Research Psychology Masters Student Tommy Coleman was recently selected as national graduate student co-representative for the American Psychological Association’s (APA) division 36, the Society for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

With a membership of more than 122,500 professionals and students, APA is the largest professional psychology organization in the United States. The primary focus of APA’s division 36 is understanding the significance of religion and spirituality in people’s lives and the discipline of psychology by promoting psychological theory, research, and clinical practice.

Coleman explained that his attraction to this particular division of psychology began at an early age.

“It was interest of mine that unfolded over many years, but I think took off as a young child when I was just primarily fascinated by science and history textbooks as opposed to more fictional and humanities based reading and stories. I always thought science presented a very interesting, amazing, wondrous, fascinating story,” Coleman said.

In his years as an undergraduate and graduate student at UTC, Coleman established an impressive list of accomplishments. As an undergraduate, Coleman wrote two chapters for Semantics and Psychology of Spirituality: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. His research on theory of mind and religion was recently published with Scientia Salon and can be read here. Coleman worked as mentor and co-editor with UTC’s Modern Psychological Studies, the only psychology journal edited and published by undergraduate students in the country.

“What I enjoyed most was the time to do independent study with Dr. Hood and reading the things that I found personally interesting, meaningful, and important for psychology; of course what I wanted to look at in terms of religion or beliefs. Perhaps a better word would be worldviews because my research concerns atheists. Non-religious people don’t believe in gods, which is interesting because for the majority of all other psychological research, it’s happiness or emotions. You don’t typically have individuals in the world who identify as not happy, or not emotional. So, I think the psychology of religion and atheism, or non-belief, really tests some of the common assumptions or methods that are used elsewhere in science, but particularly when it comes to this unseen agent or agents, and whether you believe or don’t believe,” Coleman explained.

As a graduate student co-representative with division 36, Coleman explained that his job is very open-ended, and he’s still in the learning phrase. Along with co-representative Steffany Homolka of Case Western Reserve University, he will work with graduate student volunteers to create opportunities for success and career advancement for aspiring professionals in their field.

“I really have to thank Christopher Silver and Dr. Hood  for facilitating and sustaining my interest in psychology of religion. It is due in large part to their support and encouragement that I have been able to apply as a division 36 co-rep and have the interest that I do in psychology and cognitive science of religion,” Coleman added.


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Sarah ’14, ’16 earned an MA in English rhetoric and composition at UTC where she now works as staff writer; she enjoys hiking with her husband and two boys and spending time with her backyard menagerie of goats, chickens and ducks.

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