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Ashley Hill-Soderlund

Ashley Hill-Söderlund (Psychology)

September 2008

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New faculty members bring new academic opportunities

The way we first learn how to manage our emotional responses may help us avoid problems like depression and attention disorders in later childhood. It’s a stage of development of particular interest to Ashley Hill-Söderlund so, since optimal control is typically fully developed by age five, the developmental psychologist spends a lot of her time studying babies and young children.

One of the new professors to join the St. Norbert faculty this year, Hill-Söderlund notices individual differences in babies as young as 6-12 months as they develop their own patterns of stress responding.

“It’s not necessarily all bad,” she says. “Stress responses can help someone get through a bad situation. We see if a child’s response is essentially adaptive. In the moment, are they doing the best thing for themselves?”

The way children learn to manage their emotional responses, she explains, ranges from over-control — a strategy that can lead to depression in later childhood — to under-control, that can lead to acting out behaviors and the development of attention problems.

“The long-term goal would be the ability to say, ‘Here are some things that can help your child develop a healthy pattern of response to stress and regulate emotions.’ ”

Learn more about the academic background of other new faculty members arriving at St. Norbert this year by checking out their profiles.

New opportunities in psychology
Hill-Söderlund will take on the Intro to Psychology course and is already talking with colleagues about an upper-level class in applied developmental psychology. Such a course would give students more hands-on experience in areas that may be related to their professor’s own research projects or to educational applications.

The discipline is also considering a course on adulthood and aging that would cover issues relating to a different section of the life span.

Hill-Söderlund continues to collaborate with researchers at the University of North Carolina, where she held a post-doctoral fellowship, and at the University of Notre Dame, where she did her doctorate. But she is also looking forward to making connections in the Green Bay area community so that she can conduct studies locally.

She says that undergraduate involvement is key to this kind of research project and she looks forward to introducing her own students to almost every level of her work — meeting with families, visiting them, and processing and analyzing data.

“Especially, undergraduates love to work with babies and young children,” she says. “It’s fun, it’s interesting to do and everybody has a natural interest.”

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