Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

Vice President for Culture and Inclusive Excellence
Profile photo of Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

As Hope College’s chief officer for culture and inclusion, Dr. Trent-Brown provides leadership for the development of an institutional vision and effective implementation strategies for inclusive excellence that champion the value and importance of a diverse and inclusive college environment. In this role, she serves on Hope College’s Administrative Council. She was appointed in 2015 as special assistant to the president for culture and inclusion, a position that was expanded and renamed in 2018.

Dr. Trent-Brown teaches courses including Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Phonetics, Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics. Hope’s 2012 graduating class honored her with the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator Award, and in 2016 the Acoustical Society of America presented her with two awards for excellence in student mentoring.

She served in a number of administrative roles since joining the Hope College faculty in 2005: as the social sciences faculty representative to the college’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, as a member of the Presidential Search Committee, and as chair of the Residential Life Committee and Campus Life Board. She previously was the adviser for Hope’s Black Student Union, and currently advises the Theta Gamma Pi Sorority.

Dr. Trent-Brown is a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and serves on the research committee of the Natural Start Alliance of the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Areas of Expertise

Cognitive and neural sciences are Dr. Trent-Brown’s specialties as an experimental psychologist. She conducts original empirical research in psycholinguistics, psychoacoustics and child development. A long-term strand of her research explores acoustic variations that may enable hearers to distinguish a speaker’s age, gender or cultural identity. Other current projects include a collaborative study of sleep patterns in preschoolers.

Her expertise in equity and inclusion in higher education, program evaluation and impact assessment dovetails with her responsibilities as chief officer for culture and inclusion.


  • Ph.D., cognitive and neural sciences, University of South Florida, 2004
  • M.A., experimental psychology, University of South Florida, 1996
  • B.A., psychology, Harvard/Radcliffe University, 1990

Selected Honors and Awards

  • Elected as National Councilor, Social Sciences Division, Council on Undergraduate Research, 2018
  • Appointed to the John H. and Jeanne M. Jacobsen Associate Professor of Psychology endowed chair, Hope College, 2015
  • Psi Chi Regional Research Award, Midwestern Psychological Association, 2015
  • Wye Faculty Fellow, The Aspen Institute, 2014
  • Faculty Merit Award, Hope College, 2014
  • Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award, Hope College, 2012

Selected Grants

  • “Acoustic Specification of American English Vowels of American English Vowels Across Age, Gender and Ethnicity,” Hope College Jacob E. Nyenhuis Faculty Development Grant, 2018
  • “Evaluation of Sleep Quantity and Quality on Behavioral Measures in Preschoolers” (with Dr. Andrew Gall), Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood Grant, 2018
  • “Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway Preschool Nature Enrichment Program,” Kellogg Foundation, 2015, 2016
  • “Faculty and Staff Diversification in Higher Education,” Great Lakes Colleges Association grant, 2012
  • “Evaluation of the Healthy Beginnings–Ready for School Access to Healthcare Pilot Project,” Hope College–Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Development Grant, 2011

Selected Publications

  • “Voice Quality: Speaker Identification across Age, Gender, and Ethnicity,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2018
  • “Perceptual Differentiation of African American and European American Children: Accuracy, Confidence, and Reaction Time,” with student researchers, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2016
  • “Acoustic Variation among African American and European American Children: Age, Gender, and Ethnicity,” with Dalia Salas et al., Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2016
  • “Cultivating a Positive Collaborative Experience with Undergraduates,” with Scott VanderStoep, in Teaching Ethically: Addressing the Ethical Challenges Facing Undergraduate Teachers of Psychology, APA Books, 2012
  • “Differential Use and Benefits of PowerPoint in Upper-Level Versus Lower-Level Courses,” with Patricia Roehling, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 2011
  • “Acoustic and Perceptual Similarity of Japanese and American English Vowels,” with K. Nishi et al., Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2010

Outside of the College

Dr. Trent-Brown sings with the Holland Chorale and the Hope College Gospel Choir. She began singing in church, and while pursuing her graduate training in psychology she also enrolled in a voice performance degree program. She has continued operatic vocal training while teaching at Hope. Her stage credits include Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, and Once Upon a Mattress.

She and her husband, Michael, are the parents of Michael Jr. Together, they enjoy traveling, exploring cultural events and traditions, and picking blueberries!

Profile photo of Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown
Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

Phone Number616.395.6829

DeWitt Student Cultural Center 214 141 East 12th Street Holland, MI 49423-3605
A map showing the location for Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown DeWitt Student Cultural Center 214 141 East 12th Street Holland MI 49423-3605