Joe LaBrie, distinguished researcher and professor of psychology, is widely recognized in his field for his innovative ideas and mentorship. In 2021-22, he will serve as the Daum Professor in the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts.
The Daum professorship, created by a legacy received from Harry M. Daum ’38, is given annually to a tenured full professor in BCLA who has exhibited a record of excellence in teaching and advising, scholarship or creative work, as well as service and leadership to the department, college, and university.
When LaBrie first joined the Psychology Department at LMU in 2003, he never imagined that his research would garner roughly $15 million of federal grants and generate more than 180 peer-reviewed journal articles. His latest trailblazing research focusses on social media’s impact on alcohol consumption and risk-taking behavior in young adults, as well as the gamification of social norms-based alcohol interventions.
“If you gamify interventions for drinking, you can camouflage the fact that it is an intervention targeting drinking,” says LaBrie. “In doing so, young people become less defensive and more open to getting feedback on their risky behaviors.”
LaBrie attributes much of his success to his team in HeadsUp Labs and his approach to mentoring. The team consists of undergraduate research assistants, recent graduate researchers, and postdoctoral fellows who boost the lab’s work with their digital prowess and fresh ideas.
“I help prepare younger colleagues for their future careers by encouraging them to bring their ideas to the table, focusing and incorporating those ideas into the bigger picture, and getting them funded. In this way, each member of our team experiences ownership over our work,” says LaBrie. “My biggest joy is our team. They have become my extended family and we really have changed the field of college drinking prevention through innovative approaches to interventions, like our current gamifying strategies.”
One of the leading grant recipients in LMU history, LaBrie remains a dedicated professor in one of LMU’s largest and most vibrant departments. “It is energizing to be amongst incredible colleagues in the Psychology Department who pour themselves fully into supporting students, creating high-touch learning experiences, and managing their own research programs,” says LaBrie.
LaBrie has taught many students over the years, but has a particular passion for teaching first-year students as they transition into LMU and seniors as they transition into life after LMU. For example, in his first-year seminar course, LaBrie focusses on getting students engaged in how to think, learn, and research. While his capstone seminar on positive psychology provides seniors with strategies for well-being that they can carry with them into the real world. LaBrie’s open and supportive approach to teaching has made a transformative and lasting impact on his students and mentees.
LaBrie has also been an integral part of LMU’s growth serving for seven years in the President’s Office. As special assistant and chief of staff to Presidents David Burcham and Timothy Law Snyder and a member of the President’s cabinet, he helped navigate LMU’s response to the Great Recession by keeping tuition manageable and strengthening the university’s mission and social justice work. He led the efforts to found the Academy of Catholic Thought and Imagination (ACTI) and the CASA program in Argentina which he notes as a highpoint in his career. “CASA was a real exemplar of praxis-based education where learning is connected and related to the community and accompaniment of the poor,” he recalls.
Among his numerous accomplishments, LaBrie recently received a prestigious invitation from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to serve as a member of its study section advising NIH on which grants to fund. Being appointed to a NIH study section is a recognition of LaBrie’s work, as well as the quality of LMU’s research environment.
“It’s a great honor to represent LMU on this type of review panel,” says LaBrie. “I have come to see it as an advantage to have the opportunity to conduct research at a small, collaborative, and adaptive institution where partnerships, relationships, and ideas are valued. I am especially grateful for my partnerships with Lane Bove and Student Affairs colleagues and the Admissions team who have assisted this work in so many ways.”
The Daum appointment will allow LaBrie course remissions so that he can work on launching a parent-based study and gamified social norms study this Fall. Additionally, he will be working on publishing several papers from already collected data and writing a grant continuing his work examining the impacts of social media on substance use. Along with lab co-director Sarah Boyle, he will also dive into a separate project on a gamified normative intervention for lesbian-identified women, which will include publishing three papers from their pilot project and submitting a follow-up grant.
“I have spent nearly two decades at LMU and watched it transform from a best-kept secret into a university with a growing national reputation,” says LaBrie. “It is gratifying to have been a part of this transformation and to see faculty, colleagues, and students come together to accomplish big things.”