Amherst Humans in STEM Salon Profile: Doctor Sarah Bunnell
Dr. Sarah Bunnell is the Associate Director & STEM specialist for the Center for Teaching and Learning. Prior to joining Amherst, she was a tenured Associate Professor of Psychology and Great Lakes Colleges Association Pedagogy Fellow at Ohio Wesleyan University. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental and Cognitive Psychology from the University of Kansas. She grew up in Kansas City, in a family where education was very important. She had attended Middlebury after applying Early Action. She has always been very data-oriented and very math-oriented. So much so, that she was a "Math-lete" in middle school, and in fact was the only girl on the team. In college, she was originally a pre-med student, and was actually among the first graduating class of Neuroscience majors at Middlebury. She was always very interested in neurological animal models of stress. It was during this time, however, that she took a trip to Romania to study attachment and stress in orphanages, and it was while studying orphans there that she switched from analyses coming from neurological perspectives of stress to a psychological perspective of stress. Part of this interest in the study of stress was informed by her own experiences of stress in college. Dr. Bunnell was diagnosed with cancer her junior year of college. She deferred graduate school for a year after college to continue treatment, and it was with the help of family and friends that she was able to persevere. She then turned to working with child and adolescent abuse survivors, including sexual assault survivors, and worked at helping these individuals overcome their trauma and to craft narratives that helped to empower them. While at Ohio Wesleyan, Dr. Bunnell effectively acted as both professor of psychology and the defacto pedagogical fellow for the university. She was very interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning and she published work on it. Here at Amherst, Dr. Bunnell works with the Center for Teaching and Learning to help others create transparent, universal curricula, and is often thinking about the ways in which different learners can demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. Her research focuses on development of student metacognition, and in developing better faculty teaching practices (including sharing course designs with students to help increase course engagement). Inclusivity is a big part of that effort. She tries to come from a place of empathy in her research and in her classes—and believes that a student's best is often defined by their past experiences and the empowerment they receive. Her practices are constantly evolving, and she uses her own past experiences of arguing for space that is too often not considered hers as a woman in male-dominated spaces to inform her efforts for greater inclusivity. Besides chasing after her 2 year old, she like to run, knit, read, garden, and tackle Do-it-yourself home projects.