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Principal Investigator

Kendall Cotton Bronk, Ph.D.


Kendall Cotton Bronk is an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation. She is a developmental psychologist interested in studying and promoting the positive youth development and the moral growth of young people. Most recently, she has investigated these topics through the lens of young people’s purposes in life.

Her research has explored the relationship between purpose and healthy growth, the ways young people discover purpose, and the developmental trajectory of youth with strong commitments to various purposes in life. Her work has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation.

In addition to her substantive interests, Dr. Bronk has also helped define and outline the parameters of the exemplar methodology, an approach that allows researchers to gain a view of exemplary development, which is critical for a full understanding of human development.

After graduating with a BS from Northwestern University, Bronk earned her doctorate from Stanford University and completed postdoctoral research at the Stanford Center on Adolescence. Bronk teaches master’s and doctoral classes on positive contexts, child development, adolescent development, and qualitative research methods. She also teaches a directed research course for first-year positive developmental doctoral students.

Doctoral Students

Rachel BaumsteigerRachel

Rachel Baumsteiger, M.A., is a doctoral student in the Positive Development program at Claremont Graduate University. Her primary research interest is in prosocial development among adolescents and emerging adults. She is currently working on developing  interventions to foster prosocial development and well-being. Click here to view Rachel’s CV.


Celina Benavides

Celina M. Benavides, M.A., Ed.M., is a doctoral student in positive developmental psychology at Claremont Graduate University. Her research focuses on educational outcomes and the role of schools and communities in supporting the positive development of young children and adolescents. She has a specific interest in examining the processes by which diverse individuals become engaged, factors that impede and support their learning, and mechanisms for increasing educational access across varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

She obtained a Master’s in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Masters in Education from Whittier College. Celina’s curriculum vita can be viewed here, along with links to selected publications and presentations.


Valeska X. DubonVal Picture

Valeska X. Dubon, M.A., is a doctoral student in positive developmental psychology at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests focus on prosocial behavior and positive developmental interventions. She has worked in the development of mindfulness and purpose interventions, as well as in the evaluation of after-school youth programs. To see her full CV, click here.


Brittany Hite

Brittany Hite is a current Masters student at Claremont Graduate University. She is studying Positive Developmental Psychology and Evaluation. She cares about promoting positive youth development in a variety of ways. Currently those ways are manifesting through after school program evaluations and research on purpose and motivation in adolescents. She recently presented at the Western Positive Psychology Association Conference on “Informing Research from Practice: The Importance of Facilitating Youth’s Intrinsic Motivation.” To see a copy of her full CV click here.


Susan Mangan

Susan Mangan is a current PhD student in Positive Developmental Psychology at Claremont Graduate University.  She is passionate about finding ways to promote positive development in youth and adolescents, especially through the development of positive interventions. She specializes in positive youth development (PYD), mindfulness, community engagement, and the evaluation of youth programs. Most recently, she worked on a poster accepted at this past year’s APA conference, entitled “Examining Community Engagement from Early Childhood Through Adolescence”, the link for which can be  found here.  For Susan’s full CV, click the following link: Susan Mangan CV.

James McConchie

James McConchie is a doctoral student in the Positive Developmental Psychology program at Claremont Graduate University. He is working to understand how to maximize the benefits of positive peer relationships among adolescents. He is also passionate about international work, so he is working on projects in the lab that involve understanding purpose development among youth in places such as Greece and Liberia. He is currently helping to design a website that is intended to inform the public about the concept of purpose. Click here to view his CV.

Caleb Mitchell

Caleb Mitchell is a doctoral student in the Positive Developmental Psychology program at CGU. His primary research interests are in moral development, moral emotions, the power of narratives and stories to influence thoughts, emotions, and cognition, and teaching morals through stories. His thesis aims to examine how being transported (i.e., absorbed) by a story can elicit positive emotions.


Elyse Postlewaite 

Elyse Postlewaite, Ed. M., is a doctoral student in the Positive Developmental Psychology program at Claremont Graduate University. Previously, she earned her master’s degree in education with a focus on Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her current research interests are the relationships between self-directed learning, interest, creative thinking, student responsibility, and motivation. Another research interest includes investigating the best ways to foster the 3 pillars of GoodWork, ethics, excellence, and engagement, in schools. Click here to view Elyse’s CV.


Brian Riches

Brian Riches is a doctoral student in the Positive Developmental Psychology program at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests include Heroism, Moral Development, Positive Youth Development, Altruism, Empathy, Prosocial Behavior, and other Positive Psychology topics such as Character Strengths and Mindfulness.  You can check out Brian’s work, including conference posters and CV, here.


Master’s Students

Sam Mehoke


Sam is a Master’s student in Positive Developmental Psychology and Evaluation. Sam is driven to better understand how video games and technology influence our development. His research currently focuses on how game mechanics might be utilized in the work place, and our daily lives to drive interest development, engagement, and bring playfulness into our lives so that we might reach our fullest potentials. Becoming our best selves can and should be fun! Before coming to Claremont, Sam studied abroad in Japan, and developed language learning games for his English classes in China. Sam enjoys learning new skills, social dancing, and exploring the outdoors.

Past Members

Ryan Cryan pictureheung

Ryan Cheung is an MA student in Positive Developmental Psychology & Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests include close relationships, humor, interventions, academic & career success, meaning, and purpose. He is currently carrying out a social media analysis of purpose and investigating purpose in youth from economically depressed backgrounds. For Ryan’s CV, click here.



Dustin Hunt

Dustin Hunt obtained an MA in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from Boise State University and an MA in Educational Psychology from Ball State University, studied in the Positive Development Ph.D. program at Claremont Graduate University, and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Ball State University. His research interests include how adolescents identify, pursue, and maintain a meaningful purpose in life. To that end, he is interested in exploring the role teachers can play to foster and capitalize on the academic benefits associated with students being guided by a purpose in life. He is also interested in how social entrepreneurs develop and what kinds of relationships, opportunities, and educational experiences best support their growth.


Lin Lin

Lin Lin (林霖) is a PhD student co-concentrating in positive developmental and 
organizational psychology
at Claremont Graduate University. Coming from Taiwan, Lin is interested in
identity and moral development in the cross-cultural context. Her thesis aims at understanding how adult identity and civic engagement improve youth’s well-being. Her current research focuses on positive psychological adjustment, exploring how people in different cultures conceptualize and cope with ethical dilemmas at work. She earned her MBA degree from National Taiwan University, Taiwan.


Jinghui (Elaine) Zhang

Jinghui (Elaine) Zhang 张璟慧 is a MA student in Applied Social Psychology & Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University. At the age of 16, she moved to the states alone from Shanghai, China. She has a B.A. from Smith College. Previously, she had worked at the Social Psychology Lab at Smith College, the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Social Psychology Lab at the University of British Columbia. Her primary interests are acculturation, identity development and intergroup relations. She is currently studying the positive aspects of having devients and dissents in groups. See Elaine’s CV here.

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