Outside Speakers and Other Department Events

grad2Psychology Department Diploma Ceremony
Saturday, May 14, 4:30
VCU Stuart C. Siegel Center
1200 West Broad Street

VCU's Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 14, at 10:00, at the Richmond Coliseum. View the VCU Commencement web site for further information.

The Department of Psychology's diploma ceremony for Psychology undergraduate and graduate degree recipients is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, at 4:30 at the VCU Stuart C. Siegel Center. Tickets for guests are not required. 

Global Health Symposium on Health Disparities

health_symposiumGlobal Health Symposium on Health Disparities
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program 
April 1, 9:00-4:15
Larrick Student Center, Court End Ballroom A 

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in the Department of Psychology invites you to its Global Health Symposium on Health Disparities on April 1 from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Larrick Student Center, Court End Ballroom A.  Registration is free and lunch will be provided.  

The symposium aims to raise awareness and discuss:
1) global health issues that create health disparities;
2) the underlying determinants of these health disparities with a focus on health equity; and
3) potential pathways and pitfalls for establishing health equity.

To get more information, view the agenda, and register for the symposium, visit http://wp.vcu.edu/globalhealth/.

Past Events 2015-2016

grad2Psychology Department Diploma Ceremony
Friday, December 11, 6:30-8:30
Greater Richmond Convention Center
Exhibit Hall B

403 N. 3rd Street

VCU's December Commencement Ceremony will take place on Saturday, December 12, at 10:00, in the Siegel Center. View the VCU Commencement web site for further information.

The Department of Psychology's diploma ceremony for August and December Psychology undergraduate and graduate degree recipients is scheduled for Friday, December 11 at 6:30 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Exhibit Hall B. Tickets for guests are not required. 

Empathy on a sliding scale: Is extraordinary altruism the inverse of psychopathy?
November 6, 12:00-1:00
Location: 808 W Franklin St, dissertation room

marsh-thumbPeople vary significantly in their propensity to act altruistically, and this variation may be genetically mediated, but until recently little has been known about the neural mechanisms that support human altruism. Among mammals, altruism is thought to emerge from activity in ancient neural systems that support parental caregiving. Supporting the potential role of these structures in altruism, a large body of evidence has demonstrated dysfunction in these structures, particularly the amygdala, among individuals who lack empathy and altruistic motivation, such as psychopaths. Psychopathic adults and adolescents have amygdalae that are smaller than average, exhibit structural deformities, and are less active in response to empathy-eliciting distress cues such as fearful facial expressions. In addition, psychopaths are impaired in correctly labeling fearful facial expressions. Structural deformities and dysfunction in the amygdala may impair low-level empathic responses to others’ fear in psychopathy. Psychopathic traits vary continuously in the population, suggesting that those who occupy the other end of continuum—such as extraordinary altruists—might exhibit patterns of neural structure and function that are the inverse of psychopathy. To test this possibility we conducted structural and functional MRI scans in altruistic kidney donors and controls. Results showed that altruists’ amygdalae were larger than those of controls and were more responsive to fearful expressions. This pattern of activation appeared to support altruists’ improved recognition of others’ fear. These results suggest that extraordinary altruism may result from variations in established neurocognitive phenomena that support social and emotional responsiveness and caring for others’ welfare, particularly increased sensitivity to others’ fear. These findings widen the range of available biological explanations for human altruism. 

Department of Psychology Distinguished Speaker Series

fiese-thumbWhy Family Mealtimes Matter: The Science and Politics of Food, Family and Children’s Health
Thursday, February 25, 12:00-1:00
Location: University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballroom A

Dr. Barbara Fiese is Director of the Family Resiliency Center and Professor of Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign and the The Pampered Chef Endowed Chair in Family Resiliency. She is an affiliated professor of Psychology and Pediatrics.

Dr. Fiese’s research focuses on family level factors that promote health and well-being in children at risk due to physical illness and/or poor child-raising conditions. She examines how family rituals may promote medical adherence and reduce anxiety in children with chronic illnesses and tracks how changes in child and parent stories about family events are related to child and family adjustment. She is invested in bringing family science to the public to inform decision makers and opinion leaders to better the health and wellbeing of children. Her latest book, Family Routines and Rituals, was published in 2006 by Yale University Press.

Dr. Fiese earned a Ph.D. in clinical and developmental  psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1987. She served as professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Syracuse University, New York from 2000-2008 and held appointments as professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse prior to coming to the University of Illinois in 2008. She was placed as a visiting fellow by the Advertising Education Foundation at DraftFCB, one of the largest advertising agencies in Chicago, to study food advertising and marketing to families. Dr. Fiese is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and serves on several national committees and boards. She was named director of the Family Resiliency Center in August 2008.

Resilience in the Initial Year of Caregiving for a Family 

Department of Psychology Distinguished Speaker Series
Resilience in the Initial Year of Caregiving for a Family Member With a Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Thursday, October 8, 4:00
Academic Learning Commons, room 2100

Alumni Reception to follow at the Scott House, 909 W Franklin

elliot-thumbTimothy R. Elliott, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University.  He holds a joint faculty appointment with the School of Public Health at the Texas A&M Health Sciences Center.  He is a licensed psychologist and holds board certification (ABPP) in rehabilitation psychology, and he is a Fellow in three divisions of the American Psychological Association (17, 22, 38).

Abstract of talk: Resilience may promote adjustment following traumatic disability by influencing cognitive appraisals, facilitating the experience of positive emotions, and sustaining positive interpersonal relationships and social interactions.  These dynamics may also occur among individuals who assume caregiving duties for a family member incurring a traumatic disability. Reasoning from the influential Pearlin model of caregiving (Pearlin & Aneshensel, 1994) and the resilience process model (Bonanno, 2005), we expected a significant minority of caregivers would be chronically distressed and another group would be resilient throughout the inaugural year of caregiving for a person with a traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), and these groups would differ significantly in primary and secondary stress and in personal resources and mediators. Twenty men and 108 women who identified as caregivers for a family member who incurred a traumatic SCI consented to complete measures during the inpatient rehabilitation and at one month, six months and twelve months post-discharge.  Latent growth mixture modeling of depression symptoms over time revealed three groups of caregivers:Chronic (24%), Recovery (24%) and Resilient (48%).  The Chronic group reported more anxiety and ill health than the other two groups throughout the year.  The Resilient group was best characterized by their enduring levels of positive affect and less stress in interactions with the care recipient throughout the year. It appears that a large percentage of individuals are resilient in the initial year of caregiving, and those who have problems adapting exhibit significant distress soon following the traumatic event.   Early detection of and psychological interventions for individuals who have difficulty adjusting are indicated, as their distress is unlikely to abate untreated over the year.  However, several theoretical and clinical issues warrant further study.



SURF into Health Psychology

Friday, November 4, 9:00-10:45 
810 W Franklin St, room 106

This summer, the Department of Psychology held its inaugural Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, SURF into Health Psychology.   Eight undergraduate Psychology majors were selected from a competitive applicant pool to participate in one of three laboratories:  Developmental and Family Psychology Laboratory (Everhart/Winter); Behavioral Health Research Laboratory (Cobb); and Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory (Porter).  Undergraduate fellows received a stipend to participate in Health Psychology research for eight weeks for a total of 224 hours.  They received broad exposure to research and to the Health Psychology discipline.  The Department held a welcoming event, mentoring, and several programs for the Fellows throughout the summer, including meetings about CV development; GRE preparation and practice exams; and a meeting with the Chair and the College’s new Dean.  Future summer fellowship programs may use different themes. The closing event will be a poster session on November 4, 2016.

heronMonday, February 6
11:00 a.m. 
810 W. Franklin St. (White House) 
Dissertation Room

Kristin Heron, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Old Dominion University, will present "Ecological Momentary Assessment and Intervention: Applications in Disordered Eating and Physical Activity Research."

cobeThursday, March 16
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics
Conference Room 1-160
Biotech One (800 E. Leigh Street)

The Translational Partnership for Mental Health (TPMH) and College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute (COBE) are partnering to host a special case study event!

Topic: Case study event focused on adolescent substance use

RSVP: Please RSVP on this Google form. 

What is case study method? The case method is a teaching approach that uses decision-forcing cases to put individuals in real world situations with difficult decisions to make. The method is especially effective in drawing out and relying on the existing knowledge in the room to create meaningful dialogue and arrive at better solutions. The TPMH and COBE are excited to pilot a classroom approach that uses case method to integrate researcher, clinician and counselor perspectives to approach substance use challenges in transition-age youth (15-25). Learn from your colleagues, find resources, meet talented graduate students and push yourself to think about addressing behavioral health in new ways.

Why attend? The purpose of this activity is to bring people from various backgrounds together to evaluate a case study as a group. While case studies are primarily considered clinical tools, they can be utilized in many settings to build translational skills. Therefore, this activity is geared toward researchers, clinicians and community members at all levels of professional development. This activity is intended to build networking, communication, problem-solving and translational skills in all participants.

For more information regarding this and future presentations, please email Jessica Bourdon (jlbourdon@vcu.edu) or Beth Long (longe@vcu.edu).


Positive Psychology Research Group

pprgMondays 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Hunton House Dissertation Room (810 W. Franklin St.)

Speakers are psychology faculty and graduate students. Contact Athena Cairo for the latest information about speakers and locations.

  • February 6Everett Worthington, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor of Psychology, "What is Positive Psychology?" 
  • March 13: Marcie Walsh, Doctoral Student, VCU School of Education, and Zoe Neale, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, present "The Science of Happiness Class and Thrive LLC: From Research to Practice and Back Again"
  • April 3Everett Worthington, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor of Psychology, "Ev (Tries to) Remember: A Look Back at People and Experiences From More Than 40 Years in Psychology"
  • April 24: Kelcie Willis, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology Program, "Constructing Meaning: Examining Structured Poetic Expressions as a Means to Process Grief"


Awards Ceremony: College of Humanities and Sciences


Thursday, April 27
8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
University Student Commons
Virginia Rooms

Faculty and staff of the College of Humanities and Sciences are invited to the Faculty and Staff Awards and Retirees Breakfast. Among those to be honored are these faculty and staff members from the Department of Psychology:


Awards Ceremony: Department of Psychology

trophyMonday, May 1
3:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
White House
806 W. Franklin St.

The Department of Psychology will celebrate its faculty award recipients and its student award and scholarship recipients for 2016-17. Student recipients are encouraged to bring guests to this event. Hors d'oeuvres will be served.


Awards Ceremony: VCU Council for Community Engagement

belgave-thumbbutler‌Wednesday, May 3
4:00 p.m. 
Cabell Library

Each year the VCU Council for Community Engagement awards the Currents of Change awards, which recognize exceptional university-community partnerships. The awards are given in four categories: excellence in community-engaged teaching, research, outreach and student-initiated community engagement. 

This year the Department of Psychology is pleased to announce its Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention (Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., director; Deborah Butler, MIS, associate director), along with its university and community partners, will receive the Exemplary Partnership in Research Award. 

Please join us to celebrate the CCEP's impactful work in our community!


Psychology Diploma Ceremony
Summer Writing Club

laptopEvery Monday
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
808 W. Franklin St., room 106

Attention Department of Psychology graduate students! Join your peers each Monday this summer for an informal gathering in a quiet space to write in the presence of others who are writing. It's a great way to keep yourself on track to achieve your summer writing goals! If you plan to attend, please email the organizer, Aly Rudy, at rudya@vcu.edu so she can make sure there will be enough space for everyone.


OCD Awareness RVA

OCD ConnectOctober 12, 2017
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Larrick Student Center
Jackson Ward Conference Room

OCD Connect

Learn about OCD and evidence-based treatment from Richmond-area psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, as well as courageous individuals and family members affected by OCD directly. 

View the event flier. [PDF]

What is Health Psychology?

healthThursday, November 30
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
White House basement classroom
806 W. Franklin St.

The health psychology doctoral program in the Department of Psychology hosts a moderated Q&A panel sponsored in part by the APA Division 38 Society for Health Psychology. A five-member panel (three graduate health psychology students, one health psychology faculty member, one graduate student representative from VCU Career Services) will share what led them to the field, what they currently do, and how they prepared as an undergrad student. They will also discuss career options in health psychology. 


Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program

taveiraThursday, November 30
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Suite 215
University Student Commons

Indigenous Health in Brazil and American Indians

Zaira Zambelli Taveira, D.D.S., a 2017-18 fellow in the Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship program, obtained her D.D.S. degree from the Federal University of Minas Gerais. In 2012, she earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Brasilia, where she studied telemedicine for indigenous peoples.

As a Humphrey fellow, Taveira wants to advance her knowledge related to indigenous health policy and its management. Her special interests are in control programs, health promotion and chronic disease prevention. She hopes her studies in the U.S. and partnerships with Brazilian programs will help her to design effective and holistic community-oriented programs to reduce mortality and morbidity in indigenous populations in Brazil.


Social Psychology Under Discussion (SPUD)


Friday, March 16
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
White House, Basement classroom

Primary Psychopathy Associated With Greater Gray Matter Density in Lateral Prefrontal Cortex: A Compensatory Mechanism?

Emily Lasko completed her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in 2014 and joined the doctoral program in social psychology at VCU in 2017 after completing her master’s degree in experimental psychology at Georgia Southern University. Her research interests involve the darker tendencies of human nature, including psychopathy, sadism, masochism and aggressive behavior. Additionally, she is interested in the contribution of and limits to empathy within these contexts. Lastly, and importantly, she is interested in exploring the biological bases of these behaviors, and the interplay between the biological and environmental factors that contribute to the development of these stable “dark” traits and associated behaviors.

young girl

March 21-22, 2018
Delta Hotels by Marriott
555 E. Canal St.
Richmond, Virginia

Sponsored by the Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects Research Coalition

Early bird registration rate available through March 1: REGISTER TODAY!

Limited travel awards available. Poster session to include two student research awards of $200 each.

The past few years have seen dramatic changes in the tobacco control field that will affect the prevention of youth tobacco use for decades to come.

Given the quickly changing landscape of youth tobacco control, it is essential we continue to bring together the tobacco prevention practice, policy and research communities to share information that will inform future efforts in each area. The Virginia Conference on Youth Tobacco Use will address this need.

At our next conference we will have presentations on the latest developments related to tobacco regulation at the national level, findings from several Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science, groundbreaking research on the effects of menthol and other flavorings, new information on risk communication approaches, as well as the research behind evidence-based prevention programs, and research on how to prevent tobacco use among high risk youth. These and other topics will be addressed by panels of national and international experts, while providing conference attendees many opportunities for discussion.

Please join us for what has always been an informative and exciting opportunity to help advance our efforts to prevent the use of tobacco products by our youth.

The Virginia Conference on Youth Tobacco Use is conducted by the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects Research Coalition. The VYTP Research Coalition includes researchers from VCU, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Virginia State University. The VYTP is funded by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, created by the General Assembly in 1999 to distribute part of the money Virginia receives from tobacco product manufacturers under the Master Settlement Agreement.

Email the conference coordinator for more information: dterrell@vcu.edu.

The Virginia Conference on Youth Tobacco Use: Translating Research into Practice and Policy

Social Psychology Under Discussion (SPUD)

West, Sam-thumb

Friday, March 23
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
White House, Basement classroom

Just You Wait: Validation of the Inter-Temporal Aggression Paradigm

Sam West completed his bachelor's degree in psychology from University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNC-W) in 2014 and a master’s degree in psychology from UNC-W in 2017. He subsequently joined the doctoral program in social psychology at VCU in 2017. His research interests include aggression, disgust, dehumanization, intergroup processes and social class differences. In particular, he is interested in how disgust and dehumanization allow for moral disengagement, leading to endorsements of acts of violence towards outgroups. He is also interested in how different socioeconomic status backgrounds affects these relationships, mental and physiological health, and overall life satisfaction. This includes conducting experimental research on a wide range of individuals across cultures, class statuses and working towards interventions that can be applied in the real world to improve these conditions.

Distinguished Speaker Series

Amelia Arria, Ph.D.

Friday, March 30, 2018
12:00 p.m.
Grace St. Theater
934 W. Grace St.

A lunch of sandwiches and chips will be provided following the presentation.

Substance Use and Mental Health Among Young Adults: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities

Please join us in welcoming Amelia Arria, Ph.D., to Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Arria is currently the director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health. Her NIH-funded longitudinal prospective study of health-risk behaviors among college students has increased our understanding of mental health needs of young adults and the risk factors and consequences of substance use among college students. Currently, a main focus of her work is on the impacts of untreated mental health conditions and substance use on human capital, as measured by academic achievement, employment and health status. She is passionate about translating research findings for parents, policy makers and educational professionals. She has a leadership role in the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, a policy initiative that brings together 14 universities in the state of Maryland to address the problem of excessive alcohol consumption and related consequences on their campuses and in their communities. She has authored more than 160 scientific peer-reviewed publications, numerous white papers and book chapters, and is the recipient of several major grant awards from foundations, and state and federal agencies. She received her training at Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. 

Talk abstract:

There are numerous new challenges facing young adults — from increased availability of a wide array of psychoactive substances (e.g., more potent forms of marijuana, prescription drugs, energy drinks) to living in a 24/7 online world. What are the resulting health impacts on young adults? What questions need to be answered by rigorous research? And how can we ensure the evidence we generate from research has an impact on public understanding of these emerging health issues? This presentation will focus on answering these questions and generate ongoing dialogue among researchers, practitioners and educators.

Amelia Arria, Ph.D.

Special Speaker

Shannon Dorsey, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 19
University Student Commons
Commons Theater
12 p.m.

Implementation of Child-Focused Evidence-Based Treatments Domestically and Globally: A Focus on Supervision and Task-Sharing

The VCU Department of Psychology and VCU School of Social Work welcome Shannon Dorsey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Dorsey’s research is on evidence-based treatments (EBT) for children and adolescents, with a particular focus on dissemination and implementation of EBT domestically and internationally. Her work has often focused on Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), with hybrid research designs that include both effectiveness and implementation questions. Research has focused on adaptation for unique populations (e.g., foster care) and on training and supervision strategies to deliver TF-CBT and other EBT. Dr. Dorsey is a Principal Investigator on two NIH-funded randomized controlled trials (RCT) involving TF-CBT, both of which include implementation and clinical outcome research questions. The first, in Washington State, studies the role of supervisors in public mental health settings in supporting EBP with clinicians under their supervision. It includes both a descriptive study of common supervision practices and a RCT of supervision strategies. The second, in Tanzania and Kenya, is a RCT of TF-CBT using a task-shifting/task-sharing model in which lay counselors, with little to no prior mental health training, deliver group-based TF-CBT to children and adolescents who have experienced the death of one or both parents, under close supervision by TF-CBT experts. Dorsey is also involved in common elements/modular EBT training initiatives and research both in Washington State and internationally, in low and middle income countries. With colleagues at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she also is involved in RCT and feasibility studies in Southern and Northern Iraq, the Thailand-Burma border, Colombia, Zambia and Ethiopia.

Talk abstract:

Evidence-based treatments for mental health problems are not consistently available to children and adolescents with need. The mental health treatment gap--the gap between those with need and those who receive care--is particularly wide in low and middle income countries, where the majority of the world's children and adolescents reside. Clinical supervision and task-sharing, both of which can be used in low-resource settings, have received limited attention in the implementation science literature. I present data from two studies: 1) a study of supervision in public mental health in Washington State and from 2) a randomized controlled trial of a trauma-focused evidence-based treatment (EBT) in Tanzania and Kenya that employs task-sharing (i.e., lay counselors with little to no prior mental health training or experience who deliver treatment, under supervision). I also will provide an overview of a newly funded scale up study in Kenya, which integrates aspects from both trials, as former serve as the local trainers and supervisors for new lay counselors (teachers in schools and community health volunteers).