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Monmouth College to host oldest undergraduate psychology research conference; alumna Nelson ’06 to be featured speaker

Barry McNamara
Nelson ’06 to be featured speaker at ILLOWA's 44th Annual Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference.
Monmouth College graduate Christie Nelson will deliver the keynote speech at the longest-running undergraduate psychology research conference in America, which will be hosted by Monmouth College on April 29.

Nelson will speak at ILLOWA’s 44th Annual Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference, a gathering of undergraduate psychology students who have conducted empirical research. About 110 faculty and students from 11 institutions have registered to attend the conference, which will feature about 60 oral empirical research presentations by students. Monmouth most recently hosted the conference in 2011.

A licensed clinical psychologist who has a rich history of working with individuals with mental illness, including substance abuse and dependence, Nelson primarily works within the criminal justice system. The title of her talk is, “From Fighting Scots to Federal Prison: My Journey from College to Incarceration.”

“To say Monmouth College properly equipped me for my professional development would be an understatement,” said Nelson, a 2006 Monmouth graduate. “My current work demands the ability to respond quickly and precisely. While my psychology courses provided me with an understanding of the theoretical principles that guide human behavior, the liberal arts framework gave me additional tools to think critically in stressful situations and to apply logic and reasoning to ethical dilemmas. I am also grateful for Monmouth’s focus on enhancing professional writing and public speaking, as I use these methods of communication on a daily basis.”

Nelson is no stranger to ILLOWA. She got an early start toward her professional career by presenting her research at ILLOWA twice as a Monmouth student. Her first ILLOWA presentation was on the importance of visual cues in the formation of perceptions. Her second presentation, in 2006 at Monmouth, was an exploration of attitudes and stigma toward various treatments of mental illness.

Nelson went on to earn both a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology from Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.

Her work has included providing individual and group therapy to inmates. She also assists inmates in preparing for re-entry to the community through seminars on such topics as anger management, interview skills and résumé writing, communication skills, and issues related to substance abuse and addiction.

Nelson’s work for the Department of Justice at the Federal Bureau of Prisons has included completing forensic assessments in order to determine inmates’ competency to stand trial, insanity at the time of the offense and future risk of re-offense. Her responsibilities have grown to include assessing inmates for a number of risks to themselves or society. She is also experienced in conducting psychological evaluations of mentally ill inmates.

As a drug abuse program coordinator at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, her duties include supervising drug treatment specialists through live, group and individual supervision. She is also responsible for conducting detailed review of cases to determine inmate eligibility to participate in drug programming.

Established 1973, ILLOWA was created when psychology professors Dean Wright of Monmouth College, James Joyce and Kermit Hoyenga of Western Illinois University and Gary Francois of Knox College established a mechanism by which local colleges and universities could enhance interaction with each other and provide an educational research experience for their students. ILLOWA has since expanded over to include nine educational institutions in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

More information about the conference is available at the conference website.