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Maria De La Cruz, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology
Moye Hall, Room 403 

Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Expertise

I have extensive training in all areas of psychology and education, including child development, learning, cognitive and abnormal psychology as well as biopsychology, therapeutic approaches and corresponding treatments.

My research interests include examining the mental health issues of college populations, such as mental health interventions intended to provide support for college students from traditionally marginalized groups, veterans transitioning out of the military or home from deployment, survivors of childhood trauma, substance use, and other pertinent mental health concerns of college students. I am also interested in research on brain processes related to learning, cognition, stress and aging.

Teaching Philosophy

There are some important principles that have guided my journey in education. First, a high level of rigor, precision and competence in the discipline one is teaching is essential for effective teaching; this is particularly relevant at the college level, where students obtain vital proficiencies and skills prior to engaging in career-related activities.  

Secondly, the most significant variable in teaching is the relationship between instructor and student. This is a core belief that has driven – and in many ways – shaped my journey as an educator. For successful learning to occur, there has to be positive, clear communication with students, and ongoing efforts to connect and engage with them.

In addition, learning involves more than listening to lectures; the student has to be engaged in the learning process. The more ways a learner is involved, the more effectively the information is processed and stored in memory, allowing for deeper learning.

For me, a crucial, initial step in the teaching/learning process involves a solid assessment of student strengths and needs, and an accurate, updated determination of each student's academic level. Once this is obtained, then the next step is to carefully address these differences in lesson planning and instruction. It is important to present instruction in a variety of modalities (audio, visual, kinesthetic), and using variable grouping and strategies in order to effectively target different learning styles, skills and levels.

Finally, the best way to address individual needs is to know our students well; thus, we must obtain specific knowledge of each student and their distinct ways of learning. Only then can we truly customize instruction in a way that addresses their singular needs.

It is important to note that in the teaching role, we become role models by our personal ways of learning and by our character, ethics and values. Often, I have encountered students who tell me that my striving for an education encouraged and motivated them. As an educator, I can find no greater satisfaction than to use my knowledge, skills and experiences for this purpose.

Outside Interests

I enjoy spending time with family and hosting family get-togethers and celebrations. I also love relaxing with friends and trying new restaurants and wineries. I have been an avid reader all my life and continue to enjoy reading for enrichment or just for fun. Hiking, gardening and traveling are also areas that I pursue and appreciate.

Maria De La Cruz


Certifications and Memberships

  • Licensure in School Psychology (Retired)
  • Texas Teaching Certificate K-12 Science


  • Mentor of the Year  


  • PhD - Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
  • Master's - Clinical Psychology, St. Mary's University, San Antonio
  • Bachelor of Arts - Biology and Psychology, University of Texas at Austin