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Catherine Franssen

Freaking out? Take this Class.

Dr. Catherine Franssen explores the biology of stress

Sure, college can be a stressful environment. There are papers to write, tests to take, bills to pay and meetings to make.

You can freak out about it, or, at Longwood University, you can take Dr. Catherine Franssen's "Biology of Stress" class and get a grip.

The class is an option in Longwood's general education curriculum, a core set of courses every student takes before graduation.

In the class, Dr. Franssen, a neuroscientist trained at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Irvine, explores the physiological and psychological impacts of stress on the body. Students learn how their bodies naturally react to stressful situations and what they can do maintain physical and mental wellbeing.

"Stress causes us problems with our cardiovascular, immune, digestive and other systems central to healthy lives," says Dr. Franssen. "By understanding the connections between the physical and psychological attributes of stress, students can better deal with it over the course of life, which tends to get more and more stressful!"

Dr. Franssen is advancing stress scholarship outside the classroom, too. She's researching, for example, how business people might apply the laws of neuroscience to reduce stress and improve productivity in the workplace, and she'll soon work with Longwood undergraduates to explore stress levels among students that participate in extreme sports.

But her passion is in the classroom.

"Students bring unbridled enthusiasm to the table and there are no limits or preconceived notions with them about what can or cannot be answered," says Franssen. "Even better, I'm surrounded at Longwood by other smart, capable professors who are driven to share their knowledge and pass it on to students. It's inspiring here."