Emily Griese ’08
Director of population health, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Emily Griese

Cognitive development

Emily began her college career at Northwestern with little knowledge of what opportunities were possible with a psychology degree. During her time in the psychology program, she fell in love with research and wanted to pursue a research-focused career. With this new realization—and strong encouragement from her professors—Emily went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She now leads an integrated approach to Sanford's population health initiatives, one that involves finances, research, data and analytics, policy, and health services delivery. She also serves as an assistant scientist with Sanford Research and as an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota's Sanford School of Medicine.

Why did you want to study psychology?

I was initially drawn to psychology because I was fascinated with why people behave the way they do. After nine years studying psychology, I am still fascinated by it. I love that my job allows me the freedom to ask hard questions and to explore them by working with people and hopefully making a difference along the way. As faculty at Sanford, I identify new areas of research, apply for funding, lead current research studies and disseminate my findings. In a normal day, I work with statisticians, physicians, educators and lawyers, just to name a few. There is never a dull moment!

What areas of psychology interest you most?

My dissertation examined pro-social behaviors as a protective factor for bullied youth. I chose this area for several reasons. I had been working with peer-victimized children since I started graduate school, and I was discouraged by bullying prevention programs that focused almost exclusively on stopping bullying but rarely focused on encouraging positive behaviors as a replacement. I have always been interested in pro-social development and felt it should be a vital part of bullying prevention programs, although there was little supporting research out there. It is exciting to see the impact my research could have for future bullying prevention programs.

How has Northwestern prepared you for life after college?

My time at Northwestern was integral in making me the person I am now. When I was at NWC I was pushed in my classes, in chapel and by my classmates to get outside of my comfort zone and to think in ways I had never thought before.

What did you appreciate about attending NWC?

I think what I appreciated most was all of the opportunities. From my first day on campus, I was able to get involved in various leadership positions. I was excited about my field of study and the professors I worked with over the next four years. Throughout my time in college, I was encouraged to take chances and apply for internships and opportunities I would have never thought possible.

What’s your favorite memory from NWC?

I look back and there are so many things I loved—chapel, conversations in the caf’, late-night conversations on 3rd North Steggy, my psych classes, Spring Service Partnerships, and many more. Some of my favorite memories were being part of the psych department—our conference trips and our holiday or “just because” parties were priceless.