After sharing recent news coverage about poverty with her colleagues, Dr. Anne Law, chair of the Department of Psychology, asked them to encourage their students to participate in the University’s annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive. Each year, the Psychology Club donates more than a handful of baskets, but this year, Law wanted to see participation from the entire department.

“Everything we do here, we try to connect back to students in the classroom. We try to remind our students that the issues of psychology are very real. Some of them learn about the impact of poverty in their classes,” she said. “I thought it would be great way to get the entire department involved.”

As an incentive, Law followed her daughter’s suggestion and promised to award homemade cookies to the top classes. Nothing could have prepared Law or her colleagues for what would happen next. A simple request became a full-fledged, friendly competition among the different classes in the department. In just one week, the students contributed enough donations to make more than 60 baskets and raised nearly $400 to go toward the purchase of turkeys and pies.

“By the time it was all said and done, we had a whole room filled with donations. The students created a little assembly line to make the baskets,” said Colleen Dillon, the department’s administrative specialist. “There really was a lot of good feeling. It was heartwarming to see all the students participate.”

The Psychology department’s impressive participation enabled Campus Life to surpass its goal of 300 baskets. Altogether, Campus Life collected 320 baskets from the entire University community – more than doubling last year’s total of 150, said David Keenan, director of Campus Life and Recreation Programs.

Other top contributors included Catholic Campus Ministry (22), Alpha Phi Omega (13), Athletics (13), Westminster Choir College of Rider University (13), University Advancement (6) and Ridge/Lake House (6). All the baskets were donated to Homefront in order to help feed hungry families in Mercer County.

Law said the enthusiasm and size of the department contributed to the success. The department is made up of 11 full-time faculty members, 18 adjuncts and 600 Psychology majors and non-majors.

“I think everybody had fun with it. By having some friendly banter back and forth among the faculty members, that was enough to bring the excitement into the classroom,” Law said. “It was a fantastic effort by all the Psychology students.”

At first, Dr. Elaine Scorpio, assistant professor of Psychology, thought her students would each bring in a can or two of food. Instead, each student came into class with a shopping bag of food.

“I found my students to be very generous,” she said. “Hopefully, when they sat down for Thanksgiving, they could feel very proud that they had helped other people to have the same dinner.”

In addition, Judy Robinson, a junior Elementary Education and Psychology dual major, brought in donated knit items, such as socks and hats, from Comfort Products, to include in each of the baskets. The Psychology Club, under the leadership of Jennifer Croghan, president, Daniela Sacchetti, vice president, and Ashley Hartman, treasurer, also made some fleece blankets.

“It definitely was a department-wide effort. I was really impressed by the number of donated baskets,” said Croghan, a senior Elementary Education and Psychology dual major. “In classes you learn to have compassion for people in all different situations. I think with the economy this year, everyone felt the need to step up and contribute to a good cause.”

Law, who wore a homemade crown by Dillon and baked nearly 800 homemade cookies, judged the competition. The department’s award winners, by category, were:


  • “Best PSY 100 Classes” Dr. Elaine Scorpio’s PSY 100 Introductory Psychology, sections C and E
  • “Best Extras with Special Consideration of Basket Decoration” Dr. Mike Carlin’s Psychology 237 Cognitive Disabilities, section
  • “Biggest Pile of Food (but who could really tell??)” Dr. Stephanie Golski’s Psychology 255 Biopsychology, section C
  • “100 Percent Participation” Dr. Alison Thomas-Cottingham’s Psychology 201 Statistics; Dr. Helen Sullivan’s Psychology 312 Bio-Behavioral Modification

Keenan said there were a number of community members who helped deliver all of the Thanksgiving baskets to Homefront, including Matt Curio, graduate assistant for Recreation Programs, members of the baseball and wrestling teams, and Facilities Management staff members Joseph Gordon, David Kubitsky and Karen March.

The Department of Psychology plans to hold another basket collection in February as part of a Valentine’s Day project.

“There are a lot of basket drives held during this time of year, but there are a lot of times that those pantry shelves are empty,” Dillon said.

Law said she would encourage a friendly challenge across various University departments for the February drive, though she hasn’t disclosed plans for another bakeoff.