University of Southern Indiana

Faculty Highlight - Dr. Urska Dobersek

Dr. Dobersek teaching studentsPersonal Highlights

  • Former professional and NCAA Division I tennis player and coach
  • Active runner and age-group champion
  • Fluent in Slovenian, Croatian, and English

Professional Highlights

  • Assistant Professor in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Psychology with a focus on Sport & Exercise Psychology
  • M.A. in General/Experimental Psychology
  • Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC®)
    • Consults with local athletic teams

Research Highlights

  • Authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications (papers, book chapters, abstracts)
    • 33 co-authored by students
  • Successfully secured internal and external funds to study
    • Sexual selection
    • Objectification of women
    • Diet and mental health

Professional Athlete Turned Psychologist

Urska Dobersek playing tennisUrska Dobersek’s passion for sports may know no bounds. After leaving her native Slovenia and her career in professional tennis, Urska emigrated to the United States in 2004. She was awarded an NCAA scholarship and received Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in her senior year of college. Following her successful career as a student athlete, she continued to inspire and mentor her former teammates as an NCAA coach while pursuing her M.A. in Psychology. Urska’s dedication to coaching and mentoring led to the pursuit of a Ph.D. in Sport & Exercise psychology to more fully satisfy her intellectual curiosity and desire to teach at a higher level.

As a professor, Dr. Dobersek believes that we learn best through teaching — docendo discimus. As such, her students are often engaged in constructive arguments, critical discussions, and activities that align with the University of Southern Indiana’s mission of living “wisely in a diverse and global community.”

Her research interests are a direct result of her experiences as a female athlete, including the sexual objectification of women and the relation between diet and mental health. During her career, Dr. Dobersek has mentored over 30 students in the nuances of study design, statistical analyses, manuscript publication and other forms of scientific communication (e.g. conference presentations). She was also instrumental in directing several of her students to apply for and receive USI Endeavor Awards.

To support her interdisciplinary research and provide opportunities for her students, Dr. Dobersek secures college- and university-wide internal funding and external grants. These monies allow her the freedom and resources to work closely with students and improve their writing and critical thinking skills that are essential for success after graduation. Dr. Dobersek thinks that exposing students to all phases of the research process from study design to publication improves their minds and morale and furthers USI’s goal of productively “shaping the future”.

Urska Dobersek presenting a poster at conferenceHer studies on sexual objectification and its effects on stress and psychological functioning involved over ten USI students and resulted in numerous conference presentations. On one of her externally funded projects, Dr. Dobersek led an interdisciplinary team that included internationally recognized experts on nutrition and four USI students. Their manuscript, “Meat and mental health: A systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena was recently published in the top nutrition journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Dr. Dobersek acknowledges that conducting a systematic review is a mentally demanding and time-intensive process. Yet, this kind of experience gives her undergraduate researchers an accomplishment that many graduate students have yet to achieve. She and her students will present additional findings from the review at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. in August 2020. 


Dr. Dobersek, assistant professor of psychology, joined USI’s College of Liberal Arts in the fall of 2016. She teaches Orientation to a Major in Psychology, Sport Psychology, Scientific Literacy, Research Methods and Statistics, and Tests and Measures. Dr. Dobersek is an active member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, and Society for Sport, Exercise, & Performance Psychology (APA, Div 47). She is also Certified Mental Performance Consultant® and offers performance enhancement consulting services to the greater Evansville metropolitan area.

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