Assistant Professor of Psychology
B.S., University of Mary Washington; M.A. and Ph.D., University of California, Riverside


Katherine Nelson has taught at Sewanee since 2015. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Mary Washington and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Personality and Social Psychology from the University of California, Riverside.

 Her work focuses on how people can achieve happy and fulfilling lives, with a specific focus on family life. For example, she has investigated the many demographic (e.g., age, gender) and psychological (e.g., parent personality, social support, child temperament) predictors of parent’s happiness and well-being. In addition, her research examines how the thoughts and behaviors practiced by naturally happy people—for example, expressing gratitude or practicing acts of kindness—can be nurtured, acquired, or directly taught. Specifically, she has explored individual differences (e.g., meaning in life) and mechanisms (e.g., positive emotions) underlying the efficacy of simple behaviors, or “positive activities” to boost well-being.

 Dr. Nelson enjoys engaging students’ research interests and invites student collaborators with interests in personality, health, and well-being. For more information about her research and information on joining her lab, please visit

Courses offered

101 Principles of Psychology
201 Psychology of Personality
227 Health Psychology
415 Relationships and Health