Leslie Berntsen

Leslie is a fourth-year Ph.D. student studying Brain & Cognitive Science in the Department of Psychology, a Provost’s Mentored Teaching Fellow, and the chair of the TA Fellows program. Broadly, she is interested in how biological and social factors interact to yield deficits in empathic responding and how that knowledge can be used to understand—and ideally prevent—real-world violence.

She has served as a teaching assistant for introductory psychology classes for seven semesters, both at USC and New York University, where she earned her B.A. in Psychology with minors in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies and Anthropology. During her time at NYU, she also received training in social justice education, which has significantly informed her approach to pedagogy.

Once named “Most Likely to Color-Code Her Plans to Grassroots Resistance,” Leslie’s primary goal as an instructor is to teach her students how they can apply basic principles of psychological science to promote social justice, broadly construed. To this end, she has designed her own intensive, month-long course Psychological Science & Society for high school students admitted to USC Summer Programs. Leslie also serves on the program development committee for VOICE, a new Center for Women & Men peer education initiative focused on sexual and gender-based violence prevention and survivor support.

The day she figured out how to insert an animated reaction GIF into a Keynote presentation remains one of the brightest moments of her teaching career.