Department News

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.

Fulbright scholar Gordon conducts research in Buenos Aires

VCU Fulbright scholar and triple major Cydni Gordon is conducting research focused on the emotional impacts of antipsychotics and antidepressants. To read more about her research, you can find it on the VCU News page.

Student Awards and Scholarships Announced

Please join us in congratulating our departmental and program award and scholarship recipients for 2018!


  • Undergraduate Psychology Black History in the Making: Akea Robinson
  • Graduate Psychology Black History in the Making: Tennisha Riley
  • Outstanding Junior Award: No nominees
  • Outstanding Senior Award: Akea Robinson and Ashley Bacalso
  • Outstanding Clinical Psychology Behavioral Medicine Concentration Graduate Student Award: Sarah Clark and David Rothman
  • Outstanding Clinical Psychology Clinical Child Concentration Graduate Student Award: Julia Cox and Stephen Molitor
  • Outstanding Counseling Psychology Graduate Student Award: Courtney Simpson and Melissa Kwitowski
  • Outstanding Leadership and Community Engagement in Counseling Psychology: No recipient this year
  • Outstanding Developmental Psychology Graduate Student Award: Jessica Greenlee
  • Outstanding Health Psychology Graduate Student Award: Michael Trujillo and Melanie Moore
  • Outstanding Social Psychology Graduate Student Award: Athena Cairo
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award: Alexandra Martelli
  • Psychology Graduate Student LGBTQ Ally Award: Jaclyn Sadicario
  • Psychology Graduate Student Award for Community Multicultural Enrichment: Calvin Hall
  • Psychology Graduate Student Latinx Award: Efren Velazquez


  • Deborah Braffman Schroeder Award to Outstanding Clinical Student: Nour Al Ghriwati
  • Elizabeth Fries Memorial Scholarship: Nour Al Ghriwati
  • John P. Hill Award for Adolescent Research: Jessica Greenlee
  • Evelyn E. Gunst Scholarship (Outstanding Master's Candidate): Dana Schreiber
  • Melvin V. Lubman Scholarship in Psychology: Camila Tirado
  • John Corazzini Award for Therapeutic Group Work: Keyona Allen 
  • Peirluigi Antonio Menna Scholarship: Shelby Jean Forosan
  • Donald J. Kiesler Memorial Research Fellowship Fund: Stephen Molitor
  • Dr. Peter Zucker Scholarship: Samantha Mladen

Congratulations to our recent graduate and Ph.D. students!

Master of Science

  • Barsell, Duc-Thi J.
  • Cariello, Annahir
  • Cusack, Shannon E.
  • Davies, Alexandria E.
  • Hailu, Selamawit
  • Hitti, Stephanie
  • Maloney, Sarah F.
  • McGuire, Kristina A.
  • Ravyts, Scott
  • Rudy, Alyssa
  • Washington Nortey, Princess Melissa T.

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Spindle, Tory R.
  • Tabaac, Ariella R.
  • Trujillo, Michael A.
  • Velazquez, Efren A.
  • Morlett-Paredes, Alejandra
  • Riley, Tennisha N.

Congratulations to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth grant award recipients!

Portrait of Rosalie CaronaPortrait of Oswaldo MorenoPortrait of Caroline CobbPortrait of Kristina HoodPortrait of Robin EverhartPortrait of Randy Koch

Congratulations to Drs. Rosalie Corona, Oswaldo Moreno, Caroline Cobb, Kristina Hood, Robin Everhart, and Randy Koch, all faculty in Psychology, for receiving funding notices from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.  Grant awards were announced today and will begin in the next fiscal year.

Drs. Corona and Moreno, Co-Principal Investigators, along with two colleagues from William and Mary and Virginia Tech, and their community partner, the Sacred Heart Center here in Richmond, received $449,912 for a 3-year grant titled “Culturally Enhancing a Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Latinx Adolescents.”

Here is a description of their project: The Latinx community is a fast growing and underserved ethnic group in the greater Richmond area (Clapp, 2011) with language access serving as a significant barrier for Latinx adolescents in the local community (Holton & Jettner, 2015). Accordingly, a significant opportunity is being missed to disseminate tobacco use prevention skills for Latinx adolescents, especially those from Spanish-speaking families. This application will address a local service need by culturally enhancing an evidence-based tobacco prevention intervention and determining the pilot efficacy of the culturally enhanced intervention. The current project has several strengths including a focus on a group of high-risk adolescents whose community is disproportionately burdened by the consequences of smoking (e.g., cancer, heart disease). This application will also explore how cultural factors may influence Latinx adolescents’ tobacco use, including ATPs and poly-tobacco use.

Drs. Caroline Cobb and Andrew Barnes (a faculty member in Health Behavior and Policy), Co-Principal Investigators, along with co-investigators Drs. Kristina Hood and Robin Everhart, psychology faculty, and Dr. Patrick Nana-Sinkam of Internal Medicine, received $149,130 for a 1-year project titled “Profiling youth cigar use in low SES communities: A mixed methods approach.” The project also will work with Research Unlimited, a company founded by Drs. Michell Pope and Jasmine Abrams, graduates of the Health Psychology PhD program.

Here is a description of their project: This mixed methods study will recruit cigar-smoking and non-tobacco-using youth residing in low SES communities near Richmond, VA to complete biological and survey measures that will describe the physiological effects of cigar use as well as the attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge about cigars and tobacco-relevant environmental factors. Subsamples of these groups will be recruited for focus groups, which will provide greater depth and detail on which factors influence intentions and behaviors surrounding cigars. Finally, we will engage a community advisory board to translate research findings to the community and to state policymakers.

Finally, Dr. Hong Xue (Health Behavior and Policy), Principal Investigator, and co-investigators Drs. Andrew Barnes (Health Behavior and Policy) and Randy Koch (Psychology) were awarded funding for their proposal, "Systems modeling & simulations for effective tobacco control and prevention policies among youth." 

This was a very competitive grant cycle, and we are very proud of these successes!

Student awards from the Southeastern Psychological Association annual meeting

brown, deon-thumbDr. Fantasy Lozada

The SHIELD lab directed by Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., assistant professor of developmental psychology, recently attended the Southeastern Psychological Association's annual meeting, where several graduate and undergraduate students from the lab received awards for presentations on family emotion socialization.

Deon Brown, left, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, and Alexandra Merritt, a doctoral student who will enter the developmental program in fall 2018, won first place for the Committee for Equality and Professional Opportunity Student Research Award (including $250 prize) for their oral presentation "Parental Emotion Socialization, Racial Socialization and Report of Children’s Emotion Regulation." This presentation explored interactions between African American mothers' responses to children's emotions, their behavioral racial socialization messages, and child gender to predict their children's emotion regulation and emotion lability.

Two undergraduate students in the lab, Raven Ross and Darian White, won a Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Award (including $400 prize) for their poster presentation "The Relationship Between Maternal Emotional Expressiveness and Child Emotion Recognition." This presentation explored correlations between African American and European American mothers' self-expression in the familial context and their children's emotion recognition of basic emotions.

Of her students' stellar performances, Lozada said, "I am so proud of my students! Their presentations were thorough, well-organized and professional. This was Deon and Alex's first oral presentation at a regional conference and this was Darian's first poster presentation ever. I certainly believe this is only the beginning of things to come for these talented students."

Belgrave to receive APA award


Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., university professor, will be a recipient of the 2018 Psychology and AIDS Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychological Association.

The award from APA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Psychology and AIDS recognizes those who have made significant contributions in the areas of policy/advocacy, research, service or teaching related to issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS.

“It is an honor to be recognized with an award for work I am very passionate about,” Belgrave said. “HIV disparities are enormous for African-Americans and I am appreciative of being at a university and department that supports the work we do in HIV prevention, including the work of my students, community partners and faculty at the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention.”

Belgrave’s work is community and intervention focused and attends to aspects of culture (gender, ethnicity, age and place, etc.) to promote well-being among African-American youth and young adults. She works collaboratively with community-based agencies to identify and implement relevant programming and research.

Her recent projects have provided culturally integrated substance abuse, HIV prevention and sex education curriculums to African-American college students and middle school students. In another project, Belgrave implemented and evaluated a culturally specific HIV prevention intervention for African-American females. That project was later expanded to also include a male component.

Belgrave will receive the award at the annual APA convention in San Francisco in August.

Mazzeo, Parr selected as Translational Research Fellows

mazzeo-thumbTeresa Parr, Ph.D.

The Office of Public Policy Outreach in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs has selected Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D., and Teresa Parr, Ph.D., to participate in its 2018 Translational Research Fellowship Program.

Launched in 2017, the fellowship program selects competitive applications from faculty across VCU to be part of its unique mentoring program. Each faculty member who participates receives individualized policy briefs of their public policy relevant research, a customized public policy outreach plan and at least three individualized meetings with policymakers who have knowledge and/or interest in the faculty research.

Mazzeo is a professor in the counseling psychology program and an expert on eating disorders. As part of the program, she will work with experienced policy communicators to translate her obesity research into actionable policy briefs for presentation to Virginia's legislators.

Parr, an adjunct psychology professor, hopes to do the same in the area of educational policy. "I've been learning a lot through interactions with local and state policy makers, but I'm hoping this [fellowship] will help speed up the learning curve."

Svikis receives one of College's inaugural Catalyst Awards


Dace Svikis, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology, is the recipient of one of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences' inaugural Catalyst Awards. Scholarship Catalyst and Seed Awards are meant to foster research and scholarship in all fields across the College. Specifically, they aim to enable researchers to develop successful grant proposals and nationally or internationally peer-reviewed scholarly and/or creative works.

Svikis is a substance abuse researcher with extensive intervention experience. Her award is for the project "Relapse Prevention: Setting the Stage for a Randomized Clinical Trial of a Computer-Delivered Intervention in a Residential Sample of Women with Substance Use Disorders."

Svikis reports that while cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for addiction, efforts to implement CBT in community treatment programs have met with limited success. "Technology is one means of increasing the quality and reach of CBT in economically practical ways."

Catalyst funding will allow Svikis and her team to collect pilot data on a promising seven-session, computer-delivered intervention (CBT4CBT)*.

"Such data are essential to obtaining NIH funding for a randomized clinical trial of the intervention. Catalyst funding will also strengthen the community partnership with the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority-North Campus residential program, providing opportunities for graduate students (Sydney Kelpin) and others to gain experience in the conduct of community-based addiction research."

* CBT4CBT was developed by Kathleen Carroll, Ph.D., at Yale University.

APS names Chester 'Rising Star'

Chester, David

The Association for Psychological Science has named David Chester, Ph.D., assistant professor in the social psychology program, to its annual list of 'Rising Stars.' Chester is an expert in human aggression and revenge-seeking behaviors. He is the director of the Social Psychology and Neuroscience Lab, which investigates why some people act aggressively and others do not. 

From the APS website:

The APS Rising Star designation is presented to outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-Ph.D. This designation recognizes researchers whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions.

Individuals being considered for Rising Star designation are evaluated for their promise of excellence in research based on the following criteria:

  • significant publications
  • significant recognitions
  • significant discoveries, methodological innovations, or theoretical or empirical contributions
  • work with potentially broad impact

"David’s theoretical and empirical contributions have helped to promote new approaches to aggressive behaviors, including a new line of investigation into the potential similarities between aggression and addictive behaviors, such as those involved in substance abuse and risky gambling. These research activities not only inform us about the causes of aggression, they also suggest novel interventions that might reduce aggressive behavior (e.g., blunting the pleasure of aggression with opioid antagonists such as Naltrexone)," said Kirk Warren Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of social psychology, who nominated Chester for the award.

"Given the disproportionate amount of violence that is inflicted upon members of ethnic/racial minority groups and individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds, these advances in our understanding and treatment of aggression may lead to correspondingly disproportionate benefits for members of these marginalized groups," said Brown.

Read the full list of Rising Stars for 2017.

Baylor, Braun receive interprofessionalism award


Allison Baylor and Sarah Braun, doctoral students in the clinical psychology program, have been awarded the Emerging Leaders in Interprofessionalism Award from the VCU Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care. The award is given to students and junior faculty with demonstrated excellence in interprofessional leadership.

As part of the award, Baylor and Braun will participate in a panel at the Sixth Annual Emswiller Interprofessional Symposium in February on the following topics:

  • considering new perspectives on interprofessional practice
  • distinguishing how different interprofessional activities enhance interprofessional practice
  • identifying future directions for interprofessional learning

Robinson accepted to SRA Undergraduate Scholars Program

Robinson, Akea

Akea Robinson, an undergraduate major in psychology and African American Studies ('18), has been selected by the Society for Research on Adolescence to participate in the Undergraduate Scholars Program at its upcoming biennial meeting in Minneapolis.

Chelsea Derlan, Ph.D., and Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., assistant professors in the developmental psychology program, were selected as senior mentors, and Tennisha Riley, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, was selected as a junior mentor. Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical psychology and director of the clinical program, serves as co-chair.

From the SRA website: "The Undergraduate Scholars Program is designed to encourage and support junior and senior undergraduate students from ethnic minority groups from North America to pursue graduate work and careers in adolescent development. Selected scholars attend the SRA Biennial Meeting and participate in special preconference activities that focus on careers in adolescent research, applying to graduate school and funding, curriculum vitae workshops and navigating the Biennial Meeting. Scholars will receive mentorship from graduate students and senior scholars who are active in the field of adolescent research."

Robinson's research interests include the unique stressors and coping skills of African Americans; African American mental health and academic outcomes; parenting and emotion regulation in African American children; and African American families.

Robinson worked as part of Dr. Marcia Winter's FoR-VA research team in the summer 2016 as a SURF fellow. In the 2016-2017 school year, she took 494 and volunteered in Dr. Rosalie Corona's lab. The past two semesters she has been working on coding FoR-VA data with Dr. Winter and her honors thesis "The Interaction of Parents’ Encouraging Behavior and Children’s Perceived Acceptance Related to Child Flexible Adaptation in African American Families."

Raldiris receives dissertation research grant


Tarah Raldiris, a doctoral student in the social psychology doctoral program, has received a $15,000 Mind & Life Institute Francisco J. Varela research grant to assist with her dissertation research. Her project involves comparing mindfulness-based training to a relaxation control for caregivers of loved ones with dementia. The primary outcomes of interest in the project are sleep quality and eudaimonic well-being. 

From the Mind & Life Institute's website: "[Varela grants] are based on neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco J. Varela’s belief that contemplative training offers modern science novel methods for investigating human experience. In his vision, contemplative training not only provides a new domain for scientific study, but more importantly offers resources for advancing scientific theories and models of consciousness, emotion and cognitive processing." Read more.

Ingram to serve as department chair of VCU GSWS


Congratulations, Kathleen Ingram, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling psychology, who will become chair of the VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies (GSWS).

Here is the announcement from Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D., dean of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences:

"I am very pleased to announce that Kathleen Ingram has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) effective January 1, 2018 after serving as interim chair since July of 2016. Kathy has been a tremendous asset to the department and the College as interim chair, and I look forward to working with her as chair. Prior to her appointment as interim chair she served as assistant dean for academic affairs in the College of Humanities and Sciences from 2012-2016. An associate professor of psychology, she earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from The Ohio State University. She also holds a J.D. degree from Ohio State and practiced public interest law.

Among her many accomplishments, Kathy co-authored the successful Big Ideas faculty hiring initiative proposal entitled “LGBTQ Studies at VCU: Research, Teaching, Community” along with Myrl Beam, Ph.D., (GSWS) and Richard Godbeer, Ph.D., (History; Humanities Research Center). The addition of three faculty committed to the examination of LGBTQ Studies in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Sociology and History will position VCU to become a national leader in this field.

Please join me in congratulating Kathy on her appointment. Her impressive academic credentials and passion for learning, teaching and service to the community are truly inspiring and make her the ideal candidate to lead the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies."

APA funds student research


Three doctoral students have been awarded a 2017 American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award for $1,000 to assist with research costs. 
  • Sarah Braun, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is studying an interprofessional mindfulness-based intervention tailored to the specific stressors of healthcare providers on psychological and cognitive functioning and perceived caregiving self-efficacy with the potential to improve trainee well-being, patient safety and ultimately the overall functioning of the healthcare system.
  • Melissa Dvorsky, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, has used her dissertation as a springboard for developing her program of research focused on examining promotive and protective mechanisms during key developmental transitions and particularly for youth and adolescents with ADHD. With a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Health Youth, she followed 150 students from high school through their first year of college to examine predictors of functional outcomes include alcohol and substance use and academic functioning. Specifically, she is examining the role of promotive and protective factors such as social support, friendship quality and academic engagement.
  • Tennisha Riley, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, is considering whether emotion expression aids in the internal physiological regulation of emotion. In addition, she assesses the extent to which emotion expression and emotion regulation influence African American adolescents' decision-making in the context of their peers. African American youth are often understudied in the emotion literature, and so this study helps shed light on how emotions promote their engagement in both risk-related and prosocial behaviors.

Clarivate Analytics names Eissenberg Highly Cited Researcher


Using data from the major scientific citation indexing service Web of Science, Clarivate Analytics has published its Highly Cited Researcher list for 2017, which includes Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., professor of health psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products

The Highly Cited Researcher designation is awarded to researchers whose work ranks among the top 1% of that cited in their respective fields for the most recent 11 years, earning the mark of exceptional impact.

Eissenberg is one of three VCU investigators to achieve the distinction this year. Kenneth Kendler, M.D., professor and eminent scholar in the Department of Psychiatry, and Arun Sanyal, M.D., M.B.B.S., Charles Caravati professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, are the other two VCU scientists on the 2017 list. 

Butler, Elswick obtain Building Inclusive Communities certification

butlerJen Elswick

Deborah Butler, associate director of the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, and Jen Elswick, special projects and communications coordinator for the Department of Psychology, have completed a 13-month intensive training program to gain certification as facilitators in VCU's Building Inclusive Communities (BIC) program. The program, an initiative in the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence, awarded certifications through 2027 to 25 facilitators across VCU in a ceremony on Nov. 15.

BIC works to foster effective interaction between people and groups across a range of similarities and differences. Program success is measured by demonstrated competence in bias reduction, valuing differences and diversity and inclusion skills.

Workshops provide a framework for participants to take personal responsibility for creating a truly engaged, diverse and inclusive campus environment and to stay current with the diversity, equity and inclusion needs/issues of our changing VCU community. Key components of the workshop include developing participants` skills to address the attitudes, pitfalls and conditions (often unconscious and unintentional) that perpetuate disparities in power and access.

New scholarship for Avila


The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) has awarded the Kia Motors America Scholarship to Melissa Avila, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program (behavioral medicine concentration). The competitive $3,400 scholarship is open to all full-time undergraduate sophomore, junior or graduate students at HACU-member colleges and universities. HACU represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America and Spain. Although their member institutions in the U.S. represent only 10% of all higher education institutions nationwide, together they are home to more than two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU is the only national educational association that represents Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

Hagiwara to study obesity in Hispanic immigrants


Nao Hagiwara, Ph.D., assistant professor in the health psychology doctoral program, has received a Cancer Prevention and Control Research Accelerator (CPC RAMs) Award from the VCU Massey Cancer Center to fund her proposal "Perceived Discrimination and Obesity/Overweight Among Hispanic Immigrants." Tiffany Green, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Policy, will serve as the co-principal investigator on the grant. Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., associate professor in the clinical psychology program and director of clinical training, is a co-investigator, along with Maghboeba Mosavel, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Policy.
Massey's CPC RAMs Award supports interdisciplinary collaboration that aims to bring together CPC members and/or members of other Massey Cancer Center programs with a common interest in a cancer prevention topic or area. 
The rate of obesity/overweight is highest among Hispanics (approximately 78%), and this has crucial implications for cancer prevention and control. Although the negative health consequences of obesity/overweight have been well-documented, the factors contributing to the greater prevalence of obesity/overweight in Hispanics are still unclear. 
This pilot study aims to generate preliminary evidence on the perceived discrimination-obesity link among Hispanic immigrants. 
Immigrants represent an important opportunity to understand how psychosocial factors influence obesity. Upon arrival in the U.S., immigrants generally have lower obesity/overweight rates compared to those who are U.S.-born. However, their obesity/overweight rates increase with duration of U.S. residence and over generations.

Molitor receives funding for cystic fibrosis project


The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has awarded Stephen Molitor, a fifth-year student in the clinical psychology program (child/adolescent concentration) a student traineeship grant for his project “Development of Psychological Needs Assessment for Youth with Cystic Fibrosis.” His project will focus on developing tools that enable healthcare providers to evaluate the psychosocial needs of patients with CF and their families, and tailor recommendations accordingly.

CF can be a difficult chronic condition for patients and their families to manage, with treatments taking several hours a day. Patients with CF often encounter difficulties with treatment adherence and communicating with others about their health needs; their parents often share the burden of these challenges. Patients with CF and their parents are also at increased risk for anxiety and depression, which can make managing a chronic illness more difficult. Given this variety of potential needs, Molitor’s project will develop a structured interview for use by health professionals that can identify the most significant areas in which families need support. The current project will include patients with CF ranging from infancy to emerging adulthood, and will gather perspectives from both patients and their parents.

Robin S. Everhart, Ph.D., assistant professor of health psychology and mental health coordinator of the CF Center at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, will serve as mentor on the grant. Molitor's faculty adviser in the clinical psychology program is Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.

Wilson awarded for outstanding thesis


The VCU Graduate School has awarded Stephanie Wilson, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, the 2017 VCU Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award in Social Sciences, Business and Education for her thesis "Predictors of Barriers to Psychosocial Treatment for African American Families of Children with ADHD." Given African American youth with ADHD traditionally have lower rates of treatment compared to nonminority groups, Wilson's study examined factors that predict barriers to treatment for African American families who have children with ADHD. Results of this study showed that impairment in the parent-youth relationship both predicted barriers to treatment and also mediated the relationship between comorbid behavioral problems and barriers to treatment. Overall, this study highlighted how the parent-youth relationship may play a significant role in preventing African American families from engaging in ADHD treatment for their child and that targeting the parent-youth relationship in treatment may be particularly beneficial for African American families who have children with ADHD.

$1.1M grant to expand behavioral care for underserved youth, Latinx immigrants, refugees in Richmond


Heather Jones, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the clinical psychology program, has received a $1.1 million grant to increase the number of psychology doctoral students who provide behavioral health care to underserved youth, Latinx immigrants, and refugees in the Richmond region. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration is funding the four-year grant, "The VCU Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative: Expanding Services with Underserved Youth, Latinx Immigrants, and Refugees."

The grant will increase the number of psychology doctoral students who work with the Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative, a VCU program that provides pro bono treatment for a variety of behavioral health and mental health issues in primary care clinics. Commonly treated issues include depression, child behavior problems and ADHD, and sleep issues.

“All three of our targeted populations — underserved children and adolescents, Latinx immigrants, and refugees — are vulnerable, particularly at this moment in time in the United States,” Jones said. “The vast majority of our patients live in federally designated medically underserved areas. Right now, the future of our current health care and immigration policies are unclear, and some of our patients — including children — have reported stress related to current national events. Unfortunately, wait lists for behavioral health appointments can be months long.”

Riley receives SRCD Dissertation Funding Award


The Society for Research in Child Development has awarded Tennisha Riley, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology doctoral program, a $2,000 Dissertation Funding Award. The Dissertation Award Committee and the Student and Early Career Council of SRCD noted that a number of high quality applications were submitted this year. Riley's proposal was one of ten selected for an award.

The title of Riley's dissertation is "Adolescent Emotion Expression, Emotion Regulation, and Decision-Making in Social Context." Her study specifically examines whether emotion expression aids in the internal physiological regulation of emotion. In addition, her dissertation study will assess the extent to which emotion expression and emotion regulation influences African American adolescents’ decision-making in the presence of a peer. Her focus is on African American adolescents because they are often understudied in the emotion literature, and there is little known about their management of emotions across in-group and out-group social contexts.

Lambert, Martelli receive SPSP travel awards


Ebony Lambert, a doctoral student in the health psychology doctoral program, and Alexandra Martelli, a student in the social psychology doctoral program, will travel to the 2018 Society for Personality and Social Psychology convention in Atlanta courtesy of SPSP travel awards. Lambert and Martelli are two of 150 recipients out of 504 applications for funding.

The title of Lambert's winning poster is "Going Beyond Perceived Discrimination: The Role of Stigma Consciousness in Black Americans' Trust in Physicians and Healthcare Utilization." Abstract: This study examined whether stigma consciousness predicts Black Americans' trust in physicians and healthcare utilization, above and beyond perceived discrimination. Results indicated that health researchers should draw on social psychology research of intergroup bias and consider a variety of race-related attitudes to better understand of the role of discrimination in health disparities.

The title of Martelli's winning poster is "When Less is More: Mindfulness Predicts Adaptive Affective Responding to Rejection via Reduced Prefrontal Recruitment." Abstract: This study examined the neural mechanisms through which mindfulness regulates the pain of social rejection. Participants (N=39) completed a social rejection paradigm (Cyberball) while undergoing functional MRI then reported trait mindfulness and state distress during rejection. Results suggest that mindfulness promotes effective coping with rejection without taxing top-down regulatory mechanisms.

Moore to study HIV testing decisions with two-year grant


The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded a two-year grant to Melanie Moore, health psychology doctoral student, for the study "Developing Evidenced-Based Health Messages to Increase HIV Testing Among African American Young Adult Women." In this project, Moore will conduct a formative study identifying factors that influence HIV test decisions among young African American women (Study 1). Moore will use findings from this study to develop evidenced-based HIV testing messages, and then test the exposure effect of these messages on participants' decisions to get tested for HIV in a three-month follow up period (Study 2). These messages, if effective, can potentially be utilized by infectious disease clinicians and healthcare providers, HIV prevention groups/organizations and as components of HIV prevention interventions to increase rates of HIV testing. Increasing HIV testing among all young adults is important as more than 50% of HIV positive young adults (ages 18-24) are unaware of their positive status. The long-term goals of this research are to

  • reduce rates of HIV transmission that happen inadvertently by making more HIV positive young adults aware of their HIV status
  • reduce likelihood of HIV transmission by linking HIV positive young adults to healthcare which can thereby reduce their HIV viral load and make them less infectious
  • promote HIV testing as an effective HIV prevention and reduction strategy
  • decrease stigma associated with getting tested for HIV

Read the full VCU News feature on Moore and her grant. 

Allen and team win grant for Building Legacies Around Cultural Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) project


Keyona Allen, counseling psychology doctoral student, is the leader of a team based in the Department of Psychology who recently received a $2,500 grant from the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence's Social Justice Fund for the project Building Legacies Around Cultural Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.). These students are sponsored by Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., chair of African American Studies and professor of counseling psychology.

The team will facilitate community dialogue centered on experiences that impact the well-being of Richmond’s black communities. Through weekly presentations and dialogue with individuals at a community center in the south side of the city, B.L.A.C.K. hopes to provide a vehicle to healing and positive development. 

Team members include the following Department of Psychology doctoral students: Allen, Christina Barnett, Randl Dent, Ebony Lambert, Krystal Thomas, Mona Quarless, Melissa Avila, Jasmine Coleman, Stephanie Wilson, Amanda Parks and Eryn Delaney

Greenlee named 2017 Weatherstone fellow for Autism Speaks


Autism Speaks, a nonprofit organization committed to autism research, advocacy and awareness, has named Jessie Greenlee, a student in the developmental psychology doctoral program, a 2017 Weatherstone predoctoral fellow. This competitive fellowship will support Greenlee's training and dissertation research for the next two years. Greenlee's cohort includes seven other predoctoral scholars who will conduct autism-related research under the mentorship of leading scientists. Greenlee's mentor is her VCU faculty adviser Marcia Winter, Ph.D., assistant professor of developmental psychology. 

Greenlee entered the developmental psychology doctoral program at VCU in 2014 after receiving a bachelor's degree in psychology from Kenyon College. Her research focuses on families of children with a chronic illness or disability. More specifically, she is interested in both the positive and negative aspects of caring for a child with a disability and how culture frames the ways in which families cope with chronic illness.

According to the award announcement, her research project "Individual, Family, and Peer Factors and the Mental Health of Adolescents with ASD" will "assess how social skills, family cohesion, peer interaction and related factors combine to influence the mental well-being of adolescents affected by autism." 

Everhart receives $5.8M grant to launch program that will help Richmond children with asthma


Robin Everhart, Ph.D., assistant professor of health psychology, has received a $5.8 million grant that aims to improve the overall health and well-being of children with asthma in Richmond.

The six-year grant, “RVA Breathes: A Richmond City Collaboration to Reduce Pediatric Asthma Disparities,” was awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

“Pediatric asthma is manageable, but it is not curable,” Everhart said. “It can be challenging for families to manage their child’s asthma at home and at school and, in fact, Richmond is often named the ‘asthma capital’ or ‘most challenging place to live in the U.S. with asthma.’ Research has shown that children living in urban centers, such as Richmond, experience worse asthma outcomes. This grant will provide a comprehensive, community-based asthma care program for those children at highest risk for poor asthma outcomes.”

RVA Breathes will be a one-year program for elementary age children that will coordinate asthma care across four sectors — the family, home, community and medical care. Children and their families will participate in a randomized clinical trial that includes a 12-month follow-up period to assess the impact of the program on child asthma outcomes.

Green, 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, Lozada to attend NIH grant writing boot camp

jones-thumbDr. Fantasy Lozada

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 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

ABPsi 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, 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. 

Service 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, 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, Dautovich and Dzierzewski bring mental health support to firefighters

heller-thumbdautovich-thumbDr. Joe Dzierzewski

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 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.

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