Lakehead outlines ‘great year’ in annual report
Beth Visser wants to find out what makes some people commit unspeakable acts.
During Lakehead University’s annual report to the community Friday at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club, the psychology professor with the interdisciplinary studies department at the Orillia campus discussed her hopes of determining what makes a psychopath tick and why certain victims are chosen over others.
“I don’t get when people just don’t care about others,” Visser said while speaking during the talk-show-format event hosted by campus principal Dean Jobin-Bevans that also featured Lakehead alumna Kaitlyn Watson.
Visser collaborates with student researchers and colleagues from other institutions to understand the dark side of human nature relating to Machiavellian tendencies, narcissism and psychopathy.
Earlier this year, she and two coauthors published an article titled “Is Hillary dishonest and Donald narcissistic?” In it, they explored the personality traits of the 2016 United States presidential candidates’ public personas.
“I can’t imagine not caring or empathizing or feeling for others,” said Visser, who pointed out serial killer Ted Bundy noted he could spot a victim by the toss of a shoulder.
“I want to find out if that’s true. We’re looking at what constitutes vulnerability. We’re going into prisons to work with psychopaths. We’re looking at their characteristics and traits.”
While Visser originally set out to study why some people cheat and are often deceptive, she said another colleague helped foster a greater interest in exploring the world of criminality, with Jobin-Bevans quipping: “That sounds like a great friend to have.”
Lakehead board of governors chair David Tamblyn opened the event with greetings and a weatherrelated joke.
“It’s not very often that our Orillia campus looks more wintry than our Thunder Bay campus,” he said.
The annual offering gives the school a chance to outline the past year’s highlights as well as provide direction to community members about where they’re headed in the future.
“We’ve had a great year,” Lakehead president and vice-chancellor Brian Stevenson said, noting the university continues to make inroads in Orillia and represents an annual economic impact on the local GDP of $122.7 million. “We’re Canada’s No. 1 research university in our category for the third year in a row. It’s a major accomplishment.”
As well, Stevenson said, the local campus has continued to attract more international students over the past seven-anda-half years, from fewer than 100 then to more than 1,000 now.
“What a great gift to be here in this beautiful campus and wonderful community,” he said, adding the Huffington Post recently sang the school’s praises when it called it one of Canada’s best-kept secrets.
“The year ahead is looking really great. This is your university; be very proud of it.”
Kaitlyn Watson, Brian Stevenson, Beth Visser and Dean Jobin-Bevans celebrated Lakehead University's accomplishments during an event at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club.