Matt Bellace, Ph.D., has been a youth motivational speaker and stand-up comedian since 1995. Dr. Bellace has a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology (the study of the brain and behavior), is a member of the National Speakers Association and the author of the book, "A Better High" (Wyatt Mackenzie, 2012). He is also a contributing author for the National Geographic Kids book series, "This or That." His "How to Get High Naturally" program encourages over a hundred thousand students a year worldwide to pursue natural highs and make healthy choices. Matt was a recurring comedian on truTV's hit show, "World's Dumbest."
“My background in neuroscience and emotional memory is not lost during my presentations. It helps me understand my audiences better and I know if they’re laughing, they’re listening.”
1998-2005, Doctor of Philosophy, Drexel University, Clinical Psychology
1996-1998, Master of Science, Bucknell University, Biology
1992-1996, Bachelor of Science, Bucknell University, Biology & Psychology
1988-1992, Montclair High School, Montclair, NJ
Matt’s educational background reads more like that of a professor than a speaker and comedian. He has always had a passion for neuroscience. In fact, his doctorate in clinical psychology includes a subspecialty in clinical neuropsychology, which is the study of the brain and behavior. In graduate school, he spent two summers as an intern studying memory in primates at the National Institutes of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. His doctoral work also included training in the treatment of epilepsy at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia), learning disorders in a pediatric neuropsychology private practice and psychotherapy at the Drexel University- Hahnemann Campus, Student Counseling Center. Matt completed his clinical internship working with traumatic brain and spinal cord injury patients at The Mount Sinai Medical in New York City. In 2005, Matt successfully defended his dissertation, "Activation of the Hippocampus During Emotional Learning," which was later published in the International Journal of Neuroscience.
Matt is currently lives with his wife and two children in the Princeton, NJ area. His wife, Dara, is also a clinical psychologist, specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. She maintains a private practice in Princeton.
Peer Reviewed Research Publications:
Bellace, Williams, Mohamed, Faro. 2012. An fMRI Study of the Activation of the Hippocampus by Emotional Memory, International Journal of Neuroscience, Oct 26 View Article
Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Vol. 16, Number 8, November 2001
Journal of Andrology, Jan/Feb Supplement, 1998
Bucknell Masters Scholarship in Biology, 1996-98
Thelma Johnson Showalter Prize for Excellence in Community Affairs, 1996
John P. Dunlop Prize, Outstanding Greek Leader in Campus and Community Involvement, 1996
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health/ Division of Neuropsychology, Summer Internship, 2000 & 2001
Popular Psychology Articles:
The Teenage Brain: Stress, Coping and Natural Highs (Edutopia, 2016)
Laughter, Learning and Why Teens Are Such a Tough Crowd (Edutopia, 2016)
“I love speaking to student audiences because their expectations for the ‘drug assembly’ are usually so low, I can’t possible get beneath them.”
The catalyst for Matt’s speaking career was attending a New Jersey high school prevention and leadership conference called the Teen Institute of the Garden State (T.I.G.S.). It was at T.I.G.S. where he watched some of the best motivational speakers in the country and was inspired to get involved in prevention.
C.A.L.V.I.N. & H.O.B.B.E.S - Creating A Lively Valuable Ingenious New Habit Of Being (at) Bucknell (and) Enjoying Sobriety- was Matt's vision in October, 1993. The concept was simple: a student prevention group for students, run by students. At the time, there were virtually no late-night events on Bucknell’s campus without the presence of alcohol and other drugs. The group realized the opportunity and began sponsoring events like bowling, ice skating, live music and comedy events.
As president of C & H, Matt worked diligently for the group's success. There was resistance to his idea, including his roommate called the founding of the group, “social suicide.” However, soon the campus and media took notice C & H. As a result of their efforts, the trustees of the school approved over $250,000 to refurbish a former fraternity house and invited the group to live and socialize there. In 1995, U.S. News and World Report heralded the move, noting, "How times have changed."
Matt was distinguished at graduation, winning the Thelma Johnson Showalter Prize for Excellence in Community Affairs and the John P. Dunlop Prize for Outstanding Greek Leader in Campus and Community Involvement.
C & H remains an active Bucknell student group almost twenty years later! The group has moved several times over the years, but still resides in a house on campus.The C & H model has inspired over a dozen student groups at campuses all over the country. Most notably, P.E.R.K.S. at William Paterson University, New Social Engine at Drew University, New Social Engine at Fairleigh Dickinson University - Madison and New Social Engine at The County College of Morris.
Thanks to the media attention given to C & H, Matt received invitations to speak at local schools and conferences. He took every opportunity to present and craft his message. Since 1995, Matt has spoken nationally and internationally to over one million people!
During the years, Matt received a doctorate, began doing stand-up comedy and published a book on the topic of natural highs entitled, A Better High (Wyatt Mackenzie, 2012).His message evolved from a simple story about C & H to a comprehensive presentation about the science and humor behind natural highs. He is constantly tweaking the program to remain relevant.Today, Matt performs over 200 presentations a year at colleges, universities, independent schools, public school districts, national and regional conferences, and the military.
Matt's main message:
Young people need to feel empowered in their schools and communities. It is not enough to ask them to stay away from drugs and alcohol, we need to show them there are positive things they can do for themselves and others. They must all be leaders in their lives.
Recent Clients: National & Regional Conferences
New Jersey Peer Institute, The College of New Jersey
The Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute, New Jersey
New Jersey Elks Conference
Youth to Youth Conferences
NCSA (National Conference on Student Activities)
Washington State Activities Coordinators Conference
Amplify! Youth Summit, Ontario, Canada
Pennsylvania SADD Conference
Pennsylvania 4-H Conference
Recent Clients: Colleges & Universities
Lycoming College, Williamsport, PA
Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ
North Central College, Naperville, IL
SUNY Cortland, Cortland, NY
Recent Clients: Private & Public High Schools
Orange County Dept of Education, Anaheim, CA
Marin County Department of Health, San Rafael, CA
Charlotte Country Day School, Charlotte, NC
The Pennington School, Pennington, NJ
Collegiate School, Richmond, VA
Newtown High School, Newtown, CT
Princeton High School, Princeton, NJ
Jacksboro High School, Jacksboro, TX
Georgetown Day School, DC
Rutgers Prep School, NJ
Northern Valley Demarest and Old Tappan, NJ
Choate Rosemary Hall, CT
The Hotchkiss School, CT
Briarcliff High School, Briarcliff Manor, NY
Blind Brook High School, Rye Brook, NY
And many, many more…check out the calander!
“I’m a psychologist and comedian, which is an odd combination. Once a year I get a call from someone saying, ‘We need a psychologist who's funny and you seem to be the only one.’”
As a child, Matt used to listen to his Italian relatives tell funny stories at family gatherings. That is likely where he inherited a love for sarcasm and gesticulation. Like many comedians his age, Matt’s comedic influences include legends Steve Martin, George Carlin, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld.
Comedy was always a part of Matt’s speaking programs, but in 2001 he took a comedy writing class and began performing at local comedy clubs in Philadelphia. Matt soon received "paid work" (i.e., gas money) at "clubs" (i.e. places with actual holes in the wall) on the weekends.
In 2003, Matt and his wife moved to New York City, which allowed him to watch and perform with some best stand-up comedians in the business. One of the most formative experiences during that time was opening for comedian Joe Matarese at clubs and colleges. Those shows helped Matt hone his style and make lasting friendships with follow comedians.
Today, his schedule includes over 200 appearances a year at colleges, high schools, corporate events and comedy clubs across the country. His stand-up can be heard - and requested - Sirius XM Satellite Radio. His credits include truTV's "World's Dumbest," Breuer Unleashed on Sirius , Howard TV, National Public Radio, The 2005 Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and The New York Times. Whether Matt is on stage at a club or performing a school, his comedy is honest, personal and consistent with his message. Click here to watch Matt's stand-up on YouTube.