Linda Caldwell and Peter Molenaar Named Distinguished Professors

Penn State has named Linda Caldwell, professor of recreation, park, and tourism management and of human development and family studies, and Peter Molenaar, professor of human development and family studies and of psychology, distinguished professors for their records of research, teaching and service. The honor—which recognizes exceptional teaching, research, creativity and service to the University community—is awarded by the Office of the President of Penn State based on the recommendations of colleagues and the dean.

Linda Caldwell

Linda Caldwell’s research primarily focuses on programs and interventions that develop youth competencies, promote healthy lifestyles and reduce risky behavior such as substance misuse and sexual risk in and through leisure. She is the co-developer of two interventions that focus on preventing adolescent risk behavior through positive use of free time – “Time Wise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time” and “HealthWise South Africa: Life Skills for Young Adults.” Her primary funding comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Although Caldwell has conducted studies in Pennsylvania, the scope of her research involves close work with international colleagues, primarily in South Africa, where she has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on funded research since 2000. Her other international efforts have included working with colleagues in Germany and Colombia to translate the TimeWise program into German and Spanish.

“Dr. Caldwell has consistently been a leader not only in the field of recreation and leisure studies but also in adolescent development and prevention science,” said Garry Chick, head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. “Her research contributions, her use of them in her teaching, and their translation into important and practically applicable programs have been extraordinary and, I believe, unmatched in the field of recreation and leisure studies. I believe that she is richly deserving of appointment as a distinguished professor.”

Caldwell has published over 100 refereed research articles and book chapters and is a co-author of the book, titled Recreation and Youth Development, which has been translated into Mandarin Chinese. She is currently the secretary of the Children and Youth Commission of the World Leisure Association, the past-president of the Academy of Leisure Sciences and an elected member of the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. In 2007, she was a recipient of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Franklin D. and Theodore Roosevelt Excellence in Recreation and Park Research Award and the Society for Prevention Research’s International Collaborative Prevention Science Award. She received the College of Health and Human Development’s Leadership in Outreach Award in 2009, and the Penn State Spirit of Internationalization Award in 2012.

Caldwell currently is serving as a guest editor for a special issue of Loisir et Société/Society & Leisure on e-leisure and has served in many editorial capacities over the years, mainly as associate editor for the Therapeutic Recreation Journal, the Journal of Leisure Research and Leisure/Loisir. She is an active reviewer for numerous leisure, prevention and developmental psychology journals.

In 2010, Caldwell was appointed to serve as Penn State’s faculty athletics representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and also selected as the inaugural director of the College of Health and Human Development Global Leadership, a post she continues to hold.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 1995, Caldwell was an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo from 1986 to 1989 and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1989 to 1993. From 1993 to 1995, she was a part-time professor at the University of Georgia while also conducting research for the USDA Forest Service.

Caldwell received a bachelor’s degree in recreation and parks in 1976 from Penn State, a master’s degree in recreation resources administration from North Carolina State University in 1982 and a Ph.D. degree in recreation from the University of Maryland in 1986.

Peter Molenaar

Peter Molenaar’s research focuses on the application of mathematical theories to solve substantive psychological issues. An important aim of the field of psychology is to describe, explain and guide processes occurring at the level of individual subjects. Molenaar has shown that the appropriate methodology required for realizing this aim has to be based on person-specific analyses of intra-individual variation; for example, time series analysis. He is applying his new person-specific methodology to a variety of psychological processes, including mother-child interaction, personality development and cognitive aging. He also is working on additional applications to individual psycho-therapeutic processes and brain imaging. A recent breakthrough concerns the development of innovative genetic time-series models to estimate subject-specific heritabilities.

In addition, Molenaar is using his person-specific methodology as a way to apply state-of-the-art engineering techniques, in particular computational control theory, to optimally guide learning and developmental processes as well as disease processes. He currently is working on applying control theory to patient-specific optimal treatment of diabetes type I and asthma patients.
Finally, Molenaar is studying additional applications of mathematical theories to solve substantive psychological issues, including the use of artificial neural networks to investigate nonlinear epigenetic processes, the use of innovative structural equation modeling techniques to analyze longitudinal data and the use of nonlinear dynamical models of developmental stage transitions.

“Through his work, Dr. Molenaar has revolutionized how people think about and approach work on human development,” said Zarit. “For the past 100 years, most developmental research has relied on comparisons between people. Dr. Molenaar has demonstrated the importance of within-person analysis, showing that individual patterns of development often differ considerably from the expectations set from traditional between-person comparisons. He also is an outstanding teacher, whose classes are filled not just with graduate students but with other faculty members who want to learn about the cutting-edge methods that he knows. He has helped build Penn State into the foremost place in the world for studying human development from a within-person perspective.” 

Molenaar is the recipient of the 2010 Aston-Gottesman award from the University of Virginia and the 2011 Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award from Penn State. He is a member of the American Psychological Society, the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the Center for Neural Engineering at Penn State University. 

Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2005, Molenaar was a professor of mathematical and developmental psychology and head of the Department of Psychological Methodology at the University of Amsterdam. He also served as head of the Department of Cognitive Developmental Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. From 1993 to 1996, he was a visiting professor at Penn State.

Molenaar earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1972, master’s degrees in mathematical psychology and psychophysiology in 1976, and a Ph.D. degree in social sciences in 1981, all from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands.

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Editors: Editors: Ro Nwranski can be reached at rxn4@psu.edu or 814-865-2156. For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.