Barbara Alane Kerr

Barbara Alane Kerr
  • Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology

Contact Info

Office Phone:
Department Phone:
Joseph R. Pearson Hall, room #130 Q


Barbara Kerr, Ph.D. holds an endowed chair as Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of Kansas and is an American Psychological Association Fellow. Her M.A. from the Ohio State University and her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri are both in counseling psychology. Her research has focused on the development of talent, creativity, and optimal states, while training psychologists and counselors to be talent scouts who provide positive, strengths-based services. She founded the Guidance Laboratory for Gifted and Talented at the University of Nebraska; was Associate Director of the Belin-Blank National Center for Gifted and Talented at the University of Iowa; and co-director of the National Science Foundation projects for talented at risk girls at Arizona State University. She is editor of the recent Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development, and author of Smart Girls: A New Psychology of Girls, Women, and Giftedness; A Handbook for Counseling Gifted and Talented; co-author of Smart Boys: Talent, Masculinity, and the Search for Meaning, Counseling Girls and Women and over one hundred articles, chapters, and papers in the area of giftedness, talent, and creativity. She currently directs the Counseling Laboratory for the Exploration of Optimal States (CLEOS) at the University of Kansas, a research through service program that identifies and guides creative adolescents. With Karen Multon, she has co-directed the NSF Project, Milestones and Danger Zones for STEM Women. Barbara Kerr specializes in psychology of creativity; issues of gender, privilege, and talent development; innovations in counseling and therapy Web site:


Research My research concerns the development of creative talent, particularly identification strategies and interventions to enhance academic and career engagement and persistence toward creative goals. I am interested in the intersection of abilities, personality, environment, and privilege. To that end I have validated assessments of creativity, privilege, and gender relations; developed and evaluated the impact of counseling interventions; and established and disseminated a theoretical model of creative talent development for women and for innovators in general. I try to maintain a mix of peer-reviewed articles, chapters, books, presentations, and popular articles, blogs, and videos for the broadest possible readership. One of the luxuries of my position is the opportunity to painstakingly collect data, one case at a time, over many years in order to produce a single manuscript for a journal. One of my regrets is the difficulty in attaining major funding. Although a recipient of NSF grants for many years, the NSF Gender Equity portfolio that was my major source was closed. My endowment diminished to the point where no funds are available for research. Nevertheless, I apply for funding from internal funds, NSF and private foundations several times a year, and will continue to seek all possible resources. Despite this, I am proud to have continued the CLEOS project with only small fees and a highly motivated group of student volunteers. Sometimes, in order to pursue a research goal, it is necessary to create, from the ground up, sites in which to engage in action research. One example is the co-founding, with community members, the Lawrence Creates Makerspace, with no funding except our own checks for a few months rent of a warehouse. I was able to observe and study, from its inception, the development of a creative community of 70 engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs. After just two years, it reached financial sustainability based on small membership fees and events, and was named by Make magazine "one of the 25 most interesting Makerspaces in the world." Two students are pursuing doctoral dissertations on the development of Makers, and we have already published our first article in an international journal. I write blogs on creativity to 2200 followers and sites including Scientific American, Creativity Post, and EdWeek. My colleague Yong Zhou has been a stimulus to new directions for me in investigating creativity in education, and we have formed a new Center for Creativity and Entrepreneurship in Education. Finally, although business is not in my bones, I am pursuing the validation and commercialization of manuals, hardware, and software I developed with electronics and tech experts at the Makerspace for the visualization of creative "flow states" using hacked commercial grade EEG equipment.

Research interests:

  • Gender, Creativity, Career Development


When I was hired as a Distinguished Professor, the Chancellor gave me this charge: "Distinguished Professors achieve international recognition in their field of research and promote interdisciplinary, broad perspectives in their teaching." In addition to this charge, I have a personal mission, and that is to identify, support, and seek a comprehensive understanding of the needs of creative young people. Teaching I teach graduate level courses in counseling psychology, ranging from introductory counseling theory courses to advanced doctoral courses in counseling theory and history and systems of psychology. I typically advise 4 masters students and 9 doctoral students. The demands of an APA approved doctoral program require that I teach mainly core courses during the academic year. In the summer, I have enjoyed the opportunity to teach Study Abroad courses. In all of my courses, I attempt to infuse an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon anthropology, history, sociology, and neuroscience, and challenge students to read the scholarly literature in these fields and apply them to the work of the counseling psychologist. In addition, the scientist-practitioner model informs all my teaching, in that I encourage my students to have a healthy skepticism for both popular psychology and the assumptions of the White, male-dominated constructions of academic psychology. My students not only learn to use the traditional, positivistic scientific methods to explore human behavior; they also learn the methods of post-modern deconstruction to analyze the texts in our fields. Every year, I plan and attend the national Wakonse Conference on College Teaching to learn new teaching methods and use the CTE conferences and resources as often as possible. From these annual renewals, I learned how to create online and hybrid classes; how to "flip" the curriculum; how to use collaborative and experiential approaches; how to introduce new technology to students; and how to establish, with the students, mutual goals, objectives, and methods of evaluation. I use a variety of self-evaluation, including a "check" at the end of each class to evaluate student learning and my teaching; mid-term evaluations; and course revision based on evaluations. My greatest regret has been the lack of opportunity to teach at KU the courses in which I'm considered a leading expert: Psychology of Creativity and Psychology of Gender. I do enjoy the opportunity to teach these courses abroad as a Visiting Scholar to Monash University in Australia and in special seminars at research centers such as the Torrance Center for Creativity. I consider my greatest accomplishment, and greatest joy, the creation with Karen Multon of the on-site, integrated training, research, and service course, Advanced Counseling Skills. Here, for the first time, our students are able to see real clients (creative adolescents, college students and adults); receive live supervision and learn how to do quantitative and qualitative research based on their experiences and the data. My goal is to continue to improve this course and seek funding for new ones. We provided live supervision for each of eleven students and two volunteers, and supervision of supervision to all the supervisors. It is a massive undertaking, equivalent to setting up a pop-up clinic every Friday, but well worth the effort. Courses taught: EPSY 580:Positive Psychology EPSY 740:Counseling and Interviewing Skills EPSY 742: Counseling Theory EPSY 842:Counseling Practicum EPSY 896: Advanced Counseling Skills EPSY 875:Multi-Cultural Counseling EPSY 948:Advanced Practicum I EPSY 966: Supervision EPSY 998:Seminar In: _____

Teaching interests:

  • Counseling Theories
  • History of Psychology
  • Creativity

Selected Publications

Kerr, B. A., Birdnow, M., Hallaert, J., Malmsten, R., Stull, O., Wright, J. D., & Claiborn, G. J. (2019). Smart Girls in the Twenty-First Century: What Educators Need to Know [Journal Articles]. Teaching for High Potential, 12, 1–17.
Kerr, B. A., & Gahm, J. (2017). Developing talents in girls and young women [Book Chapters]. In S. I. Pfeiffer, E. E. Shaunessy-Dedrick, & M. E. Foley-Nicpon (Eds.), APA handbook of giftedness and talent. American Psychological Association.
Vuyk, M. A., Kerr, B. A., & Krieshok, T. R. (2016). From overexcitabilities to openness: Informing gifted education with psychological science. [Journal Articles]. Gifted and Talented International, 31(1), 59–71.
Kerr, B. A. (2016). Resilience and Gifted Children [Journal Articles]. Teaching for High Potential, 15(11), 18–22.
Vuyk, M. A., Krieshok Thomas, & Kerr Barbara. (2016). Openness to experience rather than Overexcitabilities: Call it like it is [Journal Articles]. Gifted Child Quarterly. Published.
Bean, V., Farmer Nicole, & A, K. B. (2016). An Exploration of Women’s Engagement in Makerspaces [Journal Articles]. Gifted and Talented International, 15(1).
Kerr, B. A., Ph. D., & Wright, J. D. (2015). Neuroscience and Gender Issues in STEM Learning with High Ability Students [Book Chapters]. In M. F. Bronwyn (Ed.), STEM Learning and High Ability Students.
Kerr, B. A., & Multon, K. D. (2015). The Development of Gender Identity, Gender Roles, and Gender Relations in Gifted Students [Journal Articles]. Journal of Counseling and Development, 93(2), 183–191.
Kerr, B. A., Dixon, F., & Moon, S. (2014). Counseling High Ability Adolescents in School [Book Chapters]. In The handbook of secondary gifted education. Sourcebooks, Inc.
Kerr, B. A., & McKay, R. (2014). Smart Girls in the Twenty-First Century [Books].
Kerr, B. A. (2013). Career development for creatively gifted students -- What parents, teachers, and counselors need to know. [Book Chapters]. In In K. H. Kim, J. C. Kaufman, J.Baer, and B. Sriramen .(Eds.) Creatively Gifted Students Are Not Like Other Gifted Students: Research, Theory, and Practice. Rotterdam, Netherlands: SensePublishers, (171-186).
Kerr, B. A., Vuyk, M. A., & Rea, C. (2012). Gendered practices in the education of gifted girls and boys. [Journal Articles]. Psychology in the Schools, 49(7), 647–655.
Kerr, B. A., Multon, K., Syme, M., Fry, N., Kurpius, S., & Hammond, M. (2012). Development of the Distance From Privilege Measures A Tool for Understanding the Persistence of Talented Women in STEM. [Journal Articles]. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 30(1), 88–102.

Selected Presentations

Kerr, B. A., & Wright, J. D. (11/10/2015). Neuromythology and STEM students. National Association for Gifted Students. Phoenix
Kerr, B. A. (8/12/2015). Are Creative Families Happy Families?. American Psychological Association. Toronto
Kerr, B. A. (8/8/2015). The Counseling Laboratory for Exploration of Optimal States: Helping Creative Students to Find Invisible Career Pathways. World Conference on Giftedness, Talent, and Creativity. Odense, Denmark

Awards & Honors

School of Education Service Award
2016 - 2017
Benjamin Franklin Silver Medal for Education Book
National Independent Booksellers' Association
2015 - 2016
E. Paul Torrance Award for Creativity Research
National Association for Gifted Children
2013 - 2014
Esther Katz Rosen Award for Research on Gifted Children
American Psychological Association

Grants & Other Funded Activity

From Imagination to Invention: Female Talent Development in Scientific Innovation. National Science Foundation. $972854.00. Submitted 2/2/2015 (8/15/2015 - 8/14/2018). Federal. Status: Proposal Submitted


Service From the program level to the international level, I focus on my mission of understanding and supporting creativity. Whether serving on an SOE personnel committee or as the editor of an international journal for the World Council on Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent, I try to identify and promote innovative thinking and actions. Part of my service during the last seven years has been pro bono clinical work; therefore, I went through the considerable trials of becoming licensed in Kansas as a psychologist. As a scientist-practitioner, I try to integrate research, training, and service so that my activities form a coherent line of work, and model this for my students and young colleagues. Many of my service activities are unconventional – like organizing rural Chautauquas showcasing the talents of local farmers and their kids – but they inevitably lead to learning and creative community building for all of us I provide leadership at the national and international level to professional organizations related to giftedness and creativity, including service as Editor of Gifted and Talented International. Nationally, I provide both service and consultation to psychology organizations, universities, and schools. I create research through service laboratories to serve bright young people while learning their special needs. Finally, I have co-founded one of the nation's leading "makerspaces," a creative community of 100 members and 1500 online members who engage in invention, design, and art in a collaborative organization.