduating this May.  She is a fellow Psychology major and intern worker in Professor Christina M. Frederick’s office.  I choose to interview her, because of her close work with the psychology department and the previous undergraduate research she conducted last year and plans to conduct this year.  Sybile is in charge of the Psychology Department’s social media accounts and helps with psychology functions around campus.  I asked general questions about Sybile’s experience at SNC with the psychology department to gauge the personal growth she has undergone and then I let my fingers do all the typing!

  1. “Tell me about your experience with undergraduate research here at Sierra Nevada College and the value you believe it brings not only to our little institution but the effect of research on humanity on a global scale.”


“Doing research here was one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done.  It’s easily my favorite part of education here at SNC because you get outside of our little bubble and get to interact with others at conferences who have the same interests and goals at you.  I believe that research is one of the most important things we do here.

My research last year studied the impact of gender bias awareness on hire-ability.  I studied the effect of different bias awareness aids, for example using gender bias awareness quizzes and measures, to see if that would impact somebody’s perception of an interview candidate either positively or negatively.  What I found was that the measure itself differentiated scores between men and women, but they were consistent in the control condition.  This means that the control variable that didn’t have any gender bias awareness, produced a more coherent evaluation of the candidate between women and men.

I got invited to present at UCLA and UNR for psychology conferences which was very rewarding and made me feel like my hard work was worth it.  I’m excited to conduct my new research study next semester!”

  1. “Tell me about your experience working as an Intern so closely with the Psychology Department and the impact this experience has had on your life.”


“I absolutely love working as an intern.  I think that as a student, being able in a college setting to work so closely with the department head is great and not an opportunity that you get to have at many other universities.  I think it is a very valuable option for students at SNC.

  1. “Lastly, tell me about your experience as a psychology major with both the professors in our department and the required classes you have taken.  Have either of these things had an impact on your life?  If so… how?


“I think that initially I wasn’t planning on becoming a psychology major, but this program and the people in the program got me interested in this path and now I feel it is my calling and I value it so much.  The course content has helped me with both my relationships with family and my fiancé.  I think that I’ve learned that not everything is in our control.  Outside of just main tenants and principles of psychology, I believe that working with a  small group of people everyday has taught me to be mindful of the differences in all of our experiences and be more present in the moment, rather than focusing on road blocks that might occur in my future or the hardships of the past.  It has totally helped me to become a higher functioning person.”


Changing lives and making the world a better place.  Sounds like SNC’s psychology program is on the correct course.


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

A Plant-Based Thanksgiving

Due to environmental pressures, family health concerns, and growing awareness from information learned in a health psychology course this semester, I have been meat free for nearly 3 months.  This health psychology class, instructed by Professor Donna Axton, specializes in awareness of the importance of nutrition, diet, education, and environmental stressors which impact a variety of different health outcomes.

Diathesis Stress Model – Predispositions to negative physical or psychological diseases are activated by the presence of environmental or psycho-social stress.

Did you know that the food pyramid or “plate” represented as a healthy meal, is not necessarily what we should be ingesting?  Those same government programs are often funded by milk and dairy corporations which have existed for decades.  There is no doubt a need for farming in this country.  Especially at a smaller level which can increase community collectivism and decrease our environmental footprint.  However, major farms could do their part to stop focusing on maximization of profits and instead switch to sustainable and healthy alternatives.

Did you know that consuming meat is extremely unsustainable for the planet and can not continue at the rate that it is occurring?  Meat production and consumption is one of the largest environmental risks and contributes to fossil-fuel energy consumption.

Did you know that dairy has been linked to many detrimental cardiovascular outcomes, clogged arteries, higher blood pressure, cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal issues and even exposure to the same hormones and chemicals that the animals are treated with?

Due to some of these facts (and many other ones) I attempted to have my own Vegetarian dinner.  And I’m happy to announce IT IS POSSIBLE!!!

We had vegan butter and used almond milk to make mashed red potatoes.  Vegan stuffing, vegan sweet potatoes (couldn’t find vegan marshmallows on time but they do exist) Home-made vegan gravy with vegetable broth that was amazing.  The green bean casserole was also vegan.  It’s pretty easy to eat an all vegetable diet.  Humans evolved to eat meat in colder climates when food was less available, but due to modern advances we do not need to eat meat anymore when we can find anything and grow anything we would like.

The hard part was the turkey substitute.  I will not lie to you, while vegan butter and cream cheese may be better than the real thing, and vegetables and fruits never get all, the Tofurkey we purchased was not that tasty.  The stuffing on the inside was good (and vegan) along with the included brownies which were to die for.  But the Tofurkey tasted like a wet crouton honestly. I still just felt good that I didn’t contribute to the harm of animals or the environment though, and I felt light and energized instead of stuffed like I usually am after eating.

Upon later investigation I found out that Tofurkey is the cheapest (it was 24 bucks) and most flavorless substitute to get.  Quitting meat and dairy consumption is pretty easy with all the alternatives.  Especially when you take into account the health detriments, hormonal imbalances, environmental stress, animal abuses, and in-sustainability of meat and dairy consumption.

I included pictures of dinner and some vegan ingredients you can find at places like Natural Grocers and Trader Joe’s (some I have even found at Walmart).  All in all it was an amazing Thanksgiving.  I hope you see from the pictures that it is possible!  I’m super proud of myself for accomplishing this for the first time ever and can’t wait to improve next year by being prepared with vegan marshmallows, vegan pies, and a better turkey substitute…

The only major downside I can say is there wasn’t any scraps to give the puppy!


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Thank You Veterans!

In honor of Veteran’s Day which passed this last weekend, I spoke to Landen Chau, one of the several military veterans who attend Sierra Nevada College.

Landen will be graduating next month.  He served in the Air force as an intelligence analyst providing information to pilots, and men on the ground for four years and is now only 23 years old.  Landen took an active role in Veteran’s Affairs, attending a previous research study conducted at Sierra Nevada College which looked into the political aspect of drone warfare, conducted by alums Laura Baker and Sephoia Crystal two years ago.  The two studied veteran disenfranchisement through recording and analyzing responses at public forums.  Not only did Landen attend both public forums, when it was his turn to conduct research last year, he also choose a research question that specialized in veteran affairs.

“What has your experience of undergraduate research at Sierra Nevada College been like and how has your own research had an impact on your life?”

Landen (near exact quotes) – I gained a lot of respect for the program, because I didn’t know research was a part of graduating.  Picking my own topic made it easier and worth it, because I was able to pick a topic that I was interested in.  I presented my data at UCLA, UNR, and the student symposium here at SNC.  I studied the use of water as a co-therapist by using measures that monitored stress and mood.  (Not only did Landen use undergrad participants from SNC, but he included actual veteran data that he collected himself outside of campus).  The experience of presenting and studying something I was passionate about made it much more applicable to my life and helpful to me.

“How has your experience as an intern prepared you for your future?”

Landen – I’ve become more diplomatic when talking with others.  Haha, but seriously it has taught me to work better with people I do not have the best outlook on, and to have a more positive outlook towards others who I may not always understand at times.

“Plans for after graduation?”

Landen – I’m going to take a break from school for a while so no Grad school at this time.  I plan on finding employment as an outdoor therapy recreation guide or kayaking guide.

“Last one, the people who have made the biggest impact on your education and life at Sierra Nevada College?

Landen – When I first got here Rosie was my adviser and she helped me out a lot.  She helped me feel comfortable when I first got here since I didn’t know anybody yet.  Christina has also has had a major impact on me, because she is always willing to help and actually goes out of her way to help all of us.  Also the outdoor adventure trips, where I guided for the school, and the student symposiums, where I presented and saw student presentations, all had an impact on me.


Landen is only one of the veteran’s that I have personally had class with here at Sierra Nevada College.  Independent research conducted by the Psychology Department here at SNC has provided important contributions to Veteran affairs.  Landen’s research found a significant difference in the water group for distress levels and mood regardless of veteran status.  This highlights the importance of nature therapy and indicates water as a co-therapist may be valuable in therapy settings.

So in honor of Veteran’s Day, Thank you to all who have served at Sierra Nevada College and across the United States!  We are so grateful to you for your service.


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Observational Study Fall 2017

Last week our senior Research Methods class conducted on observational study on the Sierra Nevada College campus outside Patterson Hall.

An observational study is a method of research in which the researcher simply observes behaviors that occur naturally in the environment.  This differs from experimental research because there is no manipulation of variables or controls.  The strength of this type of research is that one can observe things as they happen naturally in the environment.  Other benefits include gaining access to situations and people where interviews are impossible or unable to be used.  Some weaknesses of observational studies are that they can be very time consuming, the researcher could influence the outcome of results, and observations could be made subjectively.  This creates a higher role conflict as observers may inadvertently influence results.  Confounding variables may also influence results, as researchers do not use control or manipulation as they would in experimental research to limit them.

There are two types of observational studies: Systematic and Natural

Natural observation occurs when there are no parameters set up for the researcher to record.  Observers simply go to a specified location with an idea in mind to study.  An example of this would be to go to an airport and simply record every single behavior that relates to what you are looking into: say love.  This is the example which Professor Christina M. Frederick used in class.  Previous colleagues of hers went to the airport and observed behaviors which related to love (kissing, hugging, crying, etc.).

Systematic observation occurs when observers go to a set location with certain parameters.  Instead of recording any and all behaviors which may or may not relate and analyzing all of them, researchers have certain parameters and measures which they already plan on recording beforehand.  This sort of observation allows more structure to control the complete randomness that can occur during natural observation.

Last Wednesday our Research Methods class conducted a Systematic Observational Study in order to gauge responses to an overt act of littering.  We decided to concentrate on littering behavior due to the fact that one of our four core themes focuses on sustainability.  This is no surprise for a campus located in the beautiful Lake Tahoe Basin, much of which is within protected national forests and open preserve state park land.  Water clarity in Tahoe has been suffering in recent years to do increased tourism around the lake, which has crystal blue waters that resemble The Mediterranean.

The reason this study was a systematic observation is because we went into the situation with planned conditions and parameters to measure.  The two conditions the class used was whether or not the litter was dropped less than 5 feet away from a trash basket or whether it was dropped more than ten feet away from the trash basket.  Observers recorded whether or not the participants were indifferent, concerned, hostile, or constructive.

We defined these parameters as such:

Indifferent – No words spoken and no action taken

Concerned – Words or action taken with neutral tone of language

Hostile – Words or action taken with hostility or anger

Constructive – Words or actions taken with positive or helpful tone

Radius – Feet from trash can

Our class situated ourselves outside Patterson Hall.  Observers were scattered at lunch tables and in study groups in the lawn.  Two students were located on either end of Patterson Hall as interceptors and debriefers.  These two students stopped participants who appeared angry or upset and explained to them that nobody was actually throwing trash on the ground, but that we were actually conducting an observational study.

One last student, lucky me, got to act as the Confederate.  A confederate in a psychological study is somebody who is essentially “in on it.”  In this case the confederate was the litterer.  I chose to do this role hoping it would allow me some more insight for writing this article.

Results of the study were quite surprising.  We discovered that only 16% of students actually did anything about the litter.  Of this 16% the majority of participants picked up the trash and said nothing to me.  There was only two guys that said anything, and it was a quiet “you dropped something bud” without picking up the trash.  Many students who passed by were quick to glance a dirty look at me, but apparently none of them cared enough to stop and pick up the trash.  These results were very surprising to me, especially at a school located in such an environmentally friendly and gorgeous location with one of its’ main core themes being Sustainability!

Our class decided to believe the best in our fellow man, and explained our results to the Bystander Effect.  This concept comes from social psychology.  The bystander effect is the tendency for individuals to ignore emergency situations or to not intervene in a situation which they know is wrong, simply due to the presence of others.  I believe that the bystander effect is one of the major factors that can explain the presence of litter around the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Many people believe that park rangers and others will take responsibility or take care of something if they are there.  This is called diffusion of responsibility.  Our brains tend to diffuse responsibility onto others in order to reduce stress.  This ego reaction prevents us from feeling the guilt of not intervening into a situation even when we know we should.

This got me thinking.  Since moving to Lake Tahoe a little more over three years ago, my appreciation of the environment and beauty of this earth has increased ten-fold.  As a member of the community, I am part of the Incline Village and Lake Tahoe pages on Facebook.  Often times there are locals who complain about littering.  These same individuals, who make profits from the tourism that the lake brings, spend more time complaining online about tourists littering than actually doing anything to make it better.  How many students walked by me and shot me a dirty look, but didn’t have it within them to stop and pick up the trash?  Perhaps if more individuals around the community took action and helped clean up litter, the tourists who have less appreciation of the environment would model our behavior, and also clean up.

Due to the weaknesses of our study, I decided to not be too upset with the 16% pick-up rate on campus.  There were several things we could have done better.  First, a group of observers in a study group on the lawn were probably too close to the location of the litter drop.  This likely exacerbated the bystander effect.  Another weakness of this study was that we could have had an additional confederate.  This would have reduced sampling error by increasing the sample size in our study and getting us closer to the actual rate of students who would have picked up the litter.  Having less observers, or observers who were more hidden in the environment, would have helped decrease diffusion of responsibility among participants.

The senior research methods class is blessed to be able to actually conduct studies in the field.  We are currently devising and polishing our own individual experimental research which we will each conduct next semester.  Activities like this and our in class observational study allow us to not only learn about psychology from a book, but get out in the field and conduct research in topics which we are each individually interested in.  This is just one of the many reasons why I have a great amount of respect for our Psychology Program.


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Student of the Week

Gabby Ariganello is a 24 year old Psychology student at Sierra Nevada College.  She is a senior this year and will be graduating in May.  She moved to Reno four years ago from Oakland, California, to attend TMCC and then Reno University of Nevada.  She then transferred to SNC last year.

“What do you like to do for fun” (Answers Paraphrased)


-I enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping, and going on spontaneous adventures.  I also love

my dog and taking him on hikes.  I dabble in art, but I wouldn’t call myself an artist.


“How did you hear about Sierra Nevada College?”


-I found out about SNC when I was part of the girls lacrosse team at UNR.  We played

against the SNC team and that was the first time I heard about this school.


“What are your plans for after you graduate this spring?”


-I want to be a teacher of an autism classroom.  Nevada has a really great program for

autism specialists.


“How has the SNC Psychology Program directly impacted your life?


-It opened me up to new ways of learning and thinking that has helped me personally as

well as prepared me to help my future students.


“How has an SNC psychology professor impacted your life directly?”


– Dan Aalbers helped invoke a lot of independent thought into my learning and inspired

me do research outside of class on topics I was interested in.  We were able to discuss

personal passions or interests rather than just teaching to a test or to a book.


“What makes SNC better than other colleges you have attended?”


– I enjoy the small class rooms because it makes it easier to understand concepts and

to talk to your professor.  You can get help more quickly and it feels like your professors

are personally invested in you.  This also increases accountability and has helped increase

my grades.  Friends and teachers help achieve your goals because it is such a close knit

community.  Also SNC offers the chance at independent research in topics we are each

individually interested in, which makes you feel like you have full control over your

education.  Another plus: labs are camping trips and P.E. credits are rock climbing

courses or paddle-boarding lessons.


“How has SNC prepared you for being a teacher for children with autism?”


-Having such flexibility in what we get to study in every class allows us to pick topics

we are interested in.  This has allowed me to “specialize” and learn many things that

are directly linked with my future plans and will benefit my future students.  Some of

these skills include breathing exercises and meditation practices that I can implement

while working with kids with autism.


“What is your favorite memory from Lake Tahoe that you will carry with you through your life?”


-My favorite memory is sitting in an 8am class and then being able to leave and go skiing

afterwards or go to the beach.


Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)



Staff Member of the Week

This week I interviewed Sarah A. Fricke, alumni and current employee of Sierra Nevada College, to gauge her experience at Lake Tahoe and the impact her education has made on her life. She is employed as the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Psychology Program Chair, Christina M. Frederick.

Sarah graduated from the Psychology Department at SNC in 2015. She is 27 years young and migrated to the Lake Tahoe basin from the Eastern San Francisco Bay area in 2012.  She decided on the Lake Tahoe area because she always came here on family vacations and has always loved it.  How did she find Lake Tahoe?  A simple google of colleges in Lake Tahoe, of course!

“How did the Psychology Department directly impact you when you were still a student”(Answers paraphrased)

– Donna Axton helped me through a lot of hardships when I first began at SNC. She is so kind and caring and she helped me foster those qualities in myself to improve life and relationships with others.  Also, Christina Frederick has been an integral part in my success as a student and has taught me so much in regards to my work ethic and handling more responsibilities.  Christina helped me to start believing more in myself and that is important.

“How has the Psychology Department impacted you since being a Teacher’s Assistant for Christina?”

– I’ve learned so much about teaching, helping others, being more in charge of my responsibilities, and it has improved my life overall. It has also prepared me for Graduate School in a big way.

“How did you get involved in working with Christina and becoming a Teacher’s Assistant?

– I had actually never met Christina, but I was friends with her previous Administrative Assistant. I interviewed with her and began as a student worker, helping with the psychology blog, various clerical duties, and doing internship hours.  Then I eventually got interviewed for the Administrative Assistant and TA positions.

“What are your future plans after you leave Sierra Nevada College?”

– I really would like to enroll in a graduate program in counseling. My future aspirations include helping juveniles in detention centers and helping implement programs in prisons so inmates can have access to higher education.

“Can you discuss the research you’ve been involved in here?”

– I conducted my undergraduate research on the topic of self-esteem. I was also invited to participate in two additional projects that were funded through the Sierra Nevada College Internal Grant (one focusing on provisional and probational students and one focusing on water conservation).

I presented my undergraduate research as well as the Internal Grant projects at the Sierra Nevada College Psychology Research Fair. I have also presented at various external conferences, such as, UCLA, Stanford, and UNR.

“Last but not least, what is your favorite memory from Lake Tahoe you will carry with you through out your life?”

– The day I graduated, because so many of my friends and family drove up from all over California to support me. It felt so amazing to know all my hard work had paid off.

Author: Ryan M. Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

The Great Nevada Shake-Out 2017

Message Alert

October 19, 2017, Sierra Nevada College participated in the Great Nevada Shake-Out to raise awareness for earthquake safety!  This annual tradition educates students in Nevada colleges and high schools on the proper way to stay safe and avoid danger if an earthquake was ever to occur.  Over 590,000 people participated in the Great Nevada Shake-Out in 2016!

You can find more information about this event here: https://www.shakeout.org/nevada/


Pictured from left to right: Sarah Fricke, Ryan Knuppenburg, and Christina Frederick

Our pretend scared faces quickly turned to laughter as we were all trying to squeeze under Christina’s tiny desk and take a selfie!

Did you know?  There is a 1/7000 chance of a tsunami occurring in the Tahoe Basin due to an earthquake.  That is a probability  value of 0.00014286 or approximately a 0.014826 percent chance.  The most recent earthquake in the Tahoe region was about 575 years ago on the Incline Fault.  This Fault becomes active about every 10,000 to 15,000 years.  Education and preparation for such an event is key to saving lives in these types of natural disasters.

Stay aware friends!


SNC Psychology End of Semester Updates

As the Spring 2017 semester came to a close, SNC psychology was out doing many awesome things!

100% of the Experimental Psychology class, as well as two alumni, presented their research at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC) at UCLA.  PURC is one of the top psychology research conferences in the country and being accepted to present is no small feat.

Following the trip to UCLA, it was time for our seniors to walk across the Commencement stage and receive their diplomas.  A huge congratulations to all of the 2017 graduates and a special shout out to our psychology grads, Angel Gonzalez, Carrie Littlewood, Justine Nelson, Claire Riordan, Arno Ruymaekers, and Juan Sandoval!

We hope everyone is enjoying their summer and are looking forward to the coming fall semester!


SNC Psychology April Update

Hi SNC Students, Faculty, and Staff,

It’s been an event filled last few weeks for SNC Psychology!

On Wednesday, April 12 we were honored to host a lecture on how to combat and overcome anxiety and worry, given by Dr. Barry C. Barmann of the Center for Anxiety & Chronic Worry located here in Incline Village.  Thank you to everyone who joined us and of course thank
you to Dr. Barmann for sharing his vast knowledge of expertise in his field with us.

Dr. Barmann speaking on worry

On Monday, April 17 SNC Psychology hosted our 7th Annual Psychology Research Fair!  It was a great time and a wonderful opportunity for our Psychology Seniors and Alumni to finally share their research they have been working so hard on for the last two semesters.  Thank you to everyone who attended, helped in the planning of the event, and of course our research extraordinaries for all the hard work you have put into your projects over the past two semesters.

The research presenters at the 7th annual SNC Psych Fair

Student Speaker, Angel Gonzalez, presenting his findings on the impact of media on male body image

Our students also had the opportunity to present their research at the Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium at UNR this last Friday, April 20.  Through a poster symposium, SNC Psychology students shared their findings alongside other Nevada undergraduates, covering a tremendous variety of subjects from nuclear physics, to climate change, and of course, psychology!  Sybile Moser had the distinct privilege of giving an oral presentation of her findings on the effect of gender bias on hireability.

Sybile on stage presenting her research at NURS

SNC Psychology at the NURS

The final stop along the SNC Psychology presentation locomotive will be the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference at UCLA on May 5!  Best of luck to our seniors and congratulations on all your hard work!

Have a great last few weeks of your Spring Semester, SNC!