About Sarah

Sarah Rose Cavanagh is a psychologist, professor, and Associate Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption University, where she teaches classes on affective neuroscience and researches the intersections of emotion, motivation, and learning. 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.



Sarah researches emotion regulation and teaches courses at Assumption University on affective science, social neuroscience, and motivation.


Sarah is author of two well-received books on psychology and education and numerous essays for venues like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Literary Hub. An additional two books will hit the shelves in 2022.


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




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. Leading a narrative journey from the site of the Charlottesville riots to the boardrooms of Facebook, considering such diverse topics as zombies, cults, and honeybees, Cavanagh leaves no stone unturned in her quest to understand our contemporary challenges.


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. Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. 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.

“[Cavanagh] masterfully bridges the world between research and popular narrative nonfiction in her fascinating, beautifully written book.”

—John Warner, Chicago Tribune

Featured Essays

A Low-touch Approach to High-touch Online Teaching
The Campus | READ ESSAY

How Ghost Stories Spread in the Era of Social Media

How to Make Your Teaching More Engaging
Chronicle of Higher Education | READ ESSAY

The Confounding Relationship Between Smart Phones and Mental Health
Inside Higher Ed | READ ESSAY

“Sarah provided the keynote and follow-up workshop for our annual conference. The feedback was phenomenal. Sarah is an engaging presenter with an abundance of valuable, research-based information.”

—Dr. Lisa J. Lucas, West Chester University of PA

Speaking Availability

Sarah is available to speak and lead workshops on the following topics. Education audiences are usually solo and business/industry audiences are often co-led with product innovator Julie Sargent

Energizing Learning with the Science of Emotion

Four Pillars of Emotional Engagement

Honey Bees, Social Neuroscience, & Team Dynamics

Lessons for Building Community

Enhance, Don’t Eclipse

Developing Healthy Media Habits

Be the Spark

Performance, Presence, and Leadership
Follow Me on Twitter

Ten Tips for Teaching with Masks and Physical Distancing by @WanderinGwyneth & me via @CLTAUC (includes tips + our video conversation prepping for writing the newsletter). Invitation to add your tips, too, please!
#digped #highered #AcademicChatter

Pathways to Student Motivation: A Meta-Analysis of Antecedents of Autonomous and Controlled Motivations https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/00346543211042426

Come work w/me & my amazing colleagues on teaching initiatives! This is an educational development position w/lots of opportunity to build programming. I will be working directly w/the person in this position in our CETL. Let me know if you have ?s! https://careers.olemiss.edu/job/University-Associate-Director-of-Instructional-Support-MS-38677/786388800/

Load More...
Subscribe to my newsletter on