Lee Thompson, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has a long history at Case Western Reserve University, starting as an undergraduate student.
“I’ve been in just about every role you can be,” she said. “A student, faculty member and the parent of students.”
After graduating in 1982 with a double major in sociology and psychology, she earned her master’s and PhD in Colorado. Shortly after, she found her way back to Cleveland, becoming a member of the faculty at CWRU in 1987 and eventually both of her sons, Drew Appelbaum (CSE ’12, ’13) and Ian Appelbaum (CWR ’15), graduated with degrees from CWRU.
“In my last year as an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to come back,” Thompson said. “I had other opportunities, but I knew I’d be happier here because of the people—the faculty, students and staff.”
Thompson’s research focuses on developmental psychology and she has conducted many studies to advance the field. Since 2002, she and research partners from Penn State University have been conducting a longitudinal twin study. The team has followed the same sets of twins, who are now adults, through many phases of development, from acquiring reading and math skills in early childhood to present day developmental challenges, including career and relationship goals impacted by COVID-19.
In addition to extensive research and teaching, Thompson has been involved in leadership positions and committees across campus. She served as the co-director of SAGES alongside Peter Whiting and sat as the chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences for seven years. Now, Thompson is the associate director of the Provost’s Scholar Program, where she served as a mentor from its launch in 2013, and has been an associate dean in the College since early 2020.
Thompson also serves as senior associate dean for faculty affairs where she focuses on faculty and department chair development. Her goal is to help advance faculty research and teaching to garner national and international recognition by providing support that will save them time and energy.
“We have fantastic faculty,” she said. “So, let’s do whatever we can to let them shine. That’s my philosophy.”
Get to know Lee Thompson more through her responses to the following questions.
What’s your favorite thing about Cleveland?
Cleveland is my hometown. You have this urban environment that is only getting better, where there is always something new and exciting happening. But, in minutes you can be out in a Metropark, a national park or in a rural area. I’m really an outdoors person—a cyclist and nordic walker—so I love the Emerald Necklace and taking advantage of the outdoor options. Recently, we rode from Valley View to Edgewater and made it all the way through for the first time since the Towpath was finished.
Also, I love Mitchell’s Ice Cream. My students know this because I use any excuse to take them. My favorite flavor is key lime pie.
What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
I like anything that is old. My house was built in 1883. I like looking for antiques and reading historical fiction. I’m intrigued by the history of this area. I love that my faculty office is in Mather Memorial, which was built in 1905 and still possesses the architectural charm from that era.
I like to cook and experiment with many different foods. I grew up eating Japanese food since my mother was from Japan and I actually have more family in Japan than anywhere else. I love Asian food and recently made Singapore noodles for the first time.
I also have two labrador retrievers and take them everywhere with me.
What’s the last book you read?
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. A true story about an attorney who founded the Equal Justice Initiative and defends wrongly condemned prison inmates and those who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Are you a morning person or night person?
I’m a morning person. Rain or shine I’m out walking my dogs by 5:30 a.m. and then I sit down and turn on my computer.