Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2016 – Stony Brook: Joanne Souza
Joanne Souza earned her PhD in health psychology concentrating on the effects of stress and social fear to human health, education, and welfare from an evolutionary biology perspective. Her research primarily focuses on the effects of an individual’s immersion in dominance hierarchies versus democratized social, economic, educational and political social units on human health, learning, productivity, and quality of life. She has found that learning online can be structured in a more democratic environment where students have time to discuss and further research content with each other, listen to different interpretations of the same information, utilize writing to clarify their thinking and better communicate, engage in attempts to falsify varying points of view, and have time to process and think through any new information learned while incorporating it with the information they already may have learned previously. The online environment is the perfect venue for this type of interactive learning crucial for building the skill of problem solving with the information you learn.
She has published work in the area of evolutionary biology including the uniqueness of humans and the development of Social Coercion Theory in collaboration with Paul Bingham. Social Coercion Theory accounts for how humans came to be different from other animals within the process of natural selection and then generalizes into a theory of history and contemporary behavior including learning behavior. This work culminated in their book, Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe as well as other academic journal publications, presentations, and speaking engagements. The subject of this research work was offered within the first undergraduate course in the College of Arts and Sciences to be offered online in 2005. It continues to be taught to both undergraduate and graduate students online to this day.
She continues to publish in evolutionary psychology with a current focus on scientific education and student learning. She has not only developed online courses, but was an online learner herself where she earned over 130 graduate credits online. She is currently the director of the Biology Online Program at Stony Brook responsible for the development of additional online courses in the Life Sciences. The program has continued to grow each year in student enrollment and in new courses added as we work towards the goal of an online biology major program in the future.