2018-19 News

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.

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."

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.

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."

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!

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.

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

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.

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.