Hearts and Minds

Psychology professor Dr. Cheryl Grills guides students into the human mind to probe problems arising from a range of issues. Hailing from Charleston, S.C., Grills aims to bring students to the center of every conversation through collaboration and the lens of personal experience.

Grills, a trained clinical psychologist specializing in drug and alcohol studies, says it’s been the students that have kept her invested the past 31 years.

 “I have a vast spectrum of students in my classes, coming from a range of ethno cultural backgrounds,” Grills said. “Some are first generation, some come from great wealth and resources… it provides great multiple perspectives, and I’m fascinated by the different ways in which students relate to certain theories.”

For example, in Grills’ “General Psychology” class, students work on a project called “Untold Stories,” in which they develop and present a TED Talk linking a particular theory to a personal life experience.

“I’m always struck by how seriously and sincerely they take the project,” Grills said. “All of our students are incredible walking stories, and some are willing to share very painful experiences.”

Grills adds that the project is a good reflection of her teaching pedagogy, in which she has students explore a theory, dissect it from a range of perspectives and then subject it to the challenge of real-life experience.

“I want them to ask themselves, ‘Do I accept this as valid?’” said Grills.

In addition to her slate of courses, which includes “Introduction to Psychology” and “Community Psychology,” Grills also teaches a Global Immersion course on Cuba. This on-campus class culminates with a week-long trip abroad allowing students to further explore topics touched upon in the classroom. BCLA offers a range of globally imaginative immersion course options to destinations around the globe, including Greece, Ireland, China and more.

“International experiences are very, very important,” Grills said, who also founded the university’s Ghana program, one of the opportunities available through the Study Abroad office. “It’s an opportunity for a new perspective on American society through the lens of another society.”

Grills received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California at Los Angeles and completed her undergraduate training at Yale University with a double-major in psychology and African American studies. Most recently, she was the recipient of the “Drum Major for Service Award,” given by President Barack Obama, and “Honors for Excellence in Turning Research into Action” by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

As for what advice Dr. Grills has for future lions?


“Explore – act like you’re at a buffet and sample everything, see what entices your curiosity,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity at LMU. Make sure to seize the moment and make your mistakes in teachable moments.”