About Sarah

Sarah Rose Cavanagh is a psychologist, professor, and Senior Associate Director for Teaching and Learning at Simmons University, where she teaches classes on affective science and mental health, researches the intersections of emotion, motivation, and learning, and provides educational development for faculty. Sarah gives keynote addresses and workshops at a variety of colleges and national and international conferences, blogs for Psychology Today, and writes essays for venues like LitHub and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In her free time she enjoys devouring fiction, spending time by the sea with her canine and human daughters, and cooking up pescatarian meals for good friends.


Psychologist, Educational Developer

At Simmons University in the heart of Boston, Sarah researches emotion and learning, leads educational development opportunities in the Center for Faculty Excellence, and teaches in the Psychology department.


Sarah is author of three well-received books on applications of psychology, a textbook on Emotion and Motivation for OUP, and numerous essays for venues like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Literary Hub. 


Sarah speaks at conferences, workshops, and in-service trainings about emotions, teaching, and team dynamics.



Mind Over Monsters

An investigation into the mental health crisis affecting young adults today, and an impassioned argument for creating learning environments characterized both by compassion and challenge.

Alarming statistics in recent years indicate that mental health problems like depression and anxiety have been skyrocketing among young adults. Cavanagh brings the reader on an invigorating tour of pedagogical, neuroscientific, and psychological research on mental health—one that involves her own personal journey from panic to equilibrium.

The result of these combined sources of inquiry indicates that to support youth mental health, we must create what Cavanagh calls compassionate challengeFirst, we need to cultivate learning and living environments characterized by compassion, and then, we need to guide our youth into practices that encourage challenge, helping them face their fears in an encouraging, safe, and even playful way.


A collective consciousness in which we share consensus thoughts, emotions, and opinions; a phenomenon whereby a group of people function as if with a single mind. 

In this provocative book, Sarah Rose Cavanagh provides an overview of contemporary social neuroscience, a consideration of the degree to which the advent of smartphones and social media has amplified both the promises and perils of our hypersociality, and an appeal to attend to the collective aspects of our well-being. 


Written for educators, Spark of Learning argues that thinking strategically about emotion in the classroom can enliven the classroom experience for teachers and students alike. 

In friendly, readable prose, Sarah Rose Cavanagh argues that if you as an educator want to capture your students’ attention, harness their working memory, bolster their long-term retention, and enhance their motivation, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design.