Child Psychology Expert to Speak at MBC

How the human brain works is something scientists Rochel Gelman
been trying to figure out for centuries. Why do we think and learn the way that we do? Why do we learn differently as 3-year-olds than at 80? Why, as we get older, do we find it harder to learn math and science concepts? Questions like these are the foundations for Rochel Gelman’s research.

The Mary Baldwin College Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program is proud to welcome Gelman, codirector of the Center for Cognitive Science at Rutgers University and professor of psychology. The free talk will begin at 7 p.m., January 31 in Francis Auditorium of Pearce Science Center.

“We were particularly intrigued with Dr. Gelman for several reasons,” said Crista Cabe, vice president for public relations and president of MBC’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter. “Her research speaks to two of our strongest fields &mash; psychology and education — and we liked the connection that her work on how to support learning in young children would have with those academic programs.”

Gelman’s lecture, “Early Cognitive Development and Beyond,” will focus on an interesting paradox: infants and preschoolers know much more about math and science than previously thought, while older students have real problems mastering material in the same subjects.

“Another reason we are delighted to have Dr. Gelman speak on campus is the relevance she has for educators, not just at Mary Baldwin, but in the community as well,” Cabe said. “We were able to invite faculty and administrators from local elementary and high schools, as well as personnel from the area’s early learning centers and preschools.”

A leading expert in the field of early cognitive development and learning, Gelman has developed a Science-into-ESL program and preschool exhibits at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. Gelman has also written several books on the subject, including Preschool Pathways to Science and The Child’s Understanding of Number, as well as articles in Science magazine and Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science, Gelman has received awards from the American Psychological Association (Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award), the Association for Psychological Science (William James Fellow), and the Society for Research in Child Development (Lifetime Contribution to the Study of Child Development).

Lambda of Virginia sponsors the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting PBK Key Scholar Program which selects 11 or more distinguished scholars each year, who visit approximately 100 colleges and universities. Visiting Scholars spend two days at each campus, meeting informally with students and faculty members, taking part in classroom discussions, and giving a public lecture open to the entire academic community. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.


Morgan Alberts Smith '99 is the web producer and social media manager for MBC's Office of Communication, Marketing, and Public Affairs.