Illinois State was the perfect academic home for Distinguished Professor of Psychology Laura Berk. She joined the faculty in 1969 after completing her doctorate at the University of Chicago, flourishing as a published scholar and stellar teacher until her departure in 2001.
“I love the blend of teaching and research,” said Berk, who taught child development courses her entire career and educational psychology courses as well. “I had wonderful students who went on to do great things in child development, and to be enormously successful in applied work and as faculty.”
Berk remains a respected expert, having conducted leading research programs on how school environments affect children’s development, the significance of children’s private speech, and the role of make-believe play in development of children’s self-regulation.
“I have a certain passion for doing research that has applicability to children’s everyday lives,” Berk said. She has written Awakening Children’s Minds, a book for parents and teachers on young children’s development, along with seven textbooks on child and lifespan development.
Her ongoing scholarly endeavors make Berk an “independent academic” instead of a true retiree. She continues to write intensively, has served as an associate editor of a journal in the field, and is actively engaged with nonprofit endeavors. She is the board educational director for Artolution based in New York, which initiates community-based public art projects around the world to help children and youth cope with trauma and spark positive social change.
Berk remains closely connected to Illinois State where her husband, Ken, taught mathematics. She established the Berk Developmental Graduate Teaching Fellowship and the Berk Undergraduate Student Writing Award in the Department of Psychology; and most recently, she is founding donor of the Art Station, an inter-college collaborative initiative through the College of Arts and Sciences. Much like the mission of Artolution, the Art Station will provide children, youth, and their families with a wide array of hands-on art-making experiences, guided by artists and art educators, with a special focus on reaching underserved populations in the surrounding community.
Berk resides in Normal and can be reached at leberk@IllinoisState.edu.