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Meet the Professors

Nora Benjamin
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Child, adolescent and lifespan development; parent-child conversations and children’s memory development; parental acceptance/rejection and risk/resilience in development.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2009; previously taught full time at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis., and part time at Loyola University Chicago; also has taught courses on research methods, the self and freshman-year seminar.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory psychology, lifespan development, child growth and development and adolescent development.

Education:  B.A., University of Iowa; M.A. and Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago.

Main goal in teaching: I want students to leave my classroom more upbeat and positive than when they entered it. I want to awaken their interest in psychology and their passion for learning in general. I seek to make connections between course content and students' lives and to build relationships with and among students in the classroom. Students flourish when working together toward a common goal and when they realize that they can rely on their peers and professors for support and information.

Shari Brueske
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Human development, child and adolescent peer relations/coping with stress, social development and family systems theory, brain and cognitive development, language development and research methodology and statistics.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 1999; previously taught at Elmhurst College, College of DuPage, Northeastern Illinois University and St. Xavier University. Presented dissertation research at the Society for Research in Child Development conferences; co-authored articles published in academic journals Developmental Psychology and Educational Psychology; received Wallace-Walin award for Graduate Studies in Psychology from Augustana College; reviewer for a psychology textbook.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory psychology, child growth and development and adolescent development.

Education:  B.A., Augustana College; M.A., Northern Illinois University; Ph.D., Loyola University.

Most memorable teaching experience: When students get excited about their learning and have communicated to me that they really see the information discussed in class as relevant to their lives. Seeing the intellectual changes and development in students within the span of a course is exciting.

Vara Durbha
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Psychology, Human Services and Counseling, College Student Development.

Relevant Experience: Taught Psychology courses at Oakton Community College, Waubonsee Community College and College of DuPage. Served as a licensed Counselor at Harper Community College and College of Lake County

Courses Taught: General Psychology, Human Development, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Child Growth and Development, Exploring Diversity and Human Relations, College Success Course, Career Exploration, Self-Empowerment.

Education: M.Ed., DePaul University, Chicago; M.A., Osmania University, India; Licensed Professional Counselor (Illinois)

My approach to Teaching: I believe my role as an instructor is not just to present course content in an engaging manner, but to meet students where they are, and provide the support they need to unfold their holistic potential. I strive to create a welcoming and safe space that allows students to take risks, to explore their own biases, strengths, and areas for growth thus promoting self-knowledge. My class materials and assignments serve to encourage students to develop academic excellence as well as cultivate qualities that are central to living meaningfully and well.

Evan Finer
Instructor, Psychology

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2012; previously taught for four years as a CLC adjunct. He also has taught at Oakton Community College, Columbia College of Missouri and Loyola University of Chicago.

Education:  B.A., Northwestern University; M.A., Loyola University-Chicago; Psy.D., Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

What inspires me about my field:  I’m fascinated by psychology’s mystery as well as its different explanations, theories and philosophical assumptions about human nature. Perhaps most important, the field has the potential to help people live better.

Ken Kikuchi
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties:  Learning theory, existential/humanistic psychotherapy, brain development and plasticity and chronic mental illness.

Teaching experience:  Professor Kikuchi taught at Oakton Community College and in the graduate program at Roosevelt University.

Education: B.A., University of Illinois-Chicago; M.A. and Ph.D., Argosy University.

What I do to engage students:  I try to create the “Aha” moment by constantly motivating and challenging my students to look at problems from multiple angles and connect what they know already with what we are studying. Self-discovery is important, too, where the student is allowed to find answers to not only classroom problems but larger life problems that they have to face.

Martha Lally
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Clinical/abnormal psychology, development, neuropsychology and honors psychology.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2008; previously taught as a CLC adjunct; also taught at Norfolk State University and National-Louis University. Dr. Lally is a licensed clinical psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist. Prior to teaching at CLC full time, she worked for 20 years as a clinician, specializing in children and adolescents in both Virginia and Illinois. Her practice focused on childhood assessment and treatment, which included working with families, courts, schools and mental health facilities. Dr. Lally received an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014 from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory psychology, abnormal psychology, lifespan development, brain and behavior.

Education:  B.S., Syracuse University; M.S. and Ph.D., University of Rhode Island.

Main goal in teaching:  My focus is on the practical application of concepts. I cannot compete with a smart phone in terms of overall information. Consequently, my teaching objective is not just to disseminate information, which students can get from a variety of sources, but rather to assist students in applying this information in real-world situations. My assignments and in-class activities are designed to connect psychological theories to everyday life and include interviews, case studies, personal reflections and hands-on research.

Cari Paterno
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Development through the lifespan; experimental psychology; cognitive development; sensation and perception; human sexuality.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2022 (part time since 2017); previously taught as an adjunct instructor at William Rainey Harper College, Oakton Community College, and North Park University. During graduate school, Cari Paterno was a teaching assistant in multiple courses at University of California at Santa Cruz.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory psychology, lifespan development, child growth and development, adolescent development, and abnormal psychology.

Education: B.A., University of California at Santa Barbara; M.S., University of California at Santa Cruz. Certified Instructional Designer, Online Learning Consortium.

Main goal in teaching: Cari Paterno’s teaching style is fun and engaging. In every class, she fosters a student-centered environment that encourages interactive and hands-on learning. Her enthusiasm for Psychology and learning is contagious, and she communicates course material in a way students can easily comprehend. In the end, students learn to think critically, apply what they learn in the real world, and feel inspired to reach their full potential.

Matthew Rasmussen
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Cognitive psychology, perception and visual attention; biology, neuropsychology psychopharmacology; human intelligence; psychology of magic; and research methodology.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2015; previously served as an assistant professorial lecturer at St. Xavier University and a pro rata faculty member at Aurora University. As an adjunct faculty member Dr. Rasmussen has taught courses at Elmhurst University, McHenry County College, Southern New Hampshire University, and Waubonsee Community College. During graduate school Dr. Rasmussen was a teaching assistant in multiple courses at Northern Illinois University.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory psychology, abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology, lifespan development, and theories of personality.

Education: B.S., Northern Illinois University; M.A., Northern Illinois University; and Ph.D., Northern Illinois University

Main goal in teaching: Dr. Rasmussen’s main goal in teaching is to involve students in both the learning and teaching process. Classroom demonstrations, an emphasis on critical thinking, applying the material, and student led research opportunities are important aspects for students to understand the content. To assist with student understanding, Dr. Rasmussen has created a series of brief instructional videos for each chapter in all of his courses. The videos are useful in supplanting formal lecture and replacing the lecture with more time for student engagement. Dr. Rasmussen is always trying to push himself to reach as many learners as possible so they all can learn and appreciate the Psychological Sciences.

Suzanne Valentine-French
Instructor, Psychology

Specialties: Human development, social psychology and the psychology of gender.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 1997. Has also taught at colleges and universities in Canada, including St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Newfoundland, and Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Subjects taught at CLC: Introductory Psychology, Lifespan Development and Psychology of Gender.

Education:  B.A., York University-Toronto, Ontario; M.Sc., University of Calgary.

What inspires me about my field: Psychology is a dynamic discipline that advances our knowledge of the biggest mystery in life: human beings. It offers practical advice on the everyday problems we face as social beings. Everywhere one looks, you see psychology’s principles at work.