Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet

Lavern '39 and Betty DePree '41 VanKley Professor of Psychology
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Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet is the Lavern ’39 and Betty DePree ’41 VanKley Professor of Psychology and has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1997. Her teaching responsibilities have included: 

  • Introductory Psychology
  • Positive Psychology
  • Behavior Disorders
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Internships
  • Advanced Research Lab

She loves teaching and mentoring students with a vision to cultivate competence with compassion so that they are prepared for effective and faithful service and leadership in a diverse world.

Prof. Witvliet adopts a bio-psych-social-spiritual approach to study mental health, emotion and virtues (e.g., forgiveness, gratitude, hope, accountability). She has mentored students to become co-authors on a sixth of her 90 publications and half of the 150 professional conference presentations from her lab. Her research teams have won 14 Psi Chi Regional Research Awards, and several of her lab students are now psychology professors who mentor their students. 

She has been principal investigator on six external research grants from the Templeton Religion Trust, John Templeton Foundation and the Fetzer Institute. She has been a member of national, multi-year, interdisciplinary work groups on the pursuit of happiness, leading from the soul and living accountably.

Prof. Witvliet has conducted more than 150 media interviews about virtues, especially forgiveness, with her research featured in venues such as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ABC, CBS, Michigan Radio, The Science of Happiness with Public Radio International, and international newspapers. Her research is referenced in blogs and books, including The Book of Joy, co-authored by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, and The Science of the Virtues: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church by Mark McMinn. She has been interviewed for the podcasts by BioLogos and Hidden Brain.

Areas of expertise

Professor Witvliet's primary research contributions have focused on forgiveness and its emotional and physiological side effects. Her team's experiments have tested compassionate and benefit-focused reappraisal strategies that facilitate granting forgiveness.

Additionally, Professor Witvliet has conducted research in trauma, mental health, emotion and psychophysiology. Her lab also studies forgiveness, repentance, self-forgiveness, empathy, gratitude, humility, hope and accountability.


Prof. Witvliet was awarded the Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University in 1997. After training as a scientist-practitioner, Prof. Witvliet completed her American Psychological Association predoctoral internship at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center affiliated with Duke University, focusing on trauma and associated disorders, neuropsychological assessment, behavioral medicine, inpatient and outpatient care. 

Honors, grants and awards

  • Midwestern Psychological Association Fellow, 2021
  • John H. and Jeanne M. Jacobson endowed professor, 2011–2015
  • Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award, 2008
  • Towsley Research Scholar Award, 2000–2004
  • Fourteen Psi Chi Regional Research Awards won by student researchers working in Professor Witvliet's lab

Professor Witvliet has involved students in all of her external grant-funded research from:

  • Templeton Religion Trust
  • John Templeton Foundation
  • Fetzer Institute
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Selected publications 

Outside the college

Professor Witvliet enjoys connecting with people as they discern their vocations — the ways in which they can use their God-given gifts and opportunities to meet real needs in this world. Witvliet’s own multi-faceted sense of vocation includes co-parenting four children with her husband, John. They love cross-country meets and concerts.

Profile photo of Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet
Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet

Phone Number616.395.7167

A. Paul Schaap Science Center 1170 35 East 12th Street Holland, MI 49423-3605
A map showing the location for Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet A. Paul Schaap Science Center 1170 35 East 12th Street Holland MI 49423-3605