Dr. Twila Wingrove grew up in West Virginia and wanted to find a position that fit her career goals and was close to home.
She was thrilled to join Appalachian State University after being in graduate school at Nebraska College of Law and then University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Wingrove started teaching at Appalachian in fall 2009, when she met what she described as spirited students in the Department of Psychology and its social science concentration.
“I love the classroom because Appalachian students are willing to engage in debates,” Wingrove said. “They are willing to think about multiple sides of an issue and understand the complexity of psychology and how it applies in the world.”
Wingrove also interacts with students in her research lab, where she has five to 10 students working each semester.
Her lab often has multiple research projects running at a time, many designed by students for independent studies or honors theses. During any given semester, students help collect and enter data, raise new research questions, design studies or create posters for research presentations, Wingrove said.
“In my experience, many students enter the psychology major with very little understanding of the important role that research has to play in the field and the impact that this research has on the world around them,” Wingrove said. “Many of them also hear the word ‘research’ and think it must be a dry or boring process. My goal is to give students experiences that demonstrate how meaningful engagement in research can be.”
Students in her lab have studied perceptions of teacher-student relationships, aging and obesity discrimination in the legal system, and digital piracy among college students.
Wingrove was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for a research project that expands on her previous work on foster children. She is looking at how children evaluate fairness in their interactions with the system and system authorities.
In that study, Wingrove recruited children without any experience with the legal system and asked them to evaluate different scenarios where authority figures treat children in different ways, Wingrove said.
Her research relates back to why she decided to pursue a career in psychology. After college, Wingrove took a job at West Virginia University and volunteered her time at Court Appointed Special Advocates where volunteers represent children who are in the child protection system through the legal process.
She observed attended court hearings, became interested in how the legal system treats children and decided to pursue that further in her graduate studies.
“I knew I didn’t necessarily want to practice law, but I wanted to learn a lot about it, so I sought out psychology programs that also had a legal training component,” Wingrove said. “The rest is history, as they say.”