People

Lab Director

Kanako Taku

Kanako Taku is a Professor of Psychology who is a leading scholar on post-trauamtic growth (PTG).  As a clinical psychologist certified in Japan, she has conducted a series of cross-cultural research on the subject on how people change psychologically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually after traumatic events. Click here for her contact information, click here for resume (curriculum vitae), here for publications, and here for current research interests.

Graduate students

Whitney Dominick

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Whitney is a fifth year PhD student, with a Bachelors in Psychology from Colorado State University. She is interested in pursing the relationship between animals and PTG, particularly as it pertains to traumatized children. Her ultimate goal is to establish an animal assisted therapy program for traumatized children utilizing dolphins in the wild. Currently she is assessing the impact of various types of sea mammal interactions on children’s mental health and conservation behaviors, examining the impact of pets on PTG, running a program that teaches teen parents about PTG, and teaching a class in Positive Psychology. Whitney can be reached at wdominick@oakland.edu.

Kayla Benson

Kayla is a first year PhD student with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She became interested in PTG after doing research and working with hurricane victims from North Carolina. Her current research interests involve how communities respond to trauma and crisis, and she is excited to pursue these interests more as she begins her time at Oakland University. Kayla can be reached at kbenson@oakland.edu

Colin O’Brien

Colin is a second-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor. His long-term interests lie in clinical psychology, in which he plans to eventually obtain a PhD. He was attracted to the PTG lab because of the excellent opportunities for stimulating research that will help him work towards this goal. His master’s thesis will deal with anxiety and perceived risk of the general public in relation to mass shootings. After completing his PhD he hopes to continue working in academia, preferably as a professor. Colin can be reached at colinobrien@oakland.edu.

Kara Pado

Kara is a second-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a depth study in biomedical psychological sciences from the University of Alabama. She is interested in the relationship between PTG and the physiology of growth and looking at how the body demonstrates growth following trauma. She became interested in this correlation and how growth physically manifests, which got her interested in PTG and inspired her to want to work in the PTG lab. She hopes to be able to best understand ways to physically measure PTG and identify physical markers of what PTG can look like from a physiological standpoint, especially in the aftermath of trauma or high-stress situations, and work toward finding a way to create a best practice for physicians and medical professionals to use when treating patients following trauma. She plans to continue her education to earn an MD and become a pediatric neurologist. Kara can be reached at kapado@oakland.edu 

Joey Rhodes

Joey is a first year Master’s student with three bachelor’s degrees in philosophy, sociology, and psychology from Arizona State University. His main interest in psychology concerns examining human behavior through a social and cultural lens, especially when faced with taxing stimuli. He joined the FF-PTG Lab due to its focus on human behavior and response to extremely taxing stimuli, as well as the opportunity to develop and hone his research skills. His long-term goal is to earn a PhD in Psychology so that he can teach as a university professor while simultaneously working on research to add to the current literature in social psychology.  Joey can be reached at josephrhodes@oakland.edu

Kolton Smith

Kolton is a first year Master’s student, graduating from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with a minor in youth studies. He became interested in psychology due to his childhood fascination of the show Criminal Minds, which revealed how interesting the human mind can be. Kolton enjoys learning about psychology and how the mind works, specifically how it affects human behavior. After completing his Master’s, he plans to eventually obtain a PhD in counseling psychology. Kolton can be reached at koltonsmith@oakland.edu

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Taylor Elam

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Taylor is currently a senior at Oakland University, majoring in psychology and minoring in writing and rhetoric. She joined the lab due to her interest in social/personality psychology and wanted to learn about personality characteristics associated with PTG. During her time in the lab, Taylor plans to study various aspects of PTG, especially the emotional reactions individuals may have following trauma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for social/personality psychology to study deception detection, micro-expressions, and nonverbal communication. Taylor can be reached at telam@oakland.edu.

Kat Fraus

Kat is a senior at Oakland University majoring in psychology with a minor in Chinese language. She decided to join the lab to gain in-depth research experience, receive mentorship from other members, and investigate how children experience PTG and trauma. In the future, Kat would like to study psychoeducational approaches for dealing with trauma, specifically for children and young adolescents. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school and use what she has learned in the lab to specialize in developmental science. Kat can be reached at kfraus@oakland.edu.

Emilee Causey

Emilee is a senior at Oakland University, double majoring in psychology and sociology. She joined the lab due to her interest in positive psychology and wanted to learn how posttraumatic growth and positive psychology intertwine. Emilee plans to study various aspects of PTG, especially how overcoming trauma can lead to an overall improved wellbeing. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for counseling psychology to study techniques successful in marriage and family therapies. Emilee can be reached at emileecausey@oakland.edu.  

Emily Burley

Emily is currently a sophomore at Oakland University, double majoring in psychology and human resources management. She joined the lab due to her interest in using psychology to help others achieve a better quality of life, and hopes that learning about PTG will help her do so. Emily plans to study PTG as it relates to specific groups of people, such as grade school teachers and people who cause traumatic events by hurting others, both intentionally and unintentionally. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school and start a career in psychology. Emily can be reached at emilyburley@oakland.edu.

Victoria Kaznowski


Victoria is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Holistic Health. She joined the lab out of an interest to do research that contributes to clinical psychology. Her personal interests involve exploring how the outdoors interact therapeutically with mental health and if spending time in nature can influence PTG. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, she hopes to pursue a graduate program in counseling psychology. Victoria can be contacted at vkaznowski@oakland.edu.

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