Photo of Melissa Soenke
Associate Professor: Psychology

Contact Information


Ph.D. Social Psychology, University of Arizona, 2014
B.A. Psychology & Justice, American University, 2007


Dr. Melissa Soenke grew up on the Central Coast of California. She received her B.A. in Psychology and Justice from American University in Washington, DC and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology with a minor in Psychophysiology from University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. Prior to coming to CSUCI, Dr. Soenke spent a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Dr. Soenke’s research interests include two broad areas of focus: investigating how people use positive emotions to cope with the death of someone close, and investigating how people deal with concerns about their own death from the perspective of Terror Management Theory. Specifically, she has examined the role of guilt in people’s reluctance to use positive emotion eliciting activities to cope with the death of someone close, as well as the effectiveness of these activities at promoting subjective emotional and physiological recovery from sadness and grief. Her Terror Management research focuses primarily on issues related to religion, and how concerns about our own mortality impact our relationship to animals and nature.

Dr. Soenke enjoys teaching Social Psychology and various topics courses related to her research interests. She also enjoys mentoring students in independent research and has research assistants currently enrolled in Clinical and Social Psychological graduate programs, Masters in Social Work programs, and Medical Schools across the country.

Representative Courses Taught

  • PSY 312 Social Psychology
  • PSY 490 Topics in Psychology: Psychology of Stress & Coping
  • PSY 490 Topics in Psychology: Psychology of Terrorism
  • PSY 317 Theories of Personality
  • PSY 346 Human Motivation



Experimental Existential Psychology, Terror Management Theory, Positive Emotions, Coping with grief and sadness, Emotion Regulation, Psychophysiology

Additional Teaching and Research Information