Stay up-to-date with the Social Development Lab's (SDL) ongoing projects through newsletters and press releases, as well as links to internal and external research we are working on that will be posted here on a regular basis.


SDL Newsletter October 2021

On September 14th, 2021 we welcomed our Research Assistants back IN PERSON for the first time in a year and a half! Following CDC guidelines, our team was able to step foot in our recently renovated lab located on the third floor of the D building. This semester’s lab is smaller than usual, but we’re an experienced and enthusiastic group. Currently, we are focusing on planning and hosting our first ever Interdisciplinary Research Fair on GSU’s campus on November 4 & 5, 2021. We are actively recruiting students, faculty, and student organizations who are interested in volunteering, presenting, or hosting a table to recruit for their own research.

To sign up, please fill out the participation.

Sign Up Now

Please contact our lab coordinator Jessica Beckmann at with the subject line SDL Research Fair for more information or Research Assistant Daniel Kirby at

In addition to the Interdisciplinary Research Fair, the lab is collaborating with Dr. Boland-Prom on a study about the responsibilities that state regulatory boards have to consumers in their public protection efforts. This study investigates the fields of clinical psychology, counseling, and social work. RAs involved in this project meet with Dr. Boland-Prom in addition to their weekly SDL lab meetings.

A second collaboration is with Dr. Danel Koonce. Drs. Koonce and Cipra are working with a small group of psychology and counseling faculty to investigate mentoring practices for pre-tenured Unit A faculty at Governors State University. The goal is to identify current mentoring practices as well as needed support for pre-tenured faculty.

This month’s lab spotlight is on Rachel Beckmann! Rachel is a senior pursuing an undergraduate degree in English with a double minor in Marketing and Psychology. After graduation, Rachel plans to pursue a Master’s degree in communication, Media, and Performance. Her career aspirations are to become a writer, designer, or photographer in brand marketing. Rachel has been involved with the SDL for three years with research interests in social expectations, personal influences, and decision-making. Outside of the lab Rachel is a tutor, marketing intern, and a designer for GSU;s Art & Literary Journal Reconstructed.

As a side note: Dr. Cipra’s first textbook was recently published. It is an e-book titled An Introduction to Critical Thinking & Research Writing in the Social Sciences and is published by Kendall Hunt.

Lab Recommended Reads:

SDL Newsletter April 2021

Exciting news! Governors State University has purchased a SONA license. SONA is a subject pool management system. This means that our lab, other GSU labs, and even student researchers will soon have access to an internal pool of possible participants for studies. We’ll also be able to prescreen the pools. Additionally, SONA integrates with several of the survey systems already in use at GSU and has the ability to run simple surveys directly in the system. This is another big step in our research rebirth at GSU, and we are pleased to take part. SDL director, Dr. Alli Cipra, will be the new administrator of the SONA system at GSU. She hopes to have it in use before the fall 2021 semester.

GSU Research Week will be held April 5-9, 2021. All sessions are virtual and many are prerecorded to be viewed at any time. This is the first time GSU has conducted a virtual research week. We are thankful to all the staff, faculty, and administrators who worked to put this together. Two of our own SDL research assistants present their work at a session this week. This work is especially important to the GSU population and our mission. Rue Lopez and Eunice Gomez will present their poster talk titled Assessing Learning Community Practices to Implement Student Retention and Belongingness. Additionally, the lab is happy to sponsor a student researcher not currently working in the SDL. Abrea Ramadan will present her poster talk on First Generation Students, Sense of Belonging, and Higher Education. Congrats to all the presenters and good luck!

Lab Recommended Reads:

SDL Newsletter March 2021

We’re making progress on several projects and have clearly defined individual and lab goals. Our lab continues to grow and we have a consistent group of core RAs that are doing awesome work and learning various aspects of the research process, even the not-so-fun parts. Our newsletters are a way to highlight the work being done in the SDL as well as some of the individuals doing that work. This semester we have 2 external RAs, Joseph and Ruqia, both of whom are gaining research experience in preparation for advanced degrees in psychology.

Joseph has undergraduate degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology and a master’s degree in Public Health. He is interested in family dynamics and paternal factors. He is currently working with public datasets to answer some important questions centered on the paternal role in the development of personality characteristics in children and how paternal emotional expression influences child emotional development. As a father, these questions are of personal and professional interest to Joseph. Joseph plans to apply to PhD programs in Social Psychology.

Ruqia is making a big career change! Currently working as a software engineer, she wants to pursue a PhD in psychology but plans to start with the Clinical master’s program at GSU. Ruqia is also interested in family dynamics and using public datasets to investigate her questions. Her research focuses on parenting styles and child development, including decision-making and anxiety. Both Joseph and Ruqia are working step-by-step to design their projects. We know they will produce great work!

The SDL is also preparing for GSU Research Week coming up in April. Previously, GSU hosted a Research Day on campus. The continuing pandemic necessitated a change to a virtual format over 3 days. We look forward to seeing the sessions that various lab members will present at Research Week. More information will be included in next month’s newsletter.

Lab Recommended Reads:

SDL Newsletter February 2021

It feels great to be back! After a long and cozy vacation, we welcomed our team back to the (virtual) lab last week. It was great seeing the old and familiar faces as well as welcoming new and eager ones. We welcomed one new student, Eunice Gomez, one student returning after an absence, Victoria Gutierrez, and one new external research assistant, Joseph Stull. We are eager for the great contribution our new RAs will bring to the lab!

This semester, as the last one, will continue to be remote. We will meet virtually and complete our work all while staying home and safe. We are planning for a very prosperous and productive semester with both new and continuing data and projects. This semester our projects will focus on family dynamics, learning communities in higher education, and working in academia during a pandemic. This semester Dr. Cipra will present as an invited speaker at MPA while Jessica and Rachel Beckmann will present their poster on Cognitive Dissonance in Major Declaration. The conference will be held virtually this year in April. Other RAs are focused on continuing research with presentation and publication goals.

The lab is also working on increasing our presence in the GSU community and beyond. Check out our lab Recommended Reads! We are very excited to get this semester started and meet all of our goals as a team. We can’t wait until we can all get back on campus in the fall! Here’s to a productive and amazing semester!

Lab Recommended Reads:

SDL Newsletter January 2021

As we look back on the changes brought by 2020, we realize how resilient we truly are. During 2020 the nation, the world, and our Social Development Lab became remote. We were separated from friends, family, and co-workers. In the name of safety, we minimized trips outside of the home. Many of us felt isolated as we learned to navigate our new way of life. Several institutions, including Governors State University, made the decision to go nearly fully remote for the Fall 20 and now Spring 21 semesters. All of these changes were difficult, but we used innovation and technology to accomplish our goals and maintain social connections. College courses were taught online, lab and committee meetings were held via Zoom, and virtual socialization and game nights became the new meeting method. We made it through 2020 and now, particularly with the recently approved vaccines, we can look forward to a productive and healthy 2021.

The SDL met virtually all semester. We slowed our progress on some fronts but were quite productive in many other respects. The Cognitive Dissonance in Major Declaration study began preparations for phase II of data collection and continued progress on the poster presentation for the Midwestern Psychological Association virtual conference scheduled for April 2021. We welcomed new lab members both internal and external to GSU and outlined several new lab pursuits and trainings for the coming year. Our research labs were remodeled and are ready for use once we can safely return to campus. We are excited to continue our research in 2021!

Lab Recommended Reads:

Press Releases