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"When you learn, teach, when you get, give"

-Maya Angelou


Child dressed as superhero

Origin Stories

Just like the best superheroes, each of us has a complex "origin story." In this course, students write (and re-write) their life narratives through the lens of theory and research on human development. We will use both art and science to better understand ourselves and other people. Students' primary task in this class is to integrate scientific evidence and personal narrative, so they come away with a new framework for appreciating the beautiful and complex ways in which a human life unfolds from cradle to grave.

Diverse families dancing

Child Development

How do we come to be who we are? What aspects of our “selves” were evident from earliest childhood, and what aspects emerged only later in development, and why? This course gives students a foundational understanding of how human development works, so that they have the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of children and families. Coursework focuses on practicing critical reflection, cultivating empathy, and promoting equity.

Sculpture depicting two children reaching for each other

Human Relationships Across the Life Span

Why did humans evolve to forge close relationships? How do these relationships change with development? How do early social experiences get “under the skin” to impact outcomes in adulthood? This discussion-based course gives students a lens to understand the power of social connection, so that they come away with scientific knowledge and applied skills to support positive relationships in themselves and others. 

Black mother hugging teenage son

The Psychology of Adolescents’ Close Relationships: Parents, Peers, and Partners

This course focuses on the development of three central relationships in adolescence (ages ~12 - 20): relationships with parents, friends, and romantic partners. We'll considers multiple perspectives, including the evolutionary and biological underpinnings of these ties, as well as environmental contributors at the levels of the family, society, and culture. The impact of racial-ethnic identity, gender, and SES on adolescents’ relationships are emphasized throughout the course.


What students are saying

"I had a brilliant experience; best class. Did not expect to love child psychology this much but it was very interesting and made me feel more confident as an individual by looking back at my past. I never before looked back on my past self, but with this class I learned a lot about myself as well as the developmental aspects of children. Thank you!"

"Dr. Stern did a fabulous job using multiple channels to enhance our learning of the subject. The weekly journal assignments, the discussion posts, the videos, the small group activities, etc. all acted in different ways to enhance my understanding of the topics and keep me engaged week to week."

"This has been by far one of the most positive experiences that I have had in a classroom. The class had a good work–load balance and created a non–stressful environment where I actually could learn about material and know that my grade would reflect my effort... I wish I would have had Dr. Stern as a professor my first year in undergrad. She goes out of her way to provide resources and connections to other learning opportunities and research unlike any professor I have ever had. Dr. Stern needs to be a professor in this department and keep teaching."

"Honestly Dr. Jessie truly made me feel like I'm getting my money's worth for my education. She is one of the most caring instructors I have ever had. Going into this course, I was not interested in psych in the least bit, but she's truly changed my mindset... She truly wants you to learn to apply the material, not just regurgitate it. Take ANY class with her. She is absolutely amazing."

"She was an amazing teacher. Everything she had us do and learn had evidence behind it on why it would facilitate our learning."

"All of the lectures were phenomenal. They were really well organized and contributed heavily to my learning."

"This was my absolute favorite Engagement course. It focused on the most relevant topics – mental health, effects of getting sleep, importance of forming relationships, etc. I was always captivated and never wanted to leave the class... Dr. Stern is so well spoken and provided ample opportunity to hear from the students just as much as she lectured. She is the most respectful and personable teacher I have had so far at UVA. It is so encouraging to see a strong woman in the career path as well as taking the time to teach students, and to teach them wonderfully."

"This was by far my favorite engagement [class] I have had so far. Previously I had no interest in developmental science but I could definitely see myself taking a class with Dr. Stern in the future. Truly one of my favorite professors."

"This was an amazing class, one of the best I have taken at UVA. Prof. Stern is very intentional, knowledgeable and kind. She was incredibly considerate given the circumstances [of COVID-19]. I know she wanted to see me succeed and that is life–changing."

"Wow. I don't think I've had a professor more welcoming and respectful of diversity than Dr. Stern. She always took the time to teach us important topics like racism that should be discussed. She did so without sugarcoating, but she also did so in a respectful way too... Amazing."

"As a fourth–year, Dr. Stern fostered the most inclusive environment that I have been a part of at UVA. Not only did she welcome diverse perspectives, but she made a point to include them."

"We learned a lot about the importance of context and Dr. J worked in productive and very necessary conversations about race, sexuality, and SES in her lectures. I've never seen students be so open in a class before, but she really created a safe environment that welcomed people to share their personal experiences."

"Everyone should take this course!! Even if you're not a psych major, this class has so much to offer. It was the most interesting class I took this semester, and quite possibly the most interesting class I've ever taken!"

"This course was the best class that I have taken at UVA. The content itself is something that I think every student and person should learn, and the class environment that Dr. Stern and our TA created took it to the next level. It was a very productive and supportive environment where I felt comfortable sharing my thoughts and felt valued as a person. I have never seen a professor care so much about their students or be so passionate about the subject. I hope that this class is offered again in the future for other students to learn from Dr. Stern."

"This was the best class I've taken at UVA, and Dr. Stern is the best professor I've had here as well. She made the course material applicable to real life and really sparked my passion for the subject. She is also kind and takes feedback well, overall this was the best classroom experience I've had."

"I could not imagine taking this course with another professor. Dr. Stern cares so much about her students and conveyed information in very engaging ways. Her assignments all reflected larger societal issues and required engagement to ensure that we really learned the material."

"Dr. Stern was probably one of the most kind and knowledgable professors I have ever had. In such a large class I have never felt more cared for and appreciated for my intellectual work. Her class made me excited to learn and did so while minimizing stress that comes with it. I felt like her class was a breath of fresh air. It also prepared me well for the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT which was a pleasant surprise."

"This was a great course and Dr. Stern is a phenomenal educator. She really understands the needs of students and takes them into account, which I truly appreciate because that is rare... This course really allowed me to learn the big picture topics and I think I can use this class information throughout my lifetime!"

"This was the most incredible class ever, super interesting topic. Dr. J gave us so many resources and opportunities to help us better understand the field of research and clinical psychology too! She is so incredibly smart and so well spoken I literally want to be her when I grow up. SUCH a great class and I would recommend it to everyone planning on having kids because I learned so much about not only children's actions and development but also about parenting. This was such a practical course because even though it has ended, I will take the information I learned and carry it with me throughout my life and apply it to my own family one day."

"Dr. Stern is the kindest teacher I have ever had. Her intelligence and kindness were combined in the most beautiful way and made learning with her so much more meaningful and rewarding. I salute her for creating a sense of comfort and community within our class, as many professors cannot accomplish this. I truly enjoyed learning from her and I look forward to applying the knowledge that I gained from her class this past semester."

"Dr. Jessie is amazing. I was not happy about having to take a psychology class (I hated intro to psych). Now I'm a true believer! Psychology is so cool to study. I have a new appreciation for infants, children, and their brains! I learned so much in this course and it is material I can apply to situations in real life. Great experience."

"This is one of the best classes I've taken at UVA. It reminded me why I love my major and gave me a strengthened skill set for being a better person and encouraging others to grow in the same way."

"I have never met someone with as much passion or knowledge for/of her studies. [Dr. Stern] made students just as enthusiastic about learning Child Psychology as she was. Just an amazing experience."


Each year, I offer lectures and talks, workshops and interviews for students, researchers, and educators. Topics include: child and adolescent development, parenting, morality, developmental psychopathology, environmental psychology, neuroscience, and attachment. Need a speaker? Please reach out.

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