Mona Sue Weissmark was born in Vineland, New
Jersey. She received her bachelor’s degree at McGill University and she
received her doctorate degree at the University of Pennsylvania. After
earning her doctorate degree, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and
completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychology
at Harvard University. Subsequently, Weissmark was a lecturer on the
faculty of the Harvard University Medical School where she taught graduate
courses on research methods.
During the years she taught at Harvard,
she received letters of commendation from the dean for her distinguished
teaching performance. Weissmark also spent a year at the University of
Connecticut in Storrs as a visiting assistant professor. Weissmark moved to Chicago and joined the
faculty at Roosevelt University as a tenured associate professor of psychology and she also joined the Department of Psychology at Northwestern
University as a visiting scholar.
In 2004 Weissmark joined Northwestern
University as a visiting associate professor of psychology, and has remained on
faculty in the Department of Psychology. At Northwestern, Weissmark teaches the
undergraduate course, “Psychology of Diversity” and conducts research on the
psychology of justice and on the links between memory transmission, transformation and politcial processes.
Weissmark is a clinical and social
psychologist. Much of her initial research in graduate school was in clinical
psychology. She published numerous journal articles on the mechanisms of
psychotherapy. One outlined a theory of how therapists think in action. Another
explored the linkages between theory and practice.
But starting in her postdoctoral fellowship at
Harvard, she cultivated an interest in studying the empirical predictors of
psychotherapy effectiveness. Brendan Maher, then the chair of psychology at
Harvard University, met with Weissmark every week for 18 months to develop the
study's design and methodology. Subsequently, Weissmark headed the Harvard
Psychotherapy Research Project. Weissmark wrote Doing Psychotherapy
Effectively published by the University of Chicago Press. The book was a
summary of her empirical research on how therapy works. It presented a tool for
measuring therapeutic effectiveness and understanding human transformation.
Weissmark’s postgraduate training in Harvard’s Psychology Department also piqued a long
sustained interest in the psychology of justice, and this topic eventually took
over her research activities. For the past fifteen years her research has
focused on the relational impact of injustice.
Weissmark’s parents were Holocaust survivors, and her own life experiences and professional
choices have been indelibly marked by that legacy. Weissmark hypothesized that, while legal
systems offered a structured means for redressing injustice, they have rarely
addressed the emotional pain, which, left unresolved, is then passed along to
the next generation – leading to entrenched group tension and conflict. To test this hypothesis, Weissmark pioneered a
first-of-its kind social experiment. She set up meetings between children of
Holocaust survivors and children of Nazis.
Several years later, Weissmark
organized another notable meeting between descendants of African American slaves
and slave-owners. These face-to-face meetings were videotaped
and later transcribed. Weissmark wrote several papers that analyzed the
discussions between the children of Holocaust survivors and children of Nazis
using the statistical method of lag sequential analysis. The findings documented
the way in which a past injustice impacts relational communication, which in
turn fosters group tension and conflict. Weissmark's love for research and teaching is balanced by two other deep concerns, for
generating knowledge through real-world research, and for giving something back
to society by doing research that is easily appreciated by the public.
1995 Weissmark wrote a proposal to establish an Institute for Social Justice. In 1999 a generous gift was received to
establish the Institute for Social Justice. As founder and director of the
Institute, Weissmark has overseen a comprehensive academic planning process to
guide a professional program for social justice studies. She worked to develop
an integrated program of curriculum, research, and training focused on social
justice. She also worked to strengthen the administrative and financial base of
the Institute for Social Justice (proposal).
In 2004 Weissmark wrote Justice Matters:
Legacies of the Holocaust an World War II published by Oxford University
Press. Justice Matters presented the culmination of her theoretical and
empirical work on the psychology of justice. The book presented a new framework for
understanding how emotions and cognitions follow perception of an injustice. It
illustrated how the psychology of hatred and ethnic resentment is passed from
generation to generation. And it provided insights into the aftermath of
ethnic and religious conflicts around the world, from Rwanda to the Balkans,
from Northern Ireland to the Middle East.
Weissmark’s distinguished research has received wide critical acclaim. Besides the national
and international magazine publications in which her work featured, including Psychology Today, Ms., Harvard Magazine, Jerusalem Report,
the Jewish Federation News, She Magazine, and the Chrismon
Magazine, her work received coverage in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Guardian. Weissmark’s work was also featured on many radio and TV shows, including National Public
Radio’s All things Considered, the BBC, the CBS Sunday Morning News,
and NBC Dateline. Most recently Weissmark’s book Justice
Matter was made into a documentary television film that aired nationwide on
WDR German television. The film Seeing the Other Side -- 60 years after
Buchenwald was produced by Johanna Holzhauer of WDR German Television. The
film has been distributed to schools and churches throughout Germany.
Weissmark lives in Evanston, IL with her
husband, Daniel Giacomo, a Northwestern University psychiatrist. They have an eleven-year-old daughter.