2016-2017 News

Department Faculty Awards for 2016-17 Announced

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For her outstanding commitment to community-engaged research and service, the department recognized Corona with the inaugural community engagement award. The founder of the Latino Mental Health Clinic shortly after her arrival at VCU, Corona’s most recent community-engaged work has involved training Latino residents in mental health first aid with VCU School of Social Work colleague Shelby McDonald, Ph.D., through a Council for Community Engagement grant.

For her important, high-quality, community-based research focused on health outcomes among underserved youth and families, the department recognized Everhart with its research award.

For her outstanding cross-campus contributions, the department recognized Loos with the annual service award. She has contributed to the mission of the department and College as an instructor, and as a co-investigator with the training and education core of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, and to the university in her role as program director of the International Programme for Addictions Studies in the VCU School of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

For her outstanding commitment to enhancing student competence in the area of diversity, and her efforts in promoting dialogue in diversity generally among students and faculty, the department recognized Jones with the annual teaching award.

Griffin Featured in VCU News Article on Stellar Grads

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Brandon Griffin, a doctoral student in the counseling psychology program and upcoming graduate, was profiled in a recent VCU News article featuring outstanding graduates from across campus.

Excerpt: Currently a psychology resident at the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System, he provides psychotherapy to combat veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. He soon will begin working at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where he will develop a new psychological intervention for PTSD stemming from killing in war.

While studying at VCU, Griffin was active in serving the Richmond community. After reading a 2015 VCU study showing that people living in his East End neighborhood had a life expectancy of 20 years less than other parts of the city — for possible reasons such as lack of access to health care, availability of food and physical activities, and safe housing — Griffin was inspired to sponsor and coach a soccer team for the neighborhood community center.

“Our team did not solve all of the problems that my players encountered; however, it provided a space where the players developed the interpersonal skills necessary to work as a team, built confidence in themselves by trying a new sport, and were cheered on and even provided with after game lunches by many of my colleagues in the VCU Department of Psychology,” he said.

Read the full feature.

Raldiris Places First, Rice Featured in Graduate Student Research Symposium

raldiris-thumbrice-thumb‌Please join us in congratulating Tarah Raldiris, a doctoral student in the social psychology concentration of the general psychology program, for winning first place in the 2017 VCU Graduate Student Research Symposium. The title of the winning poster was "Mindfulness ‌Attenuates Self-Serving Performance Attributions." Raldiris' faculty mentor is Kirk Warren Brown, ‌Ph.D. Her research interests are focused on understanding the effect of mindfulness on cognition, health and well-being in older adults. She is particularly interested in how mindfulness-based interventions can promote healthy aging, and how we can study correlated changes in brain activity through the use of fMRI and EEG.

‌‌Remington Rice, a doctoral student in the health program, was featured in VCU News' article about the symposium. Rice studies optogenetics under the mentorship of Joseph Porter, Ph.D., and spoke to VCU News about his research poster "Effects of Optogenetic Activation of Ventral Tegmental Area Neurons on Locomotor Activity and Temperature in TH-cre Rats Treated with Amphetamine or Raclopride." Read the article.

Lambert and Quarless Selected as APA Division 45 Campus Reps


The American Psychological Association's Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race (Division 45) has selected Ebony Lambert and Mona Quarless, doctoral students in the health psychology doctoral program, to serve as the student campus representatives in their Campus Representative Program at VCU. The purpose of APA’s Division 45 is to “advance psychology as a science and to promote public welfare through research, to apply research findings towards addressing ethnic minority issues, and to encourage professional relationships among psychologists with these interests.” 

Lambert and Quarless, along with their faculty co-advisers Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., and Chelsea Derlan, Ph.D., will help to promote the vision and mission of Division 45 on the VCU campus through campus activities and by connecting students with Division 45’s many opportunities (webinars, student panels), resources (access to the Division’s quarterly newsletter, funding opportunities), and network of scholars in psychology. 

Martin Receives Customer Service Award

The VCU College of Humanities and Sciences selected Corey Martin, executive administrative assistant to the chair and building manager, as its recipient of the 2017 Customer Service Award. This award is given to a staff member in the College who "provides excellent customer service to faculty, staff and visitors; is passionate about helping others; goes above and beyond his/her normal duties; and is a dedicated team player who exudes excellence in the work place." 

In her nomination letter, Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department, wrote, "Corey is an exceptionally loyal and dedicated employee, staying late or coming in on weekends when things need to get done. Especially when we are in the throes of job searches, or are in a time-crunch to get a task done..., Corey steps up to the job."

Congratulations, Corey, and thanks for all you do to make the Department of Psychology a great place!

Radcliff to Receive VCU Interprofessionalism Award


Zachary Radcliff, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program (child/adolescent concentration), is the 2017 recipient of the Student Excellence in Interprofessionalism Recognition Award from the VCU Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care. The CIECC defines interprofessionalism as "teamwork [that] involves different health and/or social care professions who, for example, share a team identity and work closely together in an integrated and interdependent manner to solve complex care problems and deliver services." 

Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., Radcliff's mentor, nominated him for the award saying, "Mr. Radcliff is an immensely talented young psychologist who has a very promising future ahead of him in both clinical and leadership domains. He is highly committed to interprofessional collaboration as we move toward a more integrated medical and behavioral health care system. Other trainees and faculty in medicine, nursing and pharmacy frequently consult with him about clinical and administrative issues, knowing that he will likely have the answers for them or know where to find them if he does not.  He is poised to represent the best of VCU as he heads off to his internship next year in pediatric care at Dupont Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del."

The Third Annual Student Excellence in Interprofessionalism Recognition Award Ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 11 at 4:00 p.m. in the W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. Building (School of Dentistry) in room 3114. 

Society for Personality and Social Psychology Profiles Brown


In a recent online feature, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) profiled the career and interests of Kirk Warren Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of social psychology at VCU. Brown is a fellow in both the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science, and serves as an academic editor for PLOS ONE. His research examines the role of attention and awareness, and specifically mindfulness, in self-regulation and psychological, physical and social well-being.

CCEP Honored for Exemplary Community-Engaged Research


The VCU Council for Community Engagement has awarded the 2016-17 Currents of Change Award for Exemplary Partnership in Research to the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention (CCEP). The CCEP's director is Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., university professor of health psychology, and its associate director is Deborah Butler

The CCEP was established in 2001 to conduct research and provide innovative, evidenced-based programs and interventions to reduce health disparities and promote healthy youth, families and communities. Under the leadership of Belgrave and Butler, the Center develops and evaluates programs that are sensitive to cultural and community needs.

The Center has a focus on research and programs that reduce health disparities and increase health equities among African Americans and other health disparity populations. The Center works closely with community partners to conduct research and programs in areas related to (a) the prevention of risky sexual behaviors and drug use and abuse; (b) addressing cultural, psychosocial and behavioral contributions to health outcomes (e.g., cancer, tobacco, cardiovascular disease, etc.); and (c) the promotion of social and psychological well-being.

Another focus of the Center is to train students in conducting culturally informed and community-engaged research.

The particular project for which the CCEP will be recognized is the Building Capacity for Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention among African American Young Adults project, which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration through 2020. This project educates and trains African American young adults so they can serve as resources for peers for (a) accurate information on HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, (b) understanding the impact substance abuse has on sexual behavior, (c) normalizing HIV testing and (d) reducing the stigma of HIV. 

The team at CCEP along with their university and community partners will be recognized at the Council for Community Engagement’s annual celebration on Wednesday, May 3, at 4:00 p.m. in Cabell Library.

Kliewer, Zyzniewski Win College of Humanities and Sciences Awards

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VCU's College of Humanities and Sciences has awarded Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., professor and chair, and Linda Zyzniewski, Ph.D., associate professor and director of undergraduate programs, the 2017 Distinguished Mentoring Award and Distinguished Teaching (Math/Science) Award, respectively.

The purpose of the Distinguished Teaching Award is to honor an outstanding contribution to the craft of teaching by a faculty member in the College. The award is for teaching-related activity and may be given either for specific initiatives that demonstrate significant innovativeness or creativity in teaching or for more general excellence in professing one’s discipline, as evidenced by an unusual ability to engage students and stimulate learning, personal investment and commitment, and an ongoing effort to improve teaching.

The purpose of the Distinguished Mentoring Award, a newly established award in the College this year, is to honor an outstanding contribution to mentoring by a faculty member in the College. The award is for mentoring activity by an individual faculty member who has helped to build a supportive academic environment through faculty-to-student mentoring and/or faculty-to-faculty mentoring. The award may be given for offering information and counsel that helps to advance and develop a mentee’s own path to academic and professional success; generously sharing time and expertise to guide a mentee’s work and progress; involving students in publications, grants and conference presentations, in addition to sharing knowledge of such opportunities; and serving as a role model by maintaining high standards for ethics and excellence within their discipline and in the University community more widely.

Hall Featured in Video, Article on Support for Sexual Assault


VCU News featured Calvin Hall, social psychology doctoral student, in its new report "Options, Resources, Support: A Look at How VCU is Responding to Sexual Assault." 

From the article: Calvin Hall, a 2015 VCU graduate, is the former president of Men Against Violence and SAVES (Students Advocating Violence Education and Support). Last year, Hall was one of the few male sexual assault coordinators in Virginia. He is now enrolled in VCU’s social psychology Ph.D. program, where he plans to conduct social cognition research with a focus on stereotype, prejudice and bias.

Sexual assault is a human issue. It’s not a women’s issue, not a men’s issue. It’s everybody’s issue. We need to have research that backs what we are saying. People act on research.

 Read the VCU News article and watch the video, which features Hall, below.   

Shivy Co-Authors Economic Impact Study


A study conducted by two Virginia Commonwealth University professors on behalf of the Friends of the James River Park has found that the James River Park System has a positive impact on the city of Richmond, with every dollar in the park’s budget generating more than $60 in visitor spending.

The study, “Economic Impact of the James River Park System,” was conducted by Victoria A. Shivy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology, and Ivan Suen, Ph.D., associate professor of Urban and Regional Studies and Planning in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

It is the first study of its kind to measure the economic impact of the 550-acre James River Park System, which extends from Huguenot Flatwater to Ancarrow’s Landing. It encompasses the Falls of the James and features rocks, rapids, meadows and forests. With more than 1.4 million visits counted in 2016, it is the most-visited park system in the Richmond region.

Student Awards and Scholarships Announced

Please join us in congratulating our departmental and program award and scholarship recipients for 2017! A reception honoring these students will be held on Monday, May 1 at 3:30 p.m. in White House (806 W. Franklin St.).


  • Undergraduate Psychology Black History in the Making: Nancy Sey
  • Graduate Psychology Black History in the Making: Selamawit Hailu
  • Outstanding Senior: Katlyn N. Garr
  • Outstanding Junior: Cheyenne D. Johnson
  • Outstanding Clinical Psychology Behavioral Medicine Track Graduate Student Award: Autumn Lanoye
  • Outstanding Clinical Psychology Child Clinical Track Graduate Student Award Zachary Radcliff
  • Outstanding Clinical Psychology Child Clinical Track Graduate Student Award: Laura D. Eddy
  • Outstanding Counseling Psychology Graduate Student Award: Lisa Goldberg Looney
  • Outstanding Leadership and Community Engagement in Counseling Psychology: Annalucia Bays
  • Outstanding Developmental Psychology Graduate Student Award: Tennisha N. Riley
  • Outstanding Health Psychology Graduate Student Award: Tory R. Spindle
  • Outstanding Health Psychology Graduate Student Award: Megan E. Sutter
  • Outstanding Social Psychology Graduate Student Award: Jaclyn M. Moloney
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award: Jaclyn M. Moloney
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award: Melissa A. Kwitowski
  • Psychology Graduate Student LGBTQ Ally Award: Ariella R. Tabaac
  • College of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Scholars Awards: Adriana Bos, Erin Brown, Yunjung Chung, Nikita Cotzias, Lisa Harvie, Michael Ketner, John Murphy, Michael Proffitt, Jasmine Reckinger, Jessica Spanos


  • Deborah Braffman Schroeder Award to Outstanding Clinical Student: Sage E. Hawn
  • John P. Hill Award for Adolescent Research: Tennisha N. Riley
  • Elizabeth Fries Memorial Scholarship: Courtney C. Simpson
  • Donald J. Kiesler Memorial Research Fellowship Fund: Julia R. Cox
  • John Corazzini Award for Therapeutic Group Work: Julia R. Cox
  • Dr. Peter Zucker Scholarship: Randl Dent
  • Evelyn E. Gunst Scholarship: Zoe Smith
  • Melvin V. Lubman Scholarship in Psychology: Akea Z. Robinson
  • Peirluigi Antonio Menna Scholarship: Meredith L. Dean

Avila Earns Awards


Melissa Avila, first-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is set to end her first year of graduate school in spectacular fashion. First, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute selected her as one of its 2016 United Health Foundation Scholar Interns due to her exemplary achievements and positive contributions to the Latino community. This award comes with $5,000 annually for two years and is available to graduate students pursuing a health-related degree (such as psychology). Second, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund awarded Avila a $5,000 merit-based scholarship to continue her studies. Last, the American Psychological Association selected Avila to attend its Advanced Training Institute on Research Methods with Diverse Racial and Ethnic Groups at Michigan State University this June. From the APA's website: "The purpose of this ATI is to introduce participants to a variety of research approaches that have been used with diverse racial and ethnic groups to produce significant and useful knowledge about these populations. Participation in this ATI will help investigators to conduct psychological research that is culturally appropriate and relevant for the groups being studied." 

Avila works with faculty mentor Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., in the VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development. She is interested in addiction and community-based research with underrepresented populations or specific individuals with a history of drug abuse in order to (1) pinpoint behavioral health resources that can be used to promote health, and (2) determine what types of treatment methods and insulating factors—especially how illness attitudes or use of health services—can reduce health disparities and promote positive resilience mechanisms within mixed-status/generational families. She is also interested in cultural factors (i.e., machismo, familismo, etc.), acculturation processes, preventive interventions and the integration of cultural/behavioral health strategies in primary care. 

Clinical Student Awarded F31 Training Grant


Sage Hawn, a doctoral student in the behavioral medicine concentration of the clinical psychology doctoral program, will receive three years of funding from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) for her project "Genetics of PTSD and Trauma-Related Drinking.” Her primary mentor is Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D., associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics. Impressively, Hawn obtained a perfect score on her submission the first time in.

Project description: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) commonly co-occur, have shared latent genetic risk and are associated with many negative public health outcomes. Trauma-related drinking to cope may help explain why these two disorders co-occur, thus serving as an essential target for treatment and prevention efforts, particularly among college-aged individuals who are at increased risk for developing at-risk drinking behaviors and PTSD. This F31 award will provide Hawn the training necessary to conduct novel, interdisciplinary research aimed at examining alcohol use (e.g., trauma-related drinking and AUD) and PTSD and their shared molecular genetic risk in a genetically-informative study of college students. 

Kliewer and Hailu Earn PACME Awards

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Each year the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence awards the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment (PACME) awards, which recognize "those VCU and VCU Health System individuals and groups who have made exemplary contributions with regard to promoting civility, building community, establishing cross-cultural initiatives, advocating equity and nurturing a welcoming and inclusively excellent environment throughout the VCU community." The awards - given in four categories (administrator, staff, faculty and student) - recognize" those who go above and beyond the routine expectations of the individual or group’s position." 

This year the Department of Psychology is proud to claim two of the recipients as its own. Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., left, professor and chair, is this year's winner of the PACME administrator award, and Selamawit Hailu, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is a winner of the PACME student award. Kliewer and Hailu will be honored at the PACME ceremony on Thursday, April 20, at 3:00 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom of the University Student Commons.

Previous recipients of the award from the Department of Psychology include Dorothy Fillmore, Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., and Jenson Larrimore.

Paul Perrin Wins APA Division 12 Award


The American Psychological Association's Society of Clinical Psychology has awarded Paul Perrin, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling and health psychology, the Samuel M. Turner Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Diversity in Clinical Psychology. This award is conferred annually to an early career psychologist who has made exemplary contributions to diversity within the field.

In addition to teaching multiculturalism in doctoral courses such as Culture, Ethnicity and Health, Perrin has a social justice-focused research agenda in areas such as racial/ethnic disparities in rehabilitation and health. He also works as part of the Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative to train clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students to bring critical mental health services to underserved populations in the Richmond area.

In his letter nominating Perrin for the award, Timothy Elliott, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Texas A&M University and former faculty member in the Department of Psychology at VCU, wrote, "Paul has a firm commitment to populations too often marginalized in health care, and I am confident that he will continue to use his career to make health care more inclusive and expand clinical psychology’s role in the process." 

"Though I'm honored the committee decided to give me the award," Perrin says, "there are many people who have contributed far more than I to diversity in the profession. My hope is that other allies in diversity and inclusion advocacy in our field - no matter what their identity - will use justice and equity as the building blocks for their professional pursuits."

Read more about Perrin's work on the Social Justice in Health Lab website.

Clinical and Health Doctoral Students Win Best Poster Award


Enkelejda Ngjelina, left, doctoral student in the health psychology program, and Kathryn Polak, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, won the Best Community and Public Health Poster Award at the VCU Institute for Women's Health's 13th Annual Women's Health Research Day. Ashely Dibble, Ph.D., alumna of the clinical program, and Dace Svikis, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology, were co-authors on the poster.  

Women’s Health Research Day is a celebration and promotion of research activities in women's health at VCU. The program includes a plenary symposium, poster awards and reception highlighting women’s health research by VCU faculty and students.

Poster title: Comparing Health Care Needs and Services Utilization Patterns for Males and Females Enrolled in Substance Abuse Treatment

Authors: Enkelejda Ngjelina, Kathryn Polak, Lauretta A. Safford, Ashley Dibble, James C. May, Dawn Farrell-Moore, and Dace S. Svikis 

Doctoral Students Win Prestigious NSF Fellowships


The National Science Foundation has selected Randl Dent, left, and Ebony Lambert, doctoral students in the health psychology program, as recipients of two of its prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships for 2017.  

Each fellowship consists of three years of support during a five-year fellowship period. Currently, NSF provides a stipend of $34,000 to each fellow and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the graduate degree-granting institution for each fellow who uses the fellowship support in a fellowship year.

From the NSF website:

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. 

The title of Dent's study proposal to the NSF was "The Role of Afrocentric Features in the Help-Seeking Behaviors of Black College Students." This study was the basis of her master's thesis for which she has already started collecting data. During the fellowship, she will continue collecting data for her thesis, which examines the impact of feature-based bias and its impact on help-seeking behaviors in black students. 

The title of Lambert's study proposal was "Examination of the Role of Dehumanization as a Potential Mechanism Underlying the Racial Disparities in School Disciplinary Measures." She proposed studies that serve as both the basis of her master’s thesis, and the foundation for a program of research aimed at reducing racial disparities in school disciplinary measures and improving black students’ school lives. During the fellowship, she will collect data for her thesis using both correlational and experimental studies. 

Service learning course expands CMoR's Living Lab


Students in Assistant Professor Marcia Winter’s PSYC 493 “Developmental Science: Making it Real” service learning course are working with the Children’s Museum of Richmond (CMoR) to develop and extend the scope of Seymour’s Living Lab (SLL), which offers families hands-on science education, in addition to providing opportunities for scientists to disseminate information and to recruit participants.

“Our students might lead a child in an activity to demonstrate impulse control (or lack thereof), and parents are offered accompanying information about the scientific concept and what we know about it,” Winter said. “Students also recruit children and their parents/guardians to participate in interactive research studies while they’re at the museum.”

Winter said students are not only providing a valuable service to the parents and to CMoR, but they are also seeing the importance of what they’re doing and the science behind what children demonstrate.

“CMoR relies on volunteers for much of its programming, so it seems like a natural match to bring our PSYC students, so many of whom are eager for hands-on experience, into service there,” Winter said. “Learning is at the core of all that CMoR does, so learning about child learning and development fits right in and helps reinforce the educational nature of CMoR for museum visitors and personnel, as well as VCU students. Our interactive exhibits also allow excellent opportunities for a dynamic museum experience.”

Supported by a Service Learning Partnership Grant, the initiative is based on and is a localized extension of the national Living Lab initiative, which was originally funded through the National Science Foundation. After funding ended, Winter and CMoR Education Manager Jenna Petrosino began exploring ways to continue the initiative and make the model more sensitive to local needs and more sustainable long-term. Service Learning Teaching Assistant Jessica Greenlee is producing a manual for the program and for the pedagogical model it encompasses.

“We’re exploring more ways to extend SLL - to the other CMoR sites in Chesterfield and Short Pump and by applying the program more broadly to reach more families and even educators who might be able to use the model,” Winter said.

For more information, contact Dr. Winter at mawinter@vcu.edu.

Story courtesy of the VCU Division of Community Engagement

VCU Psychology ranks No. 60 in U.S. News & World Report


The Department of Psychology's graduate program tied at No. 60 in the 2018 edition of U.S. News & World Report's "Best Graduate Schools," released March 14. 

To learn more about the 2018 rankings, including a complete list, visit http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools. Not all program areas receive updated rankings each year. For example, clinical psychology programs, which are ranked separately from other graduate psychology programs, were ranked in 2016; the VCU clinical program was No. 57 (top 25% of all programs). 

Drs. McCullough and Worthington set to retire in May 

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James McCullough, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology, and Everett Worthington, Ph.D., commonwealth professor of counseling psychology, will retire at the end of the spring semester. These esteemed scholars and teachers have touched many lives over the years and will be sorely missed. The Department of Psychology is compiling written tributes in celebration of their careers to be presented to them at the end of the semester. If you would like to submit a sentiment to one or both professors, please follow the links below.

Utsey Lab Shares Expertise at Winter Roundtable


The Winter Roundtable at Columbia University is the longest running continuing professional education program in the U.S. devoted solely to cultural issues in psychology and education. Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., professor of counseling psychology and interim chair of the VCU Department of African American Studies, and his lab members attended this year's roundtable, which was called "From Ferguson to Flint: Multicultural Competencies for Community-Based Trauma." He and his lab members - Princess Louden, Ashley Hill, Keyona Allen, Sultan Hubbard and Christina Barnett -  led a symposium about the community engagement series "Building Legacies Around Cultural Knowledge," a series Utsey and his lab conduct in partnership with Blackwell Community Center, which hosts the weekly conversations about topics particularly pertinent for black people. 

In addition to the symposium, Utsey and his students presented a poster about race-related stress and held a roundtable discussion about navigating graduate school as a black student.

Many thanks to James Cones lll, Ph.D., a 1987 graduate of the clinical psychology doctoral program at VCU and mentee of James McCullough, Ph.D., who came out to support Utsey and his students!  

Psychology Students Win Black History in the Making Awards

hailu-thumbsey, nancy‌Selamawit Hailu, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, and Nancy Sey, undergraduate psychology major and 2016 SURF fellow, are winners of the 2017 Black History in the Making awards. 

The award, given from the VCU Department of African American Studies, was founded in 1983 by Daryl Dance, Ph.D., the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature who served as program coordinator during the 1983-84 academic year. Dance established the Black History in the Making award to recognize the achievements of African American students.

In 1983 Dance invited academic units and organizations to “recognize a student who has made an important contribution.” The nominating units established criteria for selecting recipients. Since 1983, more than 550 students have been recognized by over fifty departments and organizations. Nominees generally have stellar academic records, a history of community service, and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers.

The Department of Psychology calls for award nominations each spring semester.

VCU News Features Five-Week 'Spotlight on Psychology' Course

salvatore-thumb‌Each semester the Department of Psychology offers several one-credit, five-week "Spotlight on Psychology" special topics courses that give psychology majors a chance to learn about a faculty member's research in a small classroom setting. ‌The recent VCU News article "Is Love Really Like a Drug?" explores the spotlight course Love and Other Drugs: The Science Behind Media Portrayals of Romance and Substances of Abuse taught by Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor and researcher in the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute.

From VCU News: "The course objective was to examine the science behind portrayals of romance and substances of abuse in popular music and movies using developmental, social psychological, neurobiological and behavioral genetic perspectives. It explored topics such as the neurobiology of love and addiction, the effects of relationships on substance use and the effects of substance use on relationships." 

"Students authored papers analyzing pop songs — 'Your Love is my Drug' by Kesha, 'Drunk on a Plane' by Dierks Bentley, and Huey Lewis and the News’ 'I Want a New Drug' among them — that deal with themes and metaphors related to romantic relationships and drug and alcohol abuse."

Read the full article.

Counseling and Clinical Students Match for Internships

Congratulations to our wonderful counseling and clinical doctoral students who are headed out on internship next year!

Annalucia Bays
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Kathleen Ingram, Ph.D.
Internship placement: College of William and Mary

Melissa Dvorsky
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Cincinnati Children's Hospital

‌Laura Eddy
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Heather Jones, Ph.D., and Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.
Internship placement: University of Texas Health Sciences Center - San Antonio

Lisa Goldberg-Looney
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Paul Perrin, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics & Surgery Center (U.S. Air Force)

‌Chelsea Hughes
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Everett Worthington, Ph.D.
Internship placement: University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Autumn Lanoye
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D.
Internship placement: West Virginia University

Annie Rabinovitch
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Paul Perrin, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Kennedy Krieger/Johns Hopkins University

Zachary Radcliff
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

Department Says Farewell to Valued Colleague

stoddard-thumbOn January 25 we said goodbye to Katharine Stoddard, a gifted academic adviser, administrator, department cheerleader and friend to all. In addition to the day-to-day management of PSYUGRAD Advising, under Katharine’s leadership, the department implemented a fall career panel for its undergraduate majors and two research fairs; communicated weekly with its majors through an e-blast about opportunities and deadlines; managed complex student situations; developed and implemented four annual advising outreach campaigns which support our undergraduates' progress to graduation; modernized the way we collect data in Advising; and assisted with our onboarding a new university-wide advising platform. Last year alone under Katharine’s day-to-day leadership, PSYUGRAD Advising met in person with 4,500 majors who came seeking assistance on progress to graduation, course selection, appeals, applications and career planning.

Her supervisor and mentor, Dorothy Fillmore, spoke about Katharine during her last faculty meeting saying,

"Katharine has the stance of an academic adviser – she is as genuine with us, her colleagues, as she is with students. She is authentic and congruent and she approaches all of us – students and colleagues alike – with high regard."

We thank Katharine for the gifts of her work and presence, and wish her the best as she leaves us to start a new adventure. 

> View pictures from Katharine's farewell reception.

Providing Mentorship for Underrepresented Scholars

thomas-thumbChelsea Derlan, Ph.D., left, assistant professor in the developmental psychology program, and Krystal Thomas, doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, have been selected to participate in the 2017 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Frances Degen Horowitz Millennium Scholars Program. Derlan will serve as a mentor in the program; Thomas will serve as a scholar.

The Millennium Scholars Program was developed as a vehicle to encourage and support scholars from underrepresented ethnic/racial groups from North America in pursuing graduate work in developmental science. To that end, the program provides educational and professional development for these scholars, giving them a launching point for a career in the field of child development. The program offers the selected scholars with mentorship from advanced scholars in the field who provide them guidance and support in their pursuit of educational and professional goals. Individuals from diverse racial, ethnic and disciplinary groups are recruited to serve as mentors. Through participation in the Millennium Scholars Program, minority scholars have the opportunity to attend the SRCD biennial meeting, special preconference activities and the possibility to develop a lasting mentoring relationship with their mentors. These experiences enable scholars to gain valuable exposure to the field and allow them to interact not only with their mentors, but also with other scholars and professionals.

VCU Annual Report Features Work of the Primary Care Psychology Collaborative

rybarczyk-thumbVirginia Commonwealth University's newest annual report (2015-16) prominently features Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., and the Primary Care Psychology Collaborative team's efforts to bring free mental health services to Richmond's most underserved populations.


"Three of Richmond’s safety net primary care clinics found they could not meet the mental health needs of their patients — the city’s most vulnerable and medically underserved populations. They needed a solution. But what? And how at little or no cost? Psychology professor Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., had an answer: embedding his doctoral trainees in primary care clinics where patients could easily access services. Now one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S., the VCU Primary Care Psychology Training Network has trained more than 85 doctoral students in recent years. These trainees have delivered more than 10,000 pro bono sessions. And the patients are getting the access to the care they need."

 > Read the full VCU 2015-16 Annual Report.

Dr. David Chester's Revenge Research Generates Media Interest

Dave Chester smiling.

David Chester, Ph.D., assistant professor of social psychology, has spoken to several news agencies recently regarding his research on revenge. In a December radio interview with the BBC, Chester said, "The desire for vengeance – to harm those who’ve harmed you - is part of human nature. Whether it’s getting your own back on a cheating partner or settling a score with a childhood bully, many of us have considered retribution against the person who’s done us wrong. Yet often we decide not to act on that instinct." 

Despite people's ability to control urges for vengeance, Chester and his colleague from the University of Kentucky, C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., found in a recent study that when research participants were given the chance to exact revenge on someone who had caused them to feel rejection, those who chose revenge (which was most of them, by the way) not only enjoyed the feeling, but actively sought to experience it as a way of improving mood. The study's findings were featured in the recent British Psychological Society article "Revenge Really is Sweet: Study Shows the Mood-Enhancing Effect of Retaliation," the New York magazine feature "Turns Out Getting Revenge Really Does Make You Happier" and "People Who Take Revenge Do It to Restore Inner Peace, Study Says" in Vice's online publication Broadly.

Reference: Chester, D. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2016). Combating the sting of rejection with the pleasure of revenge: A new look at how emotion shapes aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/pspi0000080

Tennisha Riley Earns Awards


The Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology has awarded Tennisha Riley a 2017 Underrepresented Student Workshop Travel Award for $1,000. Tennisha, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, will use the award to attend the Curran-Bauer workshop on multilevel modeling in June 2017 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tennisha also placed second in this year's annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT ®) Competition hosted by the Graduate School at VCU for "The Impact of Chess Training on Positive Behavior and Social Skills." 3MT ® is a research communication competition originally developed by The University of Queensland in 2008, and now has been widely adopted at universities around the world. The exercise challenges master’s and doctoral students to present a compelling talk on their thesis/dissertation topic and its significance. Many theses and dissertations can be over 80,000 words and take hours to present, but students in this competition have just three minutes and one slide to convey often highly-technical research to a lay audience. Congratulations, Tennisha!

Koch Serves as Expert Panelist

koch-thumbAssociate Professor J. Randy Koch, Ph.D., served as an expert panelist at the Philippines 2016: Confronting the Drug Epidemic forum in Washington, D.C. in December. The forum, which was sponsored by the U.S.-Philippines Society and the Johns Hopkins Southeast Asia Studies Program, with support from the Philippine Embassy, brought together public health experts and U.S. and Philippine government officials to discuss and consider policy interventions for the drug epidemic in the Philippines. Koch offered specific recommendations for treatment facilities in the Philippines, noting access to treatment could be improved by "(1) building smaller and geographically dispersed centers, (2) developing a simplified intake process, ideally with same-day access, (3) expanding the range of services to include services in prisons and jail, and women-specific services, and (4) reducing length of residential treatment from six months to 30-90 days [by supplementing] with outpatient services."

> Read the full article on the U.S.-Philippines Society website.

Celebrating the Inaugural Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program

surf 2016

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: the Developmental and Family Psychology Laboratory (directed by Robin Everhart, Ph.D., and Marcia Winter, Ph.D.), the Behavioral Health Research Laboratory (directed by Caroline Cobb, Ph.D.) and the Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory (directed by Joseph Porter, Ph.D.).

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, provided mentoring and offered several programs for the fellows throughout the summer including meetings about vita development and GRE preparation. The fellows also had the chance to meet with the department chair, Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., and the College of Humanities and Sciences' new dean, Montserrat Fuentes, Ph.D. Future summer fellowship programs may use different themes. The closing event was a poster session on November 4.

> View pictures from the closing poster session.

Dr. Terri Sullivan Receives CDC Research Grant

sullivan-thumb> View Richmond Times-Dispatch story
View VCU News story

Principal investigators Dr. Terri Sullivan, Developmental Psychology, and Dr. Saba Masho, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, will work closely with the Richmond community. Excerpt: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded Virginia Commonwealth University a nearly $6 million research grant to promote healthy communities and reduce violence rates in Richmond. The grant resulted from a strong collaboration between community partners and the university. The university will work closely with members of the Richmond community and local organizations to carry out objectives detailed in the five-year grant. . . The project continues the work of the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development at VCU, which is one of five national centers of excellence for youth violence prevention funded by the CDC. Clark-Hill’s mission is to empower youth, schools and families to promote the healthy, safe and otherwise positive development of youth from early adolescence through emerging adulthood. The current project builds upon more than 15 years of CDC funding."

"In 2014, the rate of homicide among young people in Richmond was nearly four times the national average. Activities funded through the grant will seek to reduce incidences of violence in the city by evaluating the impact of evidence-based violence intervention approaches."

Dr. Eric Benotsch Receives NIDA Research Grant


Eric Benotsch, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Psychology, and Dr. Nathan Gillespie, Assistant Professor at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in VCU’s Department of Psychiatry, received an R21 from the National Institute of Drug Abuse for the project “The genetic and environmental etiology of non-medical use of prescription drugs.” Using data from an Australian twin sample and from VCU’s Spit for Science project [http://spit4science.vcu.edu/], the team will examine genetic and environmental contributors to prescription drug misuse.

The non-medical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) such as opioid analgesics is a growing problem in the United States and now accounts for more emergency room visits than the use of all illicit drugs combined. Factors driving NMUPD include, but are not limited to, misperceptions about safety, increasing drug availability, and personal motivations. Despite the high prevalence of NMUPD, concomitant death rates, and comorbidity, the basic genetic and environmental contributors to NMUPD remain unknown. The intent of the project is to increase understanding of these fundamental factors associated with NMUPD.

Dr. Bryce McLeod Receives NIMH Research Grant

mcleod-thumbDr. Bryce McLeod, associate professor and director of the child and adolescent concentration within our clinical psychology program, received an R34 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for the project Developing a Robust Evidence-Based Implementation Package for Youth Autism. As co-principal investigator of this $706,069 award, which runs from August 2016 to July 2018, Dr. McLeod will be developing an innovative open-access internet-based system designed to help support the training of community clinicians in the use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a cost-effective manner that clinicians and other stakeholders find acceptable and feasible. This grant was driven by the fact that the quality of care for school-aged youth with ASD in community-based mental health centers is poor, with significant implications for current and future prognosis. Transporting and implementing EBPs to community-based mental health centers represents one way to improve the quality of care; however, there are inherent challenges in training clinicians in community settings to effectively use EBPs.

Dr. Chelsea Derlan Wins APA Research Award

Dr. Chelsea Derlan, who just joined our department in the Developmental Psychology program and is affiliated with the Culture, Race, and Health Core, won an award over the summer for her work while a graduate student. She received the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race (Division 45 of the American Psychological Association)'s Distinguished Student Research Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding psychological research on ethnic minority issues conducted primarily by a graduate student, including - but not limited to - dissertation research. Candidates whose goals and professional development are consistent with a career involving the psychological study of ethnic minority issues are given preference for the award.

Dr. Randy Koch Wins NIDA Excellence in Mentoring Award

 koch-thumbRead the Zeitgeist story

Excerpt: "Associate Professor Randy Koch, Ph. D., was selected as the 2016 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Program Awards of Excellence winner for the Excellence in Mentoring category. After nearly a decade as associate coordinator of the VCU Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program on Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Policy, Koch became the coordinator of the fellowship program in 2015. As coordinator, Koch ensures that the NIDA-supported Humphrey Fellows receive the academic, technical and leadership training that makes the program so worthwhile. NIDA International Awards of Excellence winners are selected based on contributions to areas essential to the mission of the NIDA International Program: mentoring, international leadership and collaborative research."

Dr. Bruce Rybarczyk Receives HRSA Research Grant


>View the VCU News story.

Dr. Bruce Rybarczyk of the Clinical Psychology Program is the recipient of a 3-year $1 million award from the Health Research Services Administration (HRSA) to provide integrated mental health training for clinical and counseling students and services to underserved populations. Excerpt: “'One challenge and frustration since we began our VCU PCPTN was that we had not been able to reach two crucial underserved segments of the Richmond community: children and Latino families,' said project director Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Even though we had the faculty expertise and students in those training areas, we simply had not been able to find the right clinics to partner with and resources to make it feasible for faculty to supervise in those settings.” Richmond has a sizable population of lower-income and minority communities who are underserved in access to mental health services, Rybarczyk said. Transportation and stigma barriers keep these communities from seeking services, he said. And many of these individuals do not have severe enough problems to qualify for public mental health services, or they have behavioral problems best treated in a medical setting in coordination with their medical providers. 'Integrated primary care is an ideal setting for filling these gaps in available services for these communities,' Rybarczyk said. 'It serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ where they can get coordinated, holistic care for a wide range of health problems, including depression, anxiety, stress management, weight loss, substance abuse, smoking cessation, and behavioral methods for managing chronic pain.'”

Dr. Jessica Salvatore Receives NIAAA Research Grant

salvatore-thumb> View the VCU News story

Dr. Jessica Salvatore, Research Assistant Professor of Psychology, received a K01 award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of NIH. The roughly $750,000 5-year award is titled “Genetics, Romantic Relationships, and Alcohol Misuse in Emerging Adulthood.” Excerpt: "Alcohol misuse reflects a complex interplay of genetic and environmental influences across development, and young adulthood is the highest-risk period for the onset of alcohol problems. Romantic relationships are a key environmental influence that comes “online” in young adulthood, and there is growing evidence that alcohol use and misuse are associated with relationship quality and the characteristics of one’s partner... My hope is that the findings coming out of this work will underscore the potential for preventive interventions that promote positive, growth-enhancing romantic relationships in young adulthood."

Drs. Marcia Winter and Robin Everhart Receive VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund Award

winter-thumbeverhart-thumb> View the Zeitgeist story

Dr. Marcia Winter (principal investigator), Developmental Psychology, and Robin Everhart (co-investigator), Health Psychology, received a VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund award to conduct the Families of Richmond, VA Extension (FoR-VA-x) study to examine links between children’s stress exposure and immune profiles. FoR-VA-X draws participants from the larger FoR-VA study that aims to better understand individual differences in how children navigate challenges, both individually and with the help of their families, and how that might relate to their socio-emotional and physical health outcomes. Ultimately, this research is designed to inform prevention, intervention, and policy initiatives to promote child health and development and reduce the health disparities that are plaguing low-income children such as those in urban Richmond.