When graduate and undergraduate students talk about Jennifer S. Cheavens, the words “best” and “favorite” come up often in reference to her teaching style and courses and to Cheavens as a human being. Students appreciate how Cheavens presents research material in class and encourages them to engage in critical discussions of the work, rather than accepting the research conclusions at face value. A course she developed, Positive Psychology, has already earned a reputation for being highly relevant to students’ lives, and enrollment has more than doubled since the course’s first semester. Her effective teaching techniques and innovative course development earned her the Department of Psychology’s teaching award in her third year at Ohio State, making her the first assistant professor to earn this honor in the department. In 2017, Cheavens was honored with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.
B.S. (summa cum laude), James Madison University
M. S., Old Dominion University
Ph.D., University of Kansas
Internship and Fellowship at Duke University Medical Center
Describe your current research:
I study mood and personality disorders, mostly depression and borderline personality disorder. Specifically, I am interested in identifying and treating the components or processes, including emotion dysregulation and problematic interpersonal relationships, that are related to the development and maintenance of mood and personality disorder symptoms. I am also interested in understanding the way personal strengths, such as hope and gratitude, can be incorporated into treatments for mood and personality disorders. In my research group, we take a translational approach to research and conduct both behavioral laboratory and treatment studies.
What undergraduate classes are you currently teaching?
The undergraduate course I teach most consistently is the Positive Psychology course. I love teaching this class because it is packed with lessons that students can take right from the lecture out into their real lives. We cover gratitude, meaning, joy, forgiveness, mindfulness, love, and a bunch of other constructs that are related to well-being, happiness, and satisfaction with life. You don’t have to have any psychology experience to take the class so everyone should come give it a try!
What aspects of your teaching give you the most satisfaction?
At the broadest level, working with and developing relationships with students is the most satisfying part of teaching for me. More specifically, I really like to see students try on new perspectives and weigh evidence for the conclusions they make.
What book/movie would you recommend or what music do you enjoy?
My taste in music is extremely eclectic and I love all sorts of books and movies; I’m not sure I could make a one-size-fits-all recommendation. But I haven’t yet met someone who was disappointed after reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
What is an interesting place you visited that has inspired you?
I was in China for seven weeks a few summers ago teaching positive psychology and it was such a terrific experience for me. I met so many great people, traveled around the country, and learned quite a bit about the history and culture.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
The advice was “You’ve got to emit behavior in order to be reinforced” but the non-behavioral psychologist way of saying that is “You miss all the shots you don’t take.” Also, “anything worth doing is worth doing well; work hard and give your best effort.”
What advice would you give to undergraduate students?
Gosh – I feel like they get so much advice from so many people already. I guess my advice would be to choose wisely the people from whom you take advice.
Would you like to share an interesting fact about yourself?
I’ve lived in nine states – some of them more than once (California, New York, Alabama, North Carolina, Nebraska, Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio).
Feel free to stop by my office hours. In my office hours, I like to talk about the plans students are making for their futures and I also really like to talk about interesting things they’ve learned recently. In more casual settings, I also like to talk about pop culture (books, movies, music) and sports (particularly college basketball) with students.
Dr. Cheavens' words of wisdom
Anything worth doing is worth doing well; work hard and give your best effort.
Read more about Dr. Cheavens’ research and many achievements by clicking here.
Office and contact information:
147 Psychology Building
1835 Neil Avenue