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Pullups for philanthropy

Psychology faculty, staff take different approach to raising money for student scholarships


Faculty, staff, students —and even children — from the ASU Department of Psychology perform pullups to fundraise for student scholarships.

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March 16, 2021

This year, the Arizona State University Department of Psychology is getting creative with their participation in Sun Devil Giving Day.

The department is working to raise funds for student scholarships and opportunities through the Undergraduate Scholarship Fund and Psychology Innovation Fund. But instead of just asking for contributions, faculty and staff are participating in a pullup challenge.

The challenge was the idea of David Lundberg-Kenrick, media outreach specialist and program manager of the Psych For Life initiative. Through Sun Devil Giving Day on March 18, Lundberg-Kenrick promised to donate 50 cents per completed pullup for whoever did the most pullups in the department. Pullups are considered an exercise that builds a foundation of core strength, much like scholarships do in supporting students in need.

Word spread quickly, and psychology faculty, graduate students and staff members began logging their pullup totals and sharing videos of their feats of strength, all in the pursuit of increasing student scholarship funds. To date over 1,000 pullups have been logged.

“Never in my dreams did I expect so many pullups to be logged in response to my email. Supporting our students is so important to us in every initiative that we take on as a department that we thought this was a nice metaphor to physically raise funds for the students who are working so hard,” Lundberg-Kenrick said. “This is an important cause, and because of the pandemic, students need our help now more than ever.”

Michael Barlev, an assistant research professor, is the current leader in the competition and credits his strong showing to his rock climbing background. Barlev’s research focus is in social and evolutionary psychology and centers on cognition and culture and social decision-making.

“I really like Dave,” Barlev said. “But I’m going to bankrupt him. Joking aside, our department is a psychology family and we are here to support our students who are in financial need.”

Erika Pages, a graduate student who works with Michelle (Lani) Shiota, also joined the competition and added her pullups to the total. Adam Cohen, professor of psychology also recruited his young son to join him in the fundraising endeavor.

“Our department’s ability to advance exciting new initiatives, financially support our students’ achievements, and expand opportunities to underserved communities requires everyone to pitch in — from inside the department and from outside the university," said Steven Neuberg, department chair and Foundation Professor of psychology. "Our faculty, staff, students and alumni supporters continue to invest greatly in our mission, and I’m proud of how many of us have dedicated even more energy, even more thoughtful problem-solving, and even more dollars to advance our missions during these challenging times.”

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