The bright minds of students at UMass Amherst drive Lisa Harvey to tackle challenging questions about our world and never stop learning.
As a professor of clinical psychology, she guides students through the scientific process, discovering new ways to collectively learn from each other. Harvey’s love for children combined with her passion for research led her to study the early development and treatment of behavior disorders like ADHD. Her clinical research covers a wide span of topics, as she strives to make a positive impact on the lives of children and their families.
Finding a unique major in Math and Social Sciences as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, Harvey was excited about performing research in psychology and attempting to answer thought-provoking questions. Her interest in learning about children was also present throughout college as she worked at a local child care center. During an internship at a poverty center in North Carolina, she was encouraged by a colleague to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. She was interested in the dynamics of parents and their kids, aspiring to work on a personal level with them while performing research.
In her graduate program at Stony Brook University, Harvey located an inspiring advisor who was working with behavior problems in children. This area of focus led Harvey through a challenging and rewarding array of work in clinical practice, teaching, and research. In her fourth year of graduate school she got a great opportunity to work with the world’s leading expert in ADHD at the time, Russell Barkley at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester, MA. She collected data in Barkley’s clinic, completing her dissertation on fathers of children with ADHD.
Today, her full range of research on child behavior problems span assessment, early treatment, parental training, and identifying risk factors for the development of additional disorders. Harvey explains, “[ADHD is] a complex disorder, having cognitive, social, and emotional aspects . . . there’s wide-ranging issues. This makes it an interesting subject to study, and there is a high potential for helping a lot of people, because so many kids and adults have it.”
Harvey teaches a variety of courses at UMass from undergraduate Child Psychopathology to graduate Research Methods and Child Assessment. She enjoys the challenge of taking complex ideas that students are intimidated by, and explaining them in very clear ways. Courses like Child Assessment involve teaching sophisticated administration and interpretation of tests, as well as addressing big theoretical ideas like “what is intelligence?” These are some of her favorite aspects of teaching, which allow her to advance students’ theoretical and practical knowledge.
One of the most exceptional teachers that Harvey had in college was a graduate student who simply asked questions to the class, leading the students to discover the knowledge he wanted them to learn. “He was incredibly patient. He gave space for the students to try to come up with the answer on their own. I pull that into my into my teaching whenever possible. If I can help the students figure something out rather than just telling it to them that’s much better,” says Harvey. This practice results in a more fulfilling and engaging experience for students.
Harvey cites her students as a great resource for helping to improve her teaching methods. Through class discussions or written feedback, she gets students’ perspectives on what changes would be beneficial for them. A newer technique used in smaller classes has students collectively write a single document offering suggestions, without the teacher present. “My students often have the best guidance for improving how a course is taught,” notes Harvey.
She is a student herself, staying current on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices by participating in faculty fellowships through the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD). Currently she is learning new approaches such as building universal-design into courses, making them more effective to a broader range of people with varying abilities. “I came to understand that whatever your background is, it’s everyone’s responsibility to recognize and learn about diversity,” says Harvey. As Chair of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Diversity Committee, she is currently working with her team to identify ways of helping faculty and graduate students to incorporate more diversity content into their courses and gain the expertise they need.
By steadily exchanging ideas with her students, Harvey is constantly supplied with new perspectives on science. Together they explore significant topics, learning together, with the ultimate goal of advancing understanding and support of mental health in children.