Lead Researchers


Laura Wray-Lake, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Social Welfare
University of California, Los Angeles

Why I’m Involved in This Project:
For many years, I’ve been intrigued by how people grow and change over time. My interests in positive youth development grew out of my own positive experiences in my community as a young person. Also, reading Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam in 2002 sparked a passion for learning how to foster positive community connections and engagement. My research experience with adolescent behavior, families, and the development of values sets the stage for our exciting work with the Roots project. I am excited to be working with the California schools to collect and learn from the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project data.

Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010
M.S., General-Experimental Psychology, Bucknell University, 2004
B.A., Psychology, Wake Forest University, 2002

Aaron Metzger, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Life-Span Developmental Area
West Virginia University

Why I’m Involved in This Project:
Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to live in several locations in this country including large urban areas and smaller rural towns. Across these varied contexts, I have been captivated by individuals who are dedicated to helping others and committed to the betterment of their communities. Regardless of location, engaged people share a common set of prosocial and moral beliefs, but involved individuals also possess unique skills and values which were molded by their particular developmental context. I’m excited to be a part of the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project, which will comprehensively explore the developmental origins of such civic engagement across multiple regions in the United States.

M.A., Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, University of Rochester, 2007
B.A., Hamline University, 1999

Amy Syvertsen, Ph.D.

Director, Applied Quantitative Research and Senior Research Scientist
Search Institute


Why I’m Involved in This Project:
As a parent, an educator, and a researcher, I am fascinated by the process whereby young people come to see they are part of something bigger than themselves – that there is a greater good they have some responsibility for. The pathway to social responsibility and civic participation is different for each person, each with his or her own story of the people and experiences that ignite and sustain their commitment to others and the environment. It is the telling of these stories and understanding of the underlying developmental processes that make me excited to be part of the Roots of Engaged Citizenship Project.

Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010
M.Ed., Youth and Family Education, The Pennsylvania State University, 2005
B.S., Education, North Dakota State University, 2002