Lee Thompson, PhD

Deputy Provost for Academic Strategic Initiatives
Office of the Provost
Department of Psychological Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
Associate Director
Provost Scholars Program

Dr. Lee Anne Thompson, professor of psychological sciences and associate director of the Provost Scholars program, collaborates with leaders in the Office of the Provost and in the college and schools to develop and implement initiatives that enhance faculty and postdoc engagement and advancement, that drive student success and retention, and that improve the central operations of the Provost’s Office, such as financial and budgeting processes and strategies, human resources, and communications. 

She joined the faculty in 1987 and has held many leadership positions at the college and university level. Prior to joining the Office of the Provost, she served as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. As interim dean, Thompson led 21 departments across the college, along with major centers including the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, the Schubert Center for Child Studies, the Emerging Scholars Program, the Dittrick Medical History Center and the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center (K-12 programming).

She has also held roles including senior associate dean for faculty affairs and inaugural department chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences.

A developmental psychologist, Thompson’s research program has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2002 where she has focused on understanding how children acquire reading skills, comprehend what they read and acquire mathematical skills. She along with her colleagues and students have published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles.

As an award-winning teacher, she received the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education Award for Teaching Excellence in 2005 and received the McGraw-Hill Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminars in 2013. She has been nominated for the Bruce Jackson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring as well as for the Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.   

A strong believer in partnering with local communities, Thompson has served as a mentor in the Provost Scholars Program since 2015 and as the associate director of the program since 2019. The program is a partnership between CWRU and East Cleveland City Schools and Cleveland Metropolitan School District that provides mentoring and tutoring for middle and high school students.  

Thompson and her husband Paul Appelbaum, a retired high school physics teacher, are the proud parents of Drew (CWR ’12; GRS ‘13, Civil Engineering) and Ian (CWR ‘15, sociology). She enjoys hiking with her dogs, cycling through the Cleveland Metroparks, camping and cooking.

Research Information

Research Interests

The primary focus of Thompson's research is to explain what makes each of us unique in terms of genetic and environmental causes. Most of her work has explored the development of cognitive skills, temperament, and language from infancy through childhood using siblings, twins and genetic techniques. She is particularly interested in how the genetic code is translated into complex behavior at the level of brain function.

Thompson has two collaborative studies ongoing in her laboratory:  

  1. The first is funded through the University of Colorado and the National Institutes of Health with collaborators at The Ohio State University. The study initially explored early environmental influences on reading and math skills in twins using a longitudinal design. Now the team is focusing on the emerging adulthood period to see how cognitive skills and strategies early in life translate to academic and occupational attainment.
  2. A second area of study is focused on understanding how children acquire math anxiety with the goal of creating effective interventions and prevention strategies. 


University of Colorado, Boulder
Master of Arts
University of Colorado, Boulder
Bachelor of Arts
Psychology and Sociology
Case Western Reserve University