Chris Hulleman aims to make a difference in people’s lives with his career. Hulleman designs and develops interventions in classrooms that lead teachers, students, coaches and athletes on paths to happy and healthy lives. The 1993 Central graduate is now research associate professor at the University of Virginia (UVA). Hulleman also co-coordinates the Motivation Research Institute and teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University.
“The world needs a lot of help,” Hulleman said of his current research. “I get to use what I know to help people become motivated and learn about themselves so they can enjoy what they’re doing and have a more positive outlook. These interventions are meant to help people find value, meaning and purpose in what they’re learning.”
Hulleman entered his college education in the same predicament as many 18-year-olds — unsure what he wanted his career to be. Starting with a degree in general studies from Central, Hulleman has continued to add higher degrees, prestigious awards and valuable experience to his resume.
As a junior at Central, Hulleman first realized psychology was “cool”, and he wanted to use his education to help people achieve their dreams. After graduating from Central, he first earned a graduate diploma from the University of Western Australia, then went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in experimental social and personality psychology from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 2007. In 2009, he won the Paul R. Pintrich Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Psychological Association.
At UVA, Hulleman now conducts research on education interventions grounded in theories of social and personality psychology, motivation and human development. His recent research on intervention fidelity has focused on preschool science classrooms and on the contribution of the Responsive Classroom Approach to children’s social and academic growth.
“We’re finding that these interventions are effective and we’re trying to get them in the hands of more teachers,” Hulleman says, adding that he loves what he is doing.
Hulleman admits he was not overly excited to fulfill the request of his parents, both Central alumni, to visit Central College as a teenager — but the relationships he formed right away set him on a path for intellectual growth and success. After his first meeting with Ed Willis, retired psychology professor, Hulleman was sold on going to Central.
“He didn’t try to recruit me,” Hulleman says. “He tried to get to know me. That’s what you wanted coming into college—someone to care about you.”
This May, Hulleman returned to Central as commencement speaker for the graduating class. He shared an idea from his research, which he has focused on for 15 years: mindset as GPS. Hulleman encouraged graduates to use their skills to persevere in unfamiliar situations, such as new jobs and relationships, which will enable them to enjoy life and have more success.
“I’m thankful for my Central College experience,” Hulleman says. “I know that these students have so much to take with them. I don’t want them to let obstacles hold them back.”
Hulleman says he learned how to be an intellectual and a deep thinker in his time at Central. Now, when people ask which Ivy League school he came from, Hulleman says he is proud to tell people he is from Iowa and went to Central College.
“You really can go and live your dreams and do whatever you want to do,” says Hulleman. “Central helps you figure out how to do that.”