Elizabeth Spievak

Elizabeth Spievak


Elizabeth Spievak, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University where she also served for over 10 years as chair of the Institutional Review Board. A degree in quantitative business analysis and an MBA in decision sciences led to an early career in business and consulting, which informs her psychological research on narrative, attention, and decision making. When she is not engaged in compliance work, teaching, or managing her undergraduate research lab, Elizabeth is typically exercising, or engaged in collaborative projects, including co-hosting The Dissidents podcast.

What is liberalism to you?

My primary concerns regarding liberal values have been focused on academic freedom and scientific inquiry, including Institutional Review Board (IRB research ethics) review.  Academic freedom has been threatened at many institutions, including my own, by leaving unchallenged the idea that being offended by an idea or perspective is a legitimate excuse for bullying and worse. Some misguided individuals and groups (perhaps well-meaning, perhaps bad actors) have been selectively interpreting Critical Social Justice ideas to dictate policy, curriculum, and to undermine basic academic standards and freedoms.  Much of the evidence offered in support of these efforts is based on investigational techniques and data that would never be accepted in any kind of scientific endeavor (or would not have been just a decade ago).  

 Some schools have chosen to endorse the Chicago Principles or have used the Kalven Report as a guideline for reminding their community that universities are places where dissent and criticism are the norm in a community of scholars. These documents have been my guideposts in thinking about liberal values.  They are not perfect, and it takes courage in today’s world to endorse the free exchange of ideas in such a broad way.  However, there is real value in reminding all higher education stakeholders that to improve the human condition—to make a real impact on social justice—productive disagreement and support for all perspectives in the pursuit of knowledge must remain robust in political storms.  

Who are you?

Though I now live in a small beach community south of Boston, I am still a Midwesterner at heart. I went to Indiana University where I completed an undergraduate degree in quantitative business analysis and operations and systems, and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for an MBA in decision sciences.  I worked in manufacturing and consulting for over 10 years (during which time I also taught business and earned a master’s degree in English at Wright State University in Dayton).  My interest in long term planning over short term profit and loss statements often put me at odds with decision makers as an employee but was of considerably more value to consulting clients.  It was the consulting work that led to my interest in psychology, and I eventually headed to the University of Louisville for a Ph.D. in Psychology.  

 I am an avid exerciser, in traditional jogging on the beach and weightlifting way, but I also enjoy open water rowing (I have rowed in the 20 mile Blackburn Challenge four times) and boxing (although only with a coach or a bag, since I’m not very good at footwork!).  When I am not working or exercising, I enjoy all things crafty, time with family, and the occasional binge watching session.

What do you do?

I am a currently professor of psychology (a canceled one, without a research lab, but still employed).  Mike Burke (my podcast co-host) and I are working on a book together.  It turns out that writing a book is really, really hard, so that is consuming most of my “spare” time.

Favorite things?

Favorite food: chocolate (dark)

Favorite place to visit: Michigan (where my parents currently live) 

Favorite TV series: Burn Notice (I’m proposing a new series called “Cancel Notice” where Michael Weston spends his time ferreting out the source of his cancellation while helping others in similar predicaments regain their reputations)

Favorite movies: John Wick series (Also ripe for a cancel-themed series)

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