Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
News & Events

Q&A with Visiting Scholar Stefanos Mastrotheodoros

Stefanos Mastrotheodoros is a visiting scholar from the Utrecht Centre for Child and Adolescent Studies at Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. He is spending spring 2019 working with Dr. Lauren Papp in the Center for Child and Family Well-being and the department of Human Development and Family Studies.

The SoHE connection

What attracted you to UW-Madison to work with Professor Lauren Papp?

I was attracted by the high-quality work that Professor Lauren Papp has published. I learned about Professor Papp’s studies and the field of her work by reading her published articles when doing literature searches for my papers. Then, when the opportunity to do a research visit abroad emerged, I contacted Professor Papp to ask for her availability, and here I am now.

How did you get into your field of research?

I wanted to study psychology with a vague desire to understand how the human mind works. Then, partly because of what was available to me at the time I was doing my undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Athens, and partly because I was intrigued by the longitudinal data analytic techniques and the concept of development, I ended up investigating developmental topics.

What is your educational and/or professional background?

I studied Psychology (BSc), Clinical Psychology (MSc), and Developmental Psychology (PhD) at the University of Athens, Greece. I also worked as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist, mainly conducting clinical assessments. I always found research and teaching way more attractive, which is why I decided to follow an academic career. That led me to the decision to pursue my future outside Greece, and do a second PhD in the Netherlands. My research interests revolve around adolescent development and family relationships.

What was your first visit to campus and the School of Human Ecology like?

I was definitely impressed by the magnitude of the campus and the large area it occupies! The School of Human Ecology struck me very positively due to its nice location in the campus, but also due to the nice building.

Do you have a favorite place on campus or at SoHE?

Absolutely! The track by Lake Mendota connecting the Memorial Union with Eagle Heights is an amazing getaway right next to where I work! I often go there for a hike or a run, to shake off the long hours of sitting in front of a computer.

What are you most excited about being with us?

I think the most exciting thing about being here is the weather.

Jokes aside, I am glad I am able to see how another lab and another school work. It’s good to meet new people with similar research interests but from different cultures. Was I to choose one thing to be most excited about, that would be people’s culture.

What is something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?

Difficult question! A joke comes to mind:

How many psychologists are needed to change a light bulb?
One, as long as the light bulb has really strong motivation to change.

Reflections on home

Where are you from? What is your hometown and country like?

I am Greek, but I live and work in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I grew up in Athens, Greece. Athens is a large, densely populated and noisy city, surrounded by mountains on the north and east and by the sea on the south and west. It’s a city with huge history and kind of a disoriented, messy present. It offers many things to see and experience, with amazing food, lots of monuments, places of natural beauty, and a vibrant nightlife. My guess would be that most tourists would find it tiresome after two to three days, but I love this city.

Greece is a country that packs a broad range of different landscapes in an area that’s just about four-fifths the size of Wisconsin (around 135,000 sq.km). Even though it’s mostly known for its thousands of islands and beaches, fewer people know that you can get a five-month ski season, and that for almost two months per year you can actually ski on the mountains and swim in the sea during the same day! People are generally talkative and welcoming. When two Greeks are just having a talk, they usually are loud and make moves with their hands and heads, which makes the average American observing them literally think they are fighting—but they’re not!

Utrecht is a nice, peaceful and vibrant city. Even though it has a big university, it manages to balance out the “student city” label, as it’s a hub in the center of the Netherlands. It has a traditional “old city” center with canals. The Netherlands is an unimaginably flat country, with 30 percent of its surface below sea level. The Dutch are happy, friendly, very hard-working, and yet enjoy life and achieve a work-life balance. Having reclaimed a big part of their land from the sea, it comes as no surprise that nothing is impossible for the Dutch. That’s what I admire about them.

What do you think you will you take back/what types of things do you think you’ll learn from your experiences here?

I think the most important thing is the cultural exchange, in the broad sense of the term—including working culture, people, social exchanges, etc.—both inside and also outside of the UW and the School of Human Ecology. I am also learning some new analytic techniques which will be useful in the future. Also, I think that it is wonderful getting to know how other people in a similar field but a different place of the world are working.

Do you have any hobbies or other interests?

I like jogging and mountain running. The latter is something that I can do neither here nor in the Netherlands, but I practice it during my regular visits back to Greece. I also like bouldering, and I often go to the Boulders Gym at the Capitol Square in Madison. I enjoy food a lot, and I like eating out and trying the countless local beers.

Anything else you would like to add?

I will stay in SOHE and Madison until June 14th. Until then, I will usually be at room #4135 in the Nancy Nicholas Hall. Everyone is welcome to drop by for a chat.

For more information about my research, you can visit my ResearchGate profile.