- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 05 October 2016
- Written by RICH FELICETTI | ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Lisa Dinella, Ph.D., an associate professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Gender Development Laboratory at the University, spoke at Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the TV series Sesame Street, on Sept. 13. The address, titled “The Power of Play,” focused on Dinella’s research in gender, toys, childhood media and science-based recommendations for using the tremendous influence of the media to reduce gender stereotypes.
“Speaking at the Sesame Workshop was an amazing experience,” said Dinella. “I had the opportunity to speak with so many people that are applying the science and research directly to have an impact on young children. I spoke with many of the writers and digital media people that are behind the television series.”
Dinella’s research also provided her with the opportunity to speak at the White House on toys and gender stereotyping in April. Here, Dinella addressed how gendered toys affect children’s play, the skills they develop, and their eventual career choices. Her studies indicated that gender labeling of toys creates barriers to children exploring all possible toy and play experiences.
While an Arizona State University student, Dinella said she became interested in children’s early understanding and early thought process, and she was inspired to pursue research in that area.
In 2016, the topic of gender has become one of growing interest, and many students feel it is important to critique how exactly the concept is developed in a young mind.
“Gender identification is a topic of growing relevancy and should not be simply thrown under the rug. Individuals need to educate themselves on this complex phenomenon as it is going to continuously play a role in our ever evolving society,” said Kelly Faxon, a senior psychology student.
“Children need not feel pressured to suppress their interests and passions if they do not fall neatly into the gender role dictated by our culture today,” continued Faxon. “Individuals with ‘atypical’ gender identifications deserve the right to be understood, respected, and accepted. Lisa Dinella is an advocate for these individuals and Monmouth should be proud to have her as a faculty member who is going above and beyond her responsibilities as a professor.”
Dinella’s influence reaches beyond the research realm, as her accolades encourage students to enroll in her classes. Mary Kate O’Rourke, a junior psychology student, is excited to one day have the opportunity to take a class taught by Dinella. “I have not had the privilege to have Dr. Dinella in class yet, but I cannot wait for that day,” she said.
“Her exposure to all of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities is outstanding,” added O’Rourke. “I have had conversations with her, and she is one of the smartest women I’ve ever met. She deserves all of this recognition, and I hope she continues to speak because gender roles are really important.”
O’Rourke said that Dinella’s field of research is incredibly important to today’s society, and continued research can have a beneficial impact on our culture. She said, “I think her work is interesting and extremely relevant. We can all learn a lot if we open our ears to the information that she holds, and have an open mind when it comes to the point when we all have our own children.
O’Rourke added that people already with children can still learn a lot from Dinella’s research, as it pertains to topical social concerns
“For the people who have already had children, it’s still important for them to be educated because staying up to date on research about how your child is acting in certain circumstances is what turns a good parent a great one.”
Junior psychology student Leigh Ricciardi said that Dinella’s accomplishments are well respected among students and provide valuable insight,” she said.
Ricciardi added that Dinella inspires many students to pursue similar success in the field of psychology.
“Every year I hear about new studies that she is working on, major websites featuring her work, and how much the students at Monmouth University love learning from her experiences. I am so happy for Dr. Dinella; she deserves all of her success. As a professor, mother and researcher, she is hitting it out of the park. Her passion, hard work and dedication some of her admirable traits that make her so many students’ role model.”
As for her future goals, Dinella said that many of them include continuing research with Monmouth University students. “I want to continue to mentor undergraduates in the research process,” she said. “We are continuing to do experimental and observational studies on gender roles and related areas.”
Thus, Dinella and her research team will continue to explore the area of gender roles with hopes to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how they become ingrained in people.
IMAGE COUTESY of Lisa Dinella