Department News

Do you have news to share? Please email Jen Elswick at jlelswick@vcu.edu.


green-thumbwalker-thumbGreen, Walker receive SREB Doctoral Scholars Program Institutional Awards

Cathrin Green, left, an incoming student in the clinical doctoral program, and Chloe Walker, an incoming student in the developmental doctoral concentration, have each received a Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars Program Institutional Award. This award provides support service to underrepresented minority students seeking their Ph.D. who plan to become college or university professors. Green will work with Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., as her faculty adviser beginning this fall and Walker will work with Chelsea Derlan, Ph.D.

From the SREB website:

"More than one-third of America’s college students are people of color. But racial and ethnic minorities make up only small fractions of college faculty. Nationwide, about 5 percent of faculty are African-American, about 3 percent are Hispanic and about 1 percent are Native American. The SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program is working to change that."


jones-thumb Dr. Fantasy LozadaJones, Lozada to attend NIH grant writing boot camp

The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) has selected Heather Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychology, and Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., assistant professor of developmental psychology, as two of its 10 recipients of a competitive award to participate in the National Institutes of Health Grant Writing Boot Camp this summer. As participants, Jones and Lozada will travel to Washington, D.C., to work closely with a senior mentor and to receive extensive feedback on their research proposals during a two-day workshop. The grant Lozada will submit is called "Emotion Regulatory Flexibility: A Cultural and Emotional Competence Among African American Youth," and Jones' grant is called ''Developing an ADHD Health Communication Intervention for African Americans." The SRCD sponsors this event and it is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

serpell-thumb‌‌Serpell to serve as congressional fellow for 2017-18

Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D., associate professor of developmental psychology, is one of four recipients of an American Educational Research Association Congressional Fellowship for 2017-18. Read AERA's press release.

As part of the fellowship, which begins Sept. 1, Serpell will work on the staff of a member of Congress or a congressional committee and use her research expertise to inform policy.

“I am thrilled about the opportunity and expect to learn a lot about education policy work this year,” said Serpell, whose research focuses on understanding and optimizing the learning experiences of African American students in school.

The AERA Congressional Fellowship Program was launched last year to contribute to the effective use of scientific knowledge about education in the formation of public policy, to educate the scientific community about the development of public policy, and to establish a more effective liaison between education researchers and federal policymakers.

“We are pleased these talented scholars will be contributing to the effective use of scientific knowledge about education in the formation of public policy,” AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine said in a news release. “Through this program and other public engagement initiatives, AERA is further building connections between education researchers and the policy community.”

Courtesy of VCU News


dunn-thumb‌ABPsi awards Dunn for innovative research

The Association of Black Psychologists has named Chelsie Dunn, health psychology doctoral student, the winner of its Black Ribbon Scholarship: Graduate Student Research Award.

From the ABPsi website:

"[This] award aims to fund graduate student research related to issues within the Black community​; especially ​rigorous, innovative studies that might not otherwise be conducted without this award.​ ​ABPsi’s Student Circle seeks to increase the participation of Black students in research and scholarship, to enhance the professional development of Black students, and to increase the overall number of Black clinicians and professionals within the field of psychology via scholarship and award opportunities."

Dunn's research project "Gendered Racial Microaggressions, Ethnic Identity and Black Women’s Sexual Behaviors" will explore the impact gendered racial microaggressions​ (GRM) have on Black women’s ​sexual​ ​risk/protective ​behaviors (i.e., number of sexual partners​, condom use​)​​ and explain the role of ethnic identity and self-concept in the GRM-sexual ​behavior relationship using an intersectional analytic framework.


heller-thumbHeller, CPSD provide psychological assessments to veterans

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a front-page article recently detailing a local veteran's difficulties with PTSD and obtaining services through the VA. As part of the feature, Beth Heller, Ph.D., director of the Center for Psychological Services and Development (CPSD), described the difficulties of the psychological evaluation of PTSD. The CPSD partners with the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the College of William & Mary Law School to provide free psychological evaluations to veterans and active service members as part of an innovative, multi-disciplinary program that also offers free legal services to veterans seeking disability benefits. 


lotze-thumb‌Service learning course provides mentors to children of incarcerated parents

Each summer, Geri Lotze, Ph.D., teaching associate professor of developmental psychology, leads students in her undergraduate service learning course "Mentoring Children At-Risk" through a program of the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church called “All God’s Children.” The camp is for children of incarcerated parents and aims to provide them a weeklong sanctuary from the many challenges they face. Lotze coaches undergraduate mentors who serve as trusted advisers to the campers. Barbara Myers, Ph.D., emerita professor of developmental psychology, was the founder of the mentoring program at the camp and passed the baton to Lotze upon her retirement in 2016.

VCU News profiled the course in a recent news feature. Excerpt:

“This is such an important program because it allows the children to come to camp and forget about the struggles at home and just be children again,” said camp director Lori Smith. “It is also important because they attend a class each day where they learn about conflict resolution and self-esteem building, allowing them to use these tools and skills when they return home. Here at camp, they learn that they truly are somebody and really begin to live into that.”


kwitowski-thumbriley-thumbsimpson-thumbKwitowski, Riley and Simpson awarded dissertation assistantships

All three of Psychology's applicants to the VCU Graduate School's Dissertation Assistantship Award Program - Melissa Kwitowski (counseling program), Tennisha Riley (developmental program) and Courtney Simpson (counseling program) - will receive an $18,000 stipend and full tuition for the 2017-18 academic year. ‌This funding program is for doctoral scholars who have completed all program requirements, including didactic courses, except for the dissertation and who will be defending the dissertation and graduating by the end of the fall 2017 or spring 2018 semesters. ‌Importantly, the award stipulates there may be no work required other than work on the dissertation. Nominations are evaluated on the basis of scholarship, methodology, clarity of style and presentation, strength of recommendations and academic record.

heller-thumbdautovich-thumbDr. Joe DzierzewskiHeller, Dautovich and Dzierzewski bring mental health support to firefighters

Beth Heller, Ph.D., director of the Center for Psychological Services and Development, is working with a colleague at the School of Education to launch a peer support network that will allow Richmond firefighters to help their fellow ‌firefighters struggling with the trauma, violence and other challenges they encounter on a routine basis. Two other Psychology faculty members - Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D., and Joseph Dzierzewski, Ph.D. - will lead a sleep intervention study with the firefighters that will begin this summer and will aim to minimize the impact of the work environment on both on-duty and off-duty sleep and to maximize healthy sleep behaviors.


hoetger-thumbHoetger to Receive Massey Cancer Center Scholarship

Cosima Hoetger, a doctoral student in the health psychology program, will receive the $1,000 VCU Massey Cancer Center Cancer Prevention and Control Research Development Scholarship for her project "Cigarette Smoking in an International Student Population: Assessment of Unique Risk Factors to Reduce Cancer Risk." The study will investigate the impact of acculturative stress, depressive symptoms, need to belong, and other unique risk factors on smoking behavior in an international student population in order to decrease cancer risks. 


Read news from previous academic years on our archive page.