Department News

Baldacci Fund recipient heads to Ghana to study sleep quality. 

Sarah Yankson standing

Between 2015 and 2017, 624 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed, mostly for free, to reduce malaria, severe disease and death in regions of the world where malaria is endemic.

The nets, which serve as a protective barrier for the people sleeping under them, have been proven to help prevent the spread of malaria, a disease that saw 219 million cases and 435,000 deaths in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

Yet research shows that households that own insecticide-treated nets, often referred to as ITNs, do not always use them.

This summer, Virginia Commonwealth University student Sarah Yankson, a junior in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, will travel to Ghana to work on a pilot study investigating sleep quality under insecticide-treated nets, which could help explain why Ghanaians do not consistently use them.

VCU News has the full feature.

Photo by Brian McNeil McNeill, University Public Affairs

Psychology student is first at VCU to receive a Newman Civic Fellowship.

Nauje Jones smiling

Nauje Jones, a psychology major in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has long had a passion for service and a keen interest in public health. She participated in a host of community projects during her initial years as a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, especially through her membership in ASPiRE, the university’s living-learning program focused on community engagement. Still, it wasn’t until Jones became the first VCU student to receive a Newman Civic Fellowship that she found a way to direct her energies in a way that satisfied her.

The fellowship recognizes and supports community-engaged students at institutions that are members of the Campus Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities committed to the public purpose of higher education. As part of the fellowship, Erin Burke Brown, Ph.D., director of ASPiRE, served as a mentor for Jones, meeting with her regularly this academic year to discuss her career and service interests. Jones shared that she wanted to become a nurse practitioner who specializes in women’s health in low-income urban communities. Brown soon arranged a meeting for Jones with Candace Johnson, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor in the VCU School of Nursing. When Johnson first met Jones, she could tell the undergraduate student was intelligent and driven. She also could see that Jones was “a researcher in the making.”

“She had a philosophical approach that made me think she would be great for community-engaged research,” Johnson said. “She was an out-of-the box thinker who was very interested in doing something that would be impactful.”

VCU News has the full feature. 

Photo by Kevin Morley, University Marketing

Outgoing chair reflects on the department's trajectory and university mission

Wendy Kliewer

After eight years as department chair, Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., will return to the ranks of the faculty on July 1, 2018. Michael Southam-Gerow, Ph.D., will serve as the new department chair thereafter. Recently Kliewer offered her thoughts and reflections on the department's transformation during her time as chair.


"...[D]uring my time as chair, faculty in the department secured $18.1 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for a five-year grant – the second largest in VCU’s history at the time – to establish the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products; $5.8 million in NIH funding for a six-year cooperative agreement to study RVA Breathes – an intervention to reduce asthma disparities in children; $5.9 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a five-year community-based cooperative agreement to reduce violence and enhance positive youth development in two east end communities; three Institute of Education Sciences grants totaling more than $6.8 million to improve the care of individuals with ADHD – either students in college or individuals being served in community-based pediatric clinics; $2.5 million in NIH funding to intervene with families to promote healthy eating and exercise; and $1.5 million from SAMHSA to work on HIV and substance abuse prevention among African American college students. Our involvement as a department with two transdisciplinary cores – Culture, Race and Health and Oral Health in Childhood and Adolescence as part of the iCubed (Inclusion. Inquiry. Innovation) initiative – also affirms our commitment to addressing needs of the urban community in partnership with the urban community. Collectively these projects are not merely addressing the needs of our urban community, they are helping our department to rise in national prominence, one focus of the new strategic plan Quest 2025. I am proud to note that during these eight years, the Department of Psychology moved into the top 25% of Departments of Psychology in the country."

Read the full essay.

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