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Faculty Spotlight - Amanda Dunn

Between teaching Psychology at Aims, running a private therapy practice, and being a new mom, it's hard to believe Amanda Dunn has time for anything else – much less powerlifting! This professor is one reason why Aims has such an inspiring community of instructors. 

Photo of Amanda Dunn.

Psychology professor Amanda Dunn started out her own higher education journey with the intention of becoming a doctor. But, like many psychology majors, she discovered in pre-med that she didn’t want to deal with blood every day. She was still fascinated with the body, in particular the brain and nervous system, which she learned about in an undergrad anatomy class. Her growing interest in mind-body interactions informed her decision to pursue a graduate degree in health psychology, which is the study of psychological and behavioral processes in health, illness, and healthcare. It aims to understand how psychological, behavioral, and cultural factors contribute to health and illness.

Amanda has always known on some level she also wanted to teach, and that became clear in grad school when she taught courses as part of her graduate assistantship and loved it. Of course, teaching to more than one hundred students at a time in huge lecture halls was very different from the small classroom experience that she enjoys here at Aims, where she can get to know students individually and have a meaningful impact on their education and life. 

She finds teaching overlaps with her other work outside of the classroom for a mental health-related nonprofit and in private practice as a trauma therapist. As a therapist, Amanda works with individuals who have lived through a wide range of traumatic experiences, whether a single event or those suffering from chronic PTSD due to multiple life events. She finds her knowledge of the brain and nervous system is applicable in all of her roles, helping to normalize the way they interact and react to external and internal situations. With this knowledge, she’s able to offer tools to help relieve the shame many people feel because they don’t understand this very normal thing that is happening inside of them. 

When she’s not working in one of these roles, Amanda loves to read. With the fall semester recently starting, she’s of course deep into books about teaching, including Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning by James M. Lang and Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C Brown, Mark A. McDaniel, Henry L. Roediger III. She also loves to read fiction by Stephen King and most recently read the novel, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill who happens to be Stephen’s son. 

In addition to reading, Amanda loves to hike and also holds state and national powerlifting records for squat and overall lifting. She first fell in love with powerlifting when invited to try it with her sister in 2018. A swimmer and diver in high school, she regularly lifted weights during her dryland workouts and found she had an aptitude for powerlifting. Amanda now lifts with the Natural Athlete Strength Association, which is dedicated to maintaining the rules and stability of organized powerlifting under a true drug-free environment while providing lifters of all ages and experience levels the opportunity to lift competitively at the state and national levels.

Amanda is also a lifelong Coloradan who has always enjoyed hiking the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. She’ll tell you she’s not interested in how fast she can summit because she’s too busy savoring every beautiful wildflower, water crossing, geologic formation, and tree along every trail. When the world came to a stop at the beginning of the pandemic, she and her brother spent the next couple of years crossing off every new trail that promised spectacular views and gorgeous details on their twice-weekly hikes. 

These days Amanda doesn’t make it into the mountains quite as often because when she’s not teaching or working with her therapy patients, she’s spending time with her six-month-old daughter, who will surely benefit from the passion, dedication, and knowledge that her mother brings to all aspects of her life.