Psychology and Neuroscience

Nicole Rivera

Associate Professor of Psychology


+1 630 637 5921

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 eight years, Nicole has served as the DuPage Children’s Museum Academic Research and Evaluation Partner.  She is 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

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.

Rivera, N. (2018). Social and emotional learning to support adolescent development in high needs schools. Success in High Needs Schools, 14(1), 49-59.

Rivera, N. & Ross Nelson, K. (2018). Caregivers’ perceptions of learning in children’s museum. Hand to Hand 32(1), 19.

Luke, J., Letourneau, S., Rivera, N., Brahms, L, & May, S. (2017). Play and children’s museums: A path forward or a point of tension? Curator, 60(1), 37-46.

Courses Taught

Educational Psychology

Child Development

Careers in Psychology

Cultural Psychology

Community Psychology