Kathryn BurlesonKathryn Burleson was introduced to the sociocultural perspective of psychology while earning her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the early 2000s. A course with Dr. Barbara Rogoff was instrumental in shifting her understanding about human behavior – from a more mainstream perspective, to placing more emphasis on the cultural context of development (a sociocultural perspective).

Through her work, she seeks to promote collaboration, social justice, and intercultural learning. Dr. Burleson believes that helping people understand themselves and others as cultural beings is a key to creating a more just society. Ultimately, a major goal is to facilitate people’s ability and willingness to engage in mutually affirming relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Since completing her doctorate, Dr. Burleson has taught Psychology for ten years at the collegiate level. She is currently a Psychology Professor at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. She is an active proponent of service learning and utilizes the pedagogy in the majority of her courses covering child, adolescent, and adult development, cultural psychology, and psychology of creativity. Her continued dedication to service learning was honored in 2011 when she was awarded the Andrew Summers Award for Faculty Leadership in Service. As the Director of General Education for Warren Wilson College, she coordinated the full revision of the general education program, championing the inclusion of “engaged citizenship” as one of the college’s three overall educational outcomes.

“In teaching and especially in guiding students through service learning experiences, I see how powerful the role of empathy is in motivating individuals to work towards social justice. With empathy, people can more deeply understand and care for one another.

So often it seems we miss the deeper understanding- because we employ sympathy (assuming others want what we want) when we should strive for empathy.

We may not be aware that too often we assume others are more similar to us than they really are.

My belief is that we are all human, all interconnected, and deserve equal levels of respect as members of humanity, AND I see people using the “all one” philosophy to whitewash diversity and assume their own worldview is generic and universal, and their paradigm is fair to judge others or make decisions that impact others; they do this all without understanding (or even hearing) another’s perspective.

 Diversity as I describe it is diversity of the mind and experiences (not diversity limited to the color of a person’s skin) and it takes time and effort to understand diverse others.”