Psychology and Neuroscience

Nicole R Rivera

Associate Professor of Psychology


+1 630 637 5921

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Dr. Nicole R. Rivera, holds a Masters and Doctorate in Educational Psychology along with an advanced certificate in Qualitative Research.  Prior to her work in Educational Psychology, Nicole completed course work and clinical training in music therapy.  She worked as a board certified music therapist (MT-BC) for approximately 17 years before transitioning to academia, working primarily with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

Since starting to teach at North Central College in 2008, Nicole developed a strong interest in examining how context shapes learning experiences.  This interest grew into a focus on experiences in informal learning spaces such as museums, zoos, and aquariums.  Through the Informal Learning Research Team, Nicole works with students on research and evaluation projects with various community partners.

For the past ten years, Nicole has served as the DuPage Children’s Museum Academic Research and Evaluation Partner.  She served as one of the Museum’s representatives to the Children’s Museum Research Network.  Through these relationships, Nicole and her students work on projects that explore motivation to attend informal learning institutions, perceptions of play and learning, and the role of children’s museums in their communities.


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Selected Scholarship

Rivera, N. R., & Shah, J. K. (2022). Be loud behind me, show me that you care: Conducting campus climate focus groups with undergraduates at a predominantly white institution. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 34(2), 140-155.

Luke, J. J., Brenkert, S., & Rivera, N. (2022). Preschoolers’ social emotional learning in children’s museums and community playgrounds. Journal of Early Childhood Research20(2), 229-241

Luke, J. J., Rivera, N. R., Colbert, L. A., & Scharon, C. J. (2021). The problem of play in children’s museums. International Journal of Play, 1-12. Doi: 10.1080/21594937.2021.1878773

Rivera, N., Apantenco, C., Galvan, J. & Pleas, D. (2020) Museums on the Sankofa Journey: Going Home to Learn about the Past. FWD: Museum Journal, 105-114

Johnson, L.R., Stribling, C., Rivera, N., Preissner, K. Hsu, C.P., Jones, A. & May-Schroeder, A. (2019). “Earning the Right”: Conducting community based research. Critical Questions in Education, 10(3), 161-179.

Courses Taught

Educational Psychology

Lifespan Development

Careers in Psychology & Neuroscience

Cultural Psychology

Community Psychology