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NCCU’s Jonathan Livingston Makes Psychology Relatable

Jonathan N. Livingston, Ph.D.

Story by: Bernita Cooper, NCCU Office of Communications and Marketing

Through more than 20 years of professional research and teaching experience, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Department of Psychology Professor Jonathan N. Livingston, Ph.D., has developed a teaching style that commands the attention of students.

His combination of light-hearted jokes, anecdotes, cultural references and real-world scenarios makes psychology come alive for his students.

These skills in the classroom have earned Livingston recognition as one of the top faculty members in the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. He will be presented the University of North Carolina Board of Governors 2019 Excellence in Teaching Award during NCCU’s 133rd Baccalaureate Commencement on May 11, 2019.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching was established to emphasize the importance of teaching and to identify, reward and support good teaching. The Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel and Tenure selected the final honorees, each of whom receives a commemorative bronze medallion and a $12,500 cash prize.

“Dr. Livingston’s teaching style is personable and engaging; this is one of my larger classes and he finds a way to speak directly to each student,” said junior business administration student Malcom Brown, who is enrolled in Livingston’s general psychology course.

Rooted in the liberal arts tradition, Livingston’s teaching philosophy requires him to be more than a conveyer of knowledge, but “a facilitator who creates a context where both the student and the professor are challenged and are able to discuss ideas.”

He has taught courses in community, personality and adolescent psychology; research methodology; statistics and human growth and development. Livingston’s current research focuses on social and psychological factors associated with positive health and mental health outcomes for African Americans.

His passion for educating the next generation of scholars, especially students of color, is evident in his research, lectures and interactions with students.

“Dr. Livingston challenges each of us to think critically, develop intellectually and renew our mindsets,” said student Blair Womble, a sophomore pharmaceutical sciences student. “He continues to emphasize the importance of African Americans being educated, but also expressing our creativity.”

Livingston previously served as director of outreach for the Export Grant, a project of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute, which evaluated the effectiveness of efforts to reduce health disparities and educate the African American community about alcohol and substance abuse, cancer and cardiovascular-disease risk factors.  

As project coordinator for the NCCU-Duke Center for Translational Science Ethnodrama Project, he is working with NCCU and Duke University researchers to develop a slice-of-life theater performance about cervical cancer that will address high rates of the disease among African American women.

“We are trying to determine if theatre is a more effective vehicle than a standard workshop to educate men and women about cervical cancer and reproductive health,” Livingston said.

Livingston has been a recipient or partner in some $2.3 million  in grant awards from federal and state agencies. He is the lead research faculty member in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and is a senior research fellow at Johnson C. Smith University’s Smith Institute for Applied Research. He also served as co-director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Youth and Family.

In 2009, Livingston was presented with the Award for Teaching Excellence from the NCCU Board of Trustees. He has authored or co-authored peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters and newspaper articles, as well as presented his research at several national and international conferences.

Livingston dedicated his most recent award to the now-retired NCCU professors who took him under their wings.

“This award is for those who worked tirelessly at this university, for those who ensured that I knew how to teach effectively and made sure that I was able to infuse my research with what I was teaching in the classroom. This is for them,” Livingston said.

Livingston holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a master’s degree in community psychology from Florida A&M University. His doctoral degree is in community psychology from Michigan State University.

He shares his experience teaching at NCCU here

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