Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost; Professor of Psychology
Beth Pontari was named Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost on July 1, 2022, after serving as Associate Provost for Engaged Learning for five years. In her first year as Interim Provost, she co-led the campus-wide university strategic planning efforts with Connie Carson, Vice President of Student Life and she led the search for a Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence. She also re-envisioned how certain units in Academic Affairs interact with one another to increase their impact (i.e., The Institutes, Corporate and Professional Development, Graduate Studies, and Grants).
As associate provost, she helped to launch The Furman Advantage and was responsible for promoting Furman’s academic vision to internal and external audiences and for tracking and assessing its progress, including by facilitating Furman’s partnership with Gallup.
In 2018, Pontari chaired the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Steering Committee for Furman’s re- accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The QEP, “Engaged Learning for Every Student: Delivering The Furman Advantage through Access, Opportunities, and Impact,” focused on identifying and removing barriers for students to participate in engaged learning.
Beth has served on Furman’s faculty in the psychology department since 2001 and chaired that department for four years. She was Furman’s lead researcher and steering committee member for The Duke Endowment’s $3.4 million Resiliency Grant for a project that examined college student resiliency.
She received her Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the University of Florida and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Colgate University. As a social psychologist, her research focuses on self-presentation - the process of conveying identities and images to others. She investigates how and why people are more or less successful at managing their social interactions. She has recently published articles with her colleagues about Furman’s award-winning undergraduate research program, as well as the positive effects of a free college personal finance seminar.
- Ph.D., University of Florida
- M.S., University of Florida
- B.A., Colgate University
As a social psychologist, I study the intersection between public and private views of self, namely self-presentation and impression management - or the process of conveying identities and images to others. Broadly, I seek to understand what makes people more or less successful at managing their social interactions.
For example, I am interested in how close others help or hinder people in social life. With a close friend present, do we perform better in important social situations? Do close others allay our social fears or worsen them? I've examined how friends and partners may help each other come across well to others by strategically altering the way they describe each other to important audiences and I have applied these findings to better understand those who find social life intimidating – the socially anxious. Friends’ support may be crucial for socially anxious people to enter into and navigate social life.
I have also examined how people deal with social situations in which they interact with several people simultaneously who have different preferences for or expectations of them. Called the "Multiple Audience Problem," despite being something people often encounter, the literature has not addressed how people manage such situations. Therefore, my lab explores the strategies people use when faced with the MAP.
Many of my thesis students have explored research questions related to self-presentation that go beyond my specific research areas. For example, students have explored how people manage impressions of being “green” or sustainable, how nonverbal mimicking behaviors relate to self-presentation, and if people form negative impressions of people with diabetes.
As I have taken on administrative roles, my scholarship has focused on issues facing higher education, such as how universities ensure equity in and access to high-impact experiences, how colleges define and build student resiliency, and how institutions articulate and measure the value of a college education. A recent example of a conference presentation with collaborators includes, “Assessing the Value of a Liberal Arts Education: A Multi-Method, Multi-Stakeholder Approach.”
- Pontari, B.A., Ching, E.K., Klonis, S., & Boyd, D. (2021). Leveling up an award-winning undergraduate research program: A Case study from Furman University. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 21, 57-71.
- Handy, J. Pontari, B., Smythe, T. & Summers, S. (2021). Improving collegiate financial literacy via financial education seminars. Financial Services Review, 29, 315-341.
- Hoyle, R. H., Weeks, M. S., & the Student Resilience and Well-Being Project Research Group* (2021). The Student Resilience and Well-Being Project: Opportunities, challenges, and lessons learned. International Journal of Community Well-Being, 4(4), 669-690.
- Weeks, M. S., Zeveney, A. S., & the Student Resilience and Well-Being Project Research Group* (2021). Changes in depressive symptoms in response to a significant stressor in college. International Journal of Community Well-Being, 4(4), 525-547. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42413-021-00129-3
- *SRWBP Research Group members in addition to Weeks: Asher, S. R., Blomquist, K. K., Hoyle, R. H., Leary, M. R., Pontari, B. A., Stetler, C. A., Strauman, T. J., Stutts, L. A., & Terrell, D. F.
- Underwood, R., Smythe, T., Pontari, B., & *Hastings, S. (2015). Advertising appeals across varying economic and regulatory conditions: A longitudinal content analysis in the mutual fund industry. Journal of Financial Services Marketing, 20, 3, 162-175.
- Pontari, B.A., & *Glenn, E.J. (2012). Engaging in less protective self-presentation: The effects of a friend’s presence on the socially anxious. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34, 516-526.
- Pontari, B. A., Stanaland, A. J.S., & Smythe, T. (2009). Regulating information disclosure in mutual fund advertising in the United Stats: Will consumers utilize cost information? Journal of Consumer Policy, 32, 333-351.
- Pontari, B. A. (2009). Appearing socially competent: The effects of a friend’s presence on the socially anxious. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 283-294.