College of HHD

A Thirst for Knowledge Leads the Dance

June 26, 2014

Try to imagine yourself on stage wearing a leotard and vest. Your hands are sweaty, your throat is dry and your legs feel like those of rubber chicken.  Stress sets in. Now, imagine the feelings and thoughts you’re having as you wait for the curtains to open.

“I hope I don’t freeze or, worse yet, trip and fall. I hope the audience likes my dance routine. I hope this vest is picking up the data I need to complete my research study.”  The curtains open and on stage is Cheyenne Spencer, a Kinesiology major with a 3.98 GPA.


cheyenne spencer shows off the "lifeshirt." Worn under a costume it is virtually invisible.Cheyenne Spencer is an Artistic Researcher, dancer, choreographer and the 2014 Wolfson Scholar nominee from the College of Health and Human Development.  Cheyenne, under the guidance and mentorship of professors Paula Thomson and Vicky Jaque, has spent the last three years collecting and analyzing data on the effects of stress on artists, athletes, and individuals with anxiety and stress disorders.  Using vests designed to pick up several physiological reactions; Cheyenne relates these measurements back to feelings of anxiety, on the one hand, and feelings of artistic brilliance and flow on the other.

For Cheyenne, the stage is her laboratory, a specially-designed vest is her instrumentation and the psycho-physiological responses of athletes and artists are her chaos theory.

Last year, she was featured as a dancer at the conference, On the Edge of Chaos: Finding Flow and Resilience through Creativity and the Arts, in Schoenberg Hall at UCLA’s conference on the Arts and Healing.  She also performed at Mirrors of the Mind: The Psychotherapist as Artist at the professional meeting of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association. “I was thrilled to be in this environment; the interface between the healing power that both art and science possess truly fascinates me.”

Her intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge is evident in other ways.  As part of CSUN’s Learning Habits project she meets bi-annually with the research team to share her strategies for academic success.  Interviews with academically successful students like Cheyenne are used to better understand how successful high school students maintain academic excellence while in college.

Cheyenne Spencer and dance partner Christian Viduare perform in the 2014 Spring Kinesiology dance concert, "Kinesis.".In addition to being an excellent student, a gifted choreographer and artistic researcher, Cheyenne volunteers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the acute care unit.  She assists patients who have suffered strokes or accidents that have impaired their movement and physical abilities.  Her goal is earn a professional doctorate in physical therapy and then a PhD.

All eyes are on Cheyenne Spencer, the 2014 Wolfson Scholar from the College of Health and Human Development.   Congratulations!

Dean Sylvia A. Alva