New grants manager

Amanda Silvester
Amanda Silvester

Please join us in welcoming Amanda Silvester to our able staff in the service center!  Amanda will be serving the Department of Psychology as a grants manager.

About Amanda

I grew up a navy brat but stayed in Virginia, bouncing around between the Tidewater area and Fredericksburg. After graduating high school I briefly attended Randolph-Macon Women’s College and then transferred to West Virginia University after the conclusion of my freshman year.

During my time at WVU I started my career working as a bank teller. After graduating from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2012 I moved to Richmond with my husband, who is a Richmond native. Shortly after relocating I started working at Capital One Bank, specializing in merchant disputes and fraud investigation. I also began working toward a career path in process and risk management, initiating a certification as a Six Sigma Green Belt.

Corporate life wasn’t really my cup of tea and I wanted to get back to being in a higher-ed setting. My predisposition to meticulosity paired with my experience in finance pointed me toward grant management. While I have not worked in an official capacity managing grants, I am well-versed in reconciliation as well as creative problem solving when it comes to account management. I am incredibly excited to take on a new challenge.

In my spare time I love to read, cook and watch movies. Additionally, I’m a budding board game aficionado. I also run (I have completed 3 half marathon races and will be working to complete my first full marathon next year), go hiking, camping and generally explore new things around Richmond with my corgi dog. I’m never one to pass up a trip to somewhere new.

I look forward to meeting everyone, thank you for the warm welcome!

Psychology faculty members promoted to Commonwealth, University professors

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., left, and Albert Farrell, Ph.D.

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., left, and Albert Farrell, Ph.D.

Two faculty members in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences have been promoted to the prestigious ranks of University and Commonwealth professors.

VCU has promoted Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., professor of health psychology and social psychology and director of the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, to University Professor, and Albert Farrell, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology and director of the VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, to Commonwealth Professor.

Faculty members nominated for University Professor must either teach or conduct research that crosses discipline boundaries. These individuals must have an established prominence in multiple fields of study, with national or international recognition in at least one field of study.

Candidates who are nominated for Commonwealth Professor must have an established prominence through extraordinary scholarly attainment, educational advancement, or leadership in an academic discipline or field of study, with national or international distinction. Continue reading Psychology faculty members promoted to Commonwealth, University professors

Psych students launch Latinx Graduate Student Association at VCU

Featured photo

A group of Virginia Commonwealth University graduate students are launching the university’s first Latinx Graduate Student Association for grad students of Latinx descent and those who are interested in Latinx culture.

“My hope is for this organization to serve as a place where Latino/a graduate students can get together and meet each other in VCU,” said Efren Velazquez, an elder in the organization and a fifth-year student in the Health Psychology Ph.D. Program in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Further, I also hope that the organization can serve as a place where other graduate students can learn more about the Latinx culture by attending our future events — guest speakers, community projects — and interact with us, the Latino [and Latina] graduate students.”

The word Latinx is an ungendered Spanish term that is growing in popularity and is seen as more inclusive.

The group is beginning to plan events for the upcoming year, including social events, community service and an academic speaker series. It will also soon begin recruitment push on both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses. Continue reading Psych students launch Latinx Graduate Student Association at VCU

The Department of Psychology’s Distinguished Speaker Series welcomes Dr. Richard Lee

Richard Lee, Ph. D. ('96)
Richard Lee, Ph. D. (’96)

Please join us in welcoming back to campus Dr. Richard Lee, a 1996 graduate of our counseling psychology doctoral program. Dr. Lee is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and editor of the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. His areas of expertise include counseling psychology, prevention science, ethnic minority mental health, international adoption, individual differences, and Asian American studies. Dr. Lee is a current fellow and past president of the Asian American Psychological Association, as well as a current fellow of the American Psychological Association’s Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) and 45 (Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race).

Title of talk: Contesting and Creating Narratives About Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in International Adoption

Abstract: Growing up as a racial minority within one’s own family, not knowing birth family history, and having limited access to ethnic heritage and culture present unique psychological, social, and medical challenges for internationally adopted individuals and their families. I will present a series of studies using survey, observational, and mixed method designs that contest dominant narratives and create alternate narratives about race, ethnicity, and culture in international adoption. Issues to be addressed include how parents and youth talk about ethnicity and race, ethnic identity development, experiences with discrimination and racism, birth family search and reunions, and the role of genetic testing in adoption.

The talk will be held on Thursday, November 3 at 4 p.m. in the Grace Street Theater at 934 W. Grace St. Reception and light hors d’oeuvres to follow.

Department gives faculty awards in scholarship, teaching and service for 2015-16

Each year the personnel committee in the Department of Psychology recognizes special contributions from faculty members in scholarship, teaching and service from the year prior at the first faculty meeting of the academic year.

Eric Benotsch, Ph. D., was honored as the winner of the Excellence in Scholarship Award for his strong publication record, including his publication record with his graduate students, in high impact outlets, and his recently funded NIH grant focused on the genetic and environmental etiology of non-medical use of prescription drugs.  Jennifer Joy-Gaba, Ph. D., received the Excellence in Teaching Award for her stellar undergraduate instruction, her dedication to providing directed research experiences for undergraduate students, her efforts on the preceptorship program, which is designed to teach talented students how to effectively teach in a college classroom, and her mentorship of graduate teaching assistants. Bryce McLeod, Ph. D., received the Excellence in Service Award for his work as the child and adolescent concentration director in the clinical psychology doctoral program, for his clinical supervision at ChildSavers, a community-based organization, and for his service to the profession.

Congratulations, Drs. Benotsch, Joy-Gaba and McLeod!

Welcome, 2016-17 Humphrey fellows!

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program Class of 2016-17
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program Class of 2016-17

Virginia Commonwealth University was selected by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State, as a new site for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in 2006. The program, previously housed in the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies, is in its third year in its new home, the VCU Department of Psychology. The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, a Fulbright exchange activity, brings accomplished professionals from selected developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia to the United States at a mid-point in their careers for a year of study and related practical professional experiences.  Fellows are nominated by U.S. Embassies or Fulbright Commissions based on their potential for leadership.  By provid­ing these future leaders with a shared experience of U.S. society and culture and of current U.S. approaches to the fields in which they work, the program provides a basis for lasting ties between citizens of the United States and their professional counterparts in other countries.  Thus, the Humphrey Fellowship Program fosters an exchange of knowledge and mutual understanding, through which the United States joins in a significant partnership with participating countries.

This year we welcome twelve new fellows: Ms. Maria Elisa Cabrera from Montevideo, Uruguay; Dr. Gilbert Habonimana from Bujumbura, Burundi; Mr. Samuel Cudjoe Hanu from Accra, Ghana; Mr. James Mongare Kenga from Nairobi, Kenya; Dr. Olajumoke “Jummy” Koyejo from Nigeria; Dr. Gulnar Magauina from Astana, Kazakhstan; Ms. Daniela Ocaña-Gordillo from Quito, Ecuador; Ms. Huyen Pham from Hanoi, Vietnam; Dr. Maria Rodrigues from Maputo, Mozambique; Dr. Igor Salvatierra from La Paz, Bolivia; Dr. Salman Shahzad from Karachi, Pakistan; and Ms. Nazish Yousaf from Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. You can read a bio of each of the new fellows by visiting the Humphrey Fellowship Program page on our website.

Recent media features

Did you know psychologists can help you buy bed pillows? Natalie Dautovich, Ph. D., assistant professor in our counseling psychology program and environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation, told the Chicago Tribune, “Bad pillows can cause neck or shoulder pain and headaches, and they can worsen allergy symptoms, like sneezing and congestion. Read the article for specific tips on what kind of pillow is right for you.  Dr. Dautovich also authored a post on this summer on how to maximize sleep during summer travel.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently featured three new grants on its Inside IES Research blog to highlight the roles of physical activity, inactivity and sleep in academic outcomes for students.  One of the grants discussed is Dr. Joshua Langberg’s new IES-funded research examining sleep in adolescents with ADHD. The article notes the potential for findings from this research to inform a school-based intervention for sleep problems.

The Huffington Post reached out to resident expert on forgiveness, Everett Worthington, Ph. D., commonwealth professor of psychology, for his take on Donald Trump’s refusal to apologize for mistakes. The article, entitled “One Of Trump’s Biggest Flaws Might Be What Gets Him Elected,” discusses the way we view people as powerful or not based on willingness to express remorse and/or ask for forgiveness. Dr. Worthington could also be found alongside his graduate student Brandon Griffin in the pages of Richmond Magazine discussing “The Healing Power of Self-Forgiveness.” In the article, Dr. Worthington details how “paying forward” a debt can go a long way towards forgiving oneself.

Graduate student news

Daniel Berry, a fifth year student in the social psychology doctoral program, received a 2016-17 Graduate School Dissertation Assistantship. This assistantship includes a stipend of $17,250 for nine months and full tuition remission. This award is competitive; almost fifty applicants from all units at VCU applied.

Liza Bourchtein, in her third year in the clinical psychology doctoral program, received the 2016-2017 VCU Master’s Thesis Award in Social Sciences, Business, and Education from the Graduate School. Her thesis, entitled “Positive Illusory Bias in Adolescents with ADHD: Prevalence, Stability, and Accuracy of Reporters,” was deemed the best in the category across VCU.

Brandon Griffin, counseling psychology doctoral student, was featured in the Richmond Magazine article, “The Healing Power of Self-Forgiveness.” In it, he compared developing the capacity for forgiveness to going to the gym: “You don’t pick up the heaviest weight on the rack your first time lifting. You have to build up to it, you have to train yourself to do it.”

Janna Imel, a student in the counseling psychology doctoral program, made a video (below) in honor of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The video features several other students in our doctoral programs.


Melissa Washington-Nortey, a second-year student in the developmental doctoral program, received a VCU Graduate School Travel Grant for her submission “Relational Factors Predict Emotion Regulation in African American Boys Better Than Parenting Factors.” Anna Behler, a second-year student in the social psychology doctoral program, received a travel grant, too, for her submission “To Help or Not to Help?: The Impact of Other Focused Emotions on Prosocial Behavior.”

Congratulations to our graduate students on these wonderful accomplishments!



Alumna spotlight: Dr. Raquel Halfond (Ph. D. ’11)

Raquel Halfond, Ph. D.
Raquel Halfond, Ph. D.

We’d like to extend our congratulations to alumna Raquel Halfond, Ph. D., who was recently promoted from project officer of clinical practice guidelines to director of clinical practice guidelines at the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Halfond received her B.S. from the College of William and Mary and her M.A. from Wake Forest University before graduating with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from VCU in 2011. From there, she completed her internship at Children’s Hospital-Los Angeles and her postdoctoral fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.  Dr. Halfond is a licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia.  In her new role, she directs all the day-to-day activities of APA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines Initiative. This initiative builds on APA’s evidence-based practice policy, is informed by best practices for guideline development and is comprised of a multidisciplinary context.  She also serves as project liaison to government agencies.

I was fortunate to have many wonderful mentors and supervisors during my time at VCU. However the greatest influences were my adviser, Dr. Rose Corona, and mentor, Dr. Bryce McLeod. Their guidance, support and mentorship during and after my time at VCU have been instrumental in my life, both professionally and personally.

Dr. Halfond remembers her VCU experiences fondly.  Her favorite graduate course was Human Diversity and she says the “great people” and her work in the Latino Mental Health Clinic were particular highlights.  In her spare time, Dr. Halfond enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking, cooking and dancing.  When asked what her plans for the future are, she says, “To be determined – there’s still so much I want to do in my life!”


Meet our new faculty members

After a busy recruitment season, we are pleased to welcome six wonderful new faculty members to our department this academic year. Get to know them below!

David Chester, Ph. D.

David Chester, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor
Social Psychology


B.A. psychology, Warren Wilson College
M.S. experimental psychology, University of Kentucky
Ph.D. experimental psychology, University of Kentucky

Research interests:

  • aggression / why people try to harm one another
  • helping researchers and clinicians fully understand the feelings and thoughts that come in between inputs and aggressive outcomes
  • psychological and neuroscientific methods for investigating how social pain, pleasure and self-regulation promote aggressive behavior

Full publication list [PDF]

Teaching interests:

  • Personality and social psychology (undergraduate)
  • Research methods (undergraduate)
  • Advanced research techniques (e.g. brain imaging) (graduate)

Research spotlight: Is revenge truly sweet?

Personal/outside interests: Dr. Chester is a licensed stone mason and enjoys riding his skateboard, hiking and camping in the woods and running half-marathons. He is also looking forward to kayaking the James River.

Continue reading Meet our new faculty members

New grant examines cigar flavor and abuse liability

Caroline Cobb, Ph. D.
Caroline Cobb, Ph. D.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products have awarded a $228,750 grant to assistant professor of health psychology Caroline Cobb, Ph. D., and co-principal investigator Andrew Barnes, Ph. D.,  assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Policy. This grant, which will run from 9/15/2016 to 8/31/2018, will systematically evaluate the effect of four flavors of Black & Mild cigars on measures of abuse liability in young adult conventional tobacco cigarette smokers.

Tobacco use contributes to nearly half a million deaths in the United States annually. To reduce this death toll, the FDA was granted regulatory authority over tobacco in 2009. This authority was limited with respect to cigars, which are increasingly popular. The availability of cigar flavors, among other characteristics, has been linked to increased sales and consumption, with the largest increases among youth/young adults and certain racial/ethnic minorities. No studies exist quantifying the effect of cigar flavors on abuse liability—the degree to which a psychoactive drug or formulation would be used for nonmedical purposes and that abuse would lead to dependence. Such evidence is essential to reducing cigar smoking among youth/young adults, who have a high risk of experimentation and relevance to FDA priorities. The study aims to address this critical evidence gap by systematically examining the effect of four flavors of Black & Mild, the most popular cigar brand, on measures of abuse liability in young adult conventional tobacco cigarette smokers.

Beth Heller and team introduce new campus safety tool for VCU

Beth Heller, Ph. D.

Have you noticed a new set of signs on campus marking the RAMSWay path? Based on input from student leaders and the most recent VCU safety survey, Beth Heller, Ph. D., director of the Center for Psychological Services and Development, and her project team from the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute identified routes on both campuses to maximize pedestrian travel in well-lit and more heavily populated areas. Access to emergency reporting telephones and an increase in VCU Police patrols along these routes are expected to enhance both the reality and perception of safety on campus.

Beth Heller, Ph. D.
Beth Heller, Ph. D.

Students, employees and visitors to campus are encouraged to make a habit of using the RAMSWay path, particularly when walking on campus after dark. To learn more, click here.

Dr. Heller was one of three faculty members from Psychology who participated in the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute last year (Drs. Michael Southam-Gerow and Alison Breland also participated).

Congratulations, August ’16 graduates!

class of 2016


PhD in Counseling Psychology

Nathasha Cole
Brooke Green
Allison Holgerson
Caroline Lavelock
Yin Lin

PhD in Clinical Psychology

Amma Agyemang
Adrienne Borschuk
Therese Cash
Elizabeth Collison
Tess Drazdowski
Bryan Jensen
Thomas Moore
Adriana Rodriguez

MS in Psychology

David Pomm

BS in Psychology

Arianna Agnellini
Naima Aitcaid
Farrah Alakhras
Lauren Bailey
Danielle Barrow
Timothy Battle
Kathleen Bell Continue reading Congratulations, August ’16 graduates!

Supporting community clinicians in the use of evidence-based practices for autism spectrum disorder

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.
Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.

Congratulations to Bryce McLeod, Ph. D., associate professor and director of the child and adolescent concentration within our clinical psychology doctoral program, on receiving 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.

Kudos to Dr. McLeod for this innovative, community-based, transformative work!

Koch selected for National Institute on Drug Abuse award

J. Randy Koch, Ph. D.
J. Randy Koch, Ph. D.

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.

In addition to his work with the NIDA Humphrey Fellows, Koch studies tobacco use prevention and program performance and outcome measurement for community-based substance abuse services. Working with one of the first VCU Humphrey Fellows, Koch and the South African Medical Research Council have been implementing and testing a system of performance measures for that country’s treatment services.

The 2016 Awards of Excellence winners were announced on June 11 at the 21st annual NIDA International Forum in Palm Springs, California. The 2016 Forum focused on “Global Developments in Drug Trends, Practice, and Policy.”

New VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund award for Dr. Winter

Marcia Winter, Ph. D. Principal Investigator
Marcia Winter, Ph. D.
Principal Investigator
Robin Everhart, Ph. D. Co-Investigator
Robin Everhart, Ph. D.

Children raised in low resource contexts experience poorer physical health outcomes. By age 25, children from the lowest socioeconomic (SES) groups will have an average life expectancy of six fewer years compared to those in the highest SES contexts. A basic tenet of biobehavioral models is that stress increases risk for adverse health outcomes because it suppresses the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illness and disease progression. Although this has been supported in animal and adult research, how it translates to children is not yet clear; thus, Marcia Winter, Ph. D., and health psychology program colleague Robin Everhart, Ph. D., designed 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 here in urban Richmond.logo color with text

Winter and Everhart received a VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund award to conduct this research.  The goal of this VCU fund, which is administered through the VCU Office of Research and Innovation, is to afford all faculty internal funding opportunities to support new, emerging or continuing research. In part, the fund addresses three initiatives in the Virginia Commonwealth University’s ‘Quest for Distinction‘ Strategic Plan: 1) increasing and diversifying the university’s sponsored research; 2) increasing productivity in high impact and translational research; and, 3) increasing interdisciplinary research.

At WHO in Geneva, VCU Psychology post-doc fellow works on tobacco regulatory policy

Carolina Ramôa, Ph. D.
Carolina Ramôa, Ph. D.

A postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University just wrapped up a prestigious three-month internship with the World Health Organization in Geneva, working on regulatory policies related to tobacco.

Carolina Ramôa, Ph.D., interned with the WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases within the Tobacco Free Initiative, which was launched in 1998 to reduce the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco, thereby protecting present and future generations from the health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Continue reading At WHO in Geneva, VCU Psychology post-doc fellow works on tobacco regulatory policy

Staff complete professional development program

Yin Huang, left, and Rachel Salinas
Yin Huang, left, and Rachel Salinas

Congratulations to our department’s grants managers, Yin Huang and Rachel Salinas, who recently completed the Sponsored Projects Administration Certification Program, a program co-sponsored by the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of the Vice President for Finance & Administration.   Continue reading Staff complete professional development program

Nearly $1M grant expands pro bono mental health services to underserved populations in Richmond

Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph. D.
Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph. D.

Professor of Clinical Psychology Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph. D., has received a nearly $1 million grant to expand a program that provides training to doctoral students studying clinical and counseling psychology and embeds them in Richmond-area primary care clinics to provide pro bono mental and behavioral health services to underserved populations.

The three-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will expand the VCU Primary Care Psychology Training Network to more than double its capacity and provide more than 15,000 sessions of pro bono services during the next three years.

Continue reading Nearly $1M grant expands pro bono mental health services to underserved populations in Richmond

Congratulations, May graduates!

Department of Psychology Class of 2016
Department of Psychology Class of 2016

Ph.D. in Health Psychology

Daniel Snipes

Ph.D. in Biopsychology

Kevin Webster

Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology

Sarah Doyle
Rachel Garthe
Andrea Molzhon

Ph.D. in Social Psychology

Morgan Maxwell
Jordan Quaglia

B.S. in Psychology

Baraah Abuyaman
Nistha Acharya
Megan Adair
Amanda Adams
Jeanette Amaya
Cortez Anderson

Continue reading Congratulations, May graduates!

Paul Perrin, Ph.D., gives advice on how news media can better handle the reporting of mass shootings

Photo via European People's Party
Photo via European People’s Party

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016

Mass shootings have become part of life in the United States, with deadly attacks occurring with an unsettling frequency. Since 2006, the U.S. has seen more than 200 mass killings with four or more victims, according to USA Today. Following these tragedies, the news media often produces wall-to-wall coverage — but is it possible that this coverage may actually be helping to fuel the problem?

Paul Perrin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes in the latest issue of American Psychologist that research suggests that the news media plays a key role in the “contagion” of mass shootings. Perrin recently discussed his article and possible steps the media should consider to more responsibly cover the tragedies.

In your article, you point to recent studies that suggest news coverage of mass shootings leads to more mass shootings, much like how news reporting on suicide can lead to more suicides. What does the latest research tell us about this mass shooting “contagion?”

Paul Perrin, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Health and Counseling Psychology
Paul Perrin, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Health and Counseling Psychology
Recent research has begun to document that additional mass shootings, including those in schools, can be spread by media coverage of the initial shooting. This is a term that psychologists call “contagion.” We have known for many years that contagion operates with regard to suicide: Media reports of suicides have consistently been shown to increase the rates of suicide in populations exposed to those reports. And now research is finding similar effects for mass shootings. We even see evidence of this motivation to get into the media limelight in the writings of some recent shooters.

Continue reading Paul Perrin, Ph.D., gives advice on how news media can better handle the reporting of mass shootings

Dr. Utsey’s film inspires community action

Five years after the release of Dr. Shawn Utsey‘s film “Until the Well Runs Dry,” progress is being made on the East Marshall St. Well Project. The film sparked renewed interest in honoring the remains of 44 people (most were of African descent) whose bodies had been used for medical research. The remains were found in a well on the VCU Medical Campus during an excavation project more than 20 years ago.  Listen to a WCVE report (or read its transcript) about the progress of the project.

Kevin Allison, senior assistant to the president at Virginia Commonwealth University, speaks during the East Marshall Street Well Project community meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Richmond. At left are leaders from the Family Representative Council committees.
Kevin Allison, senior assistant to the president at Virginia Commonwealth University, speaks during the East Marshall Street Well Project community meeting at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Richmond. At left are leaders from the Family Representative Council committees.

Lots to celebrate this semester for Dr. Joshua Langberg

Joshua Langberg, Ph.D. receives the 2016 VCU College of Humanities and Sciences' Excellence in Scholarship Award.
Joshua Langberg, Ph.D. receives the 2016 VCU College of Humanities and Sciences’ Excellence in Scholarship Award.

Congratulations are in order for Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., recipient of a four-year $1,399,988 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.  This two-site study, conducted with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is a longitudinal evaluation of the impact of sleep problems on the academic and social functioning of adolescents with and without ADHD.  300 adolescents (150 with ADHD and 150 controls) will be followed from the 8th through the 10th grade to evaluate associations between sleep and academic and social functioning.  The study will include both objective (e.g., actigraphy) and subjective (e.g., sleep diaries) measures of sleep as well as data from multiple reporters (adolescents, teachers).  Albert Farrell, Ph.D., will serve as co-investigator on the grant. Read the full VCU News story.

In addition, Dr. Langberg received the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences’ 2016 Excellence in Scholarship Award! Dr. Langberg has received more than $8M in grant awards for ADHD research in his short career and his Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) intervention has been used in more than 1,000 schools in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Langberg also serves as director of the Promoting Adolescent Student Success lab and as co-director of the Center for ADHD Research, Education, and Service.

Alumni spotlight: Letter from a grateful graduate

I had a wonderful career and could not have picked a better major or a better place to get my degree.

We loved hearing from The Honorable Thomas King (B.S. ’71) recently and thought our readers would also enjoy reading about his reflections on his time at VCU as a psychology major. Many thanks to Judge King for his willingness to share his story!

Dear Dr. Kliewer,

Two weeks ago, I  told someone at the Pollak Society runway show about what a fine education I thought I received at VCU 45 years ago. The more I thought about it, I thought perhaps I should tell you, too.

I applied to what was then called Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) because of the clinical undergraduate program. I was a psychology major and did not want the training in experimental psychology UVA offered at the time, but instead wanted to deal with real people. My mother, who was a psychiatric social worker, suggested that I go to RPI (RPI became VCU in 1969).

Back in the old days, the library was in the Anderson Art Museum building. I had just gotten out of the Army in 1968 and bought a duplex on Floyd Avenue for $15,000.

I received a wonderful, basic clinical psychological education at VCU. My very necessary statistics course was top level and has served me well over the years. For my abnormal psychology classes, I got to visit mental hospitals. My senior year I was able to take graduate level courses in personality theory, as I recall.  The night courses that VCU offered were also valuable and included folks from all sorts of backgrounds. I used the MCV library downtown on many occasions for my more scientific-related courses.

After graduating from VCU, I decided to go to law school (as you know, normally you have to do something else after an undergraduate psychology degree). Later, as an assistant U.S. attorney for 10 years, I had to review pre-sentence reports and decide what criminal sentences to recommend to federal judges (many involving mentally ill people).

Then for over 20 years I was an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration dealing with disability claimants – many, many of whom were mentally ill.  In this position, I had to decide who was entitled to disability funding under the law and who was not. Each claim probably involved about $500,000 over the life of the claimant.

I had a wonderful career and could not have picked a better major or a better place to get my degree.

Best of luck to you,

Tom King
Class of 1971

Longtime advocate among honorees for inclusive excellence awards

Dorothy Fillmore
Dorothy Fillmore

In recognition of more than 30 years of advocacy on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and in the Richmond community, Dorothy Fillmore will receive the President’s Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award.

“At first I thought, ‘I’m too young for anything that has lifetime and achievement in the title,’” Fillmore said with a laugh. “There are so many people over the years who have made huge contributions to VCU.”

Fillmore and five others will be honored during the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment ceremony, which will be held Monday, April 4, at 3 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom at the University Student Commons. The event will include performances by the VCU Black Awakening Choir and musicians from the Department of Music.

“It’s caused me to do a lot of self-reflection. I’m very honored,” Fillmore said. “I’ve seen real progress and change. I think we’ve still got a way to go at the same time.”

She came to Richmond to attend seminary, but found it was not the right fit. Continue reading Longtime advocate among honorees for inclusive excellence awards

[Video] Nature or nurture?

What does it mean when something like addiction or depression is genetically influenced? Are people who are at risk destined to develop problems? Professor Danielle Dick explored how our genes and our environments come together across the lifespan to create multiple pathways that can influence addiction at a recent TedxRVA event. It was filmed and edited by Tijo Media at the Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Arts Center in Richmond.

Dr. Danielle Dick is a professor in psychology, African American studies, and human and molecular genetics at VCU. Her research examines genetic contributions to substance use and mental health outcomes, and how the importance of genetic predispositions changes in different environments. She has received millions of dollars of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and won numerous national and international awards for her research. She founded and directs the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute and runs a study called Spit for Science with nearly 10,000 college students taking part.

New grant explores ties between alcohol abuse, genetics and romantic relationships

Assistant Professor Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., has received a roughly $750,000 grant to study the complex interplay between alcohol abuse, romantic relationships and genetic predispositions to alcoholism during emerging adulthood.  The five-year grant, “Genetics, Romantic Relationships, and Alcohol Misuse in Emerging Adulthood,” was awarded from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health.  Salvatore, whose research focuses on how close relationships and alcohol misuse interface across development, particularly in the high-risk emerging adulthood period, recently discussed the new grant and how she hopes it will deepen our understanding of how genetic factors and close relationship factors come together to predict alcohol misuse.

What specifically are you hoping to find out with this study?

The goal of this grant is to understand how genetic predispositions for alcohol problems influence young adults’ pathways to romantic relationship quality and partner selection, and how characteristics of one’s relationship and partner further shape trajectories of alcohol misuse.

Continue reading New grant explores ties between alcohol abuse, genetics and romantic relationships

New VCU community engagement grants

Picture1Three faculty members in the Department of Psychology – Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., left, Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D., and Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D. – have been awarded one-year grants from the VCU Council for Community Engagement.  These grants aim to enhance and increase university engagement with the greater Richmond community and to contribute to the research and teaching in VCU units. Proposals are encouraged from across VCU in partnership with Richmond-area organizations to creatively address community-identified needs through community-engaged projects including research, teaching and service. Funded projects will serve as catalysts for ongoing partnerships sustained by external funding.

“Training Latino Residents in Mental Health First Aid”

Community Partner: The Sacred Heart Center

VCU Partners: Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, School of Social Work, Division of Epidemiology in the School of Medicine

Dr. Corona’s project, submitted with Dr. Shelby McDonald from the School of Social Work, was awarded $20,000. Latinos are not likely to seek and receive mental health treatment because of language barriers, limited availability of bilingual providers and mental health stigma. Thus, there continues to be a significant gap in the mental health services available to Latinos in Richmond. This project will train Latino residents in Mental Health First Aid, an intervention program that provides participants with skills and knowledge about mental health issues.

“MITI Meals: A Hands-On Approach to Nourishing Families”

Community Partner: Shalom Farms

VCU Partners: Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine, Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences in the College of Humanities and Sciences

Dr. Mazzeo‘s project, submitted with Drs. Melanie Bean and Rachel Gow from Pediatrics and Dr. Ronald Evans from Health and Human Performance, was awarded $17,724. Many residents of Richmond’s lower-income communities lack consistent access to healthy foods and are at high risk of obesity. Previous community-based participatory research identified needs for increased access to healthy foods and experiential learning activities that enable residents to overcome barriers to healthy eating. This project will catalyze these efforts, while also offering VCU students community-engaged learning opportunities and providing data for future, larger-scale grant applications.

“Strengthening a Community-Engaged Research Partnership to Promote Diabetes Management in Richmond”

Community partner: YMCA of Greater Richmond

VCU partners: Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health of the School of Medicine, Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences

Dr. Rybarczyk’s project was funded for $18,000 and is led by Dr. Briana Mezuk in Family Medicine and Population Health. More than one in 10 adults in Richmond has diabetes, which can be controlled with intensive behavioral self-management. However, few self-management programs are designed to reach groups with limited economic resources. Using a mixed-methods approach, this project will address this disparity by identifying and disseminating best practices for community-oriented diabetes self-management programs, engaging students in community-based research and building sustainable research capacity on diabetes within Richmond through establishment of a Community Advisory Board.

School start times for teens

Bringing research to local communities….

Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D.
Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D.

Professor of Counseling Psychology, Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D., serves as an advocate in Chesterfield County for later school start times for teens.

“I’ve never seen such incredible consistency in how bad these early start times are for you, and also how changing them really makes drastic improvements on virtually every outcome.”

Listen to a radio interview with Dr. Mazzeo on this topic.

FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, hookahs will help curb dramatic growth in youth tobacco use, Dr. Eissenberg says

Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D. (photo credit Jay Paul)
Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D. (photo by Jay Paul)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May announced that it had finalized a rule extending its authority to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco.

Most notably, as part of the new federal rules – which go into effect in 90 days – retailers will be prohibited from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under the age of 18.

Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., professor of health psychology, researches the behavioral pharmacology of drugs of abuse, focusing primarily on nicotine and tobacco.

He is director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products – a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre – whose mission is to develop and apply regulatory science to the evaluation of tobacco products and to train the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists.e-cigarette

The new FDA regulations, Eissenberg said, will be an important step toward curbing tobacco use – particularly e-cigarette and hookah use – among young people.

“The FDA is now empowered to regulate all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, waterpipes (hookahs), cigars and other novel tobacco products,” he said. “FDA is using this new regulatory authority to restrict sale of these tobacco products to those 18 years and older and to mandate warning labels that state that nicotine is addictive.”

“This new regulatory authority and these specific regulatory actions are important steps toward decreasing the dramatic rise in electronic cigarette use and hookah smoking among U.S. youth and young adults.”

By Brian McNeill
University Public Affairs

Program trains the next generation of leaders in addiction studies from around the world

Kyle Dyer, Ph.D., programme director at King's College London; Mary Loos, Ph.D., program director and leader of the International Programme in Addiction Studies; and Femke T.A. Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., senior lecturer in addiction studies in the School of Medicine and programme director at the University of Adelaide.
Kyle Dyer, Ph.D., programme director at King’s College London; Mary Loos, Ph.D., program director and leader of the International Programme in Addiction Studies; and Femke T.A. Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., senior lecturer in addiction studies in the School of Medicine and programme director at the University of Adelaide.

After graduating from the School of Social Work in 2008, Amira Turner worked as a wellness coordinator at an assisted living facility, and also helped her dad – a licensed clinical social worker himself – with co-facilitating substance abuse group therapy sessions.

Now, Turner is back at Virginia Commonwealth University, pursuing not only a Master of Social Work, but also a Master of Science in Addiction Studies degree from the International Programme in Addiction Studies — a partnership between three of the world’s top research universities in the field of addiction science: King’s College London, the University of Adelaide in Australia and VCU.

“Nearly every aspect of social work involves addiction. You’ve got people dealing with psychological problems they’ve experienced, dealing with trauma and maybe abusing substances as a result,” Turner said. “There are a lot of people who are affected by addiction. So I feel like having a specialized understanding of everything involved in addiction — not just that it causes neurobiological changes or that it’s genetic or that it’s very stigmatized — but it’s such a large issue, that the more I learn, it feels like the bigger it gets.”

As students in the International Programme in Addiction Studies, Turner and her classmates from around the world are taking online courses on such topics as the biological basis of addiction, pharmacotherapies, psychosocial interventions and public health and policy related to addiction, as well as courses focusing on research.

Amira Turner is pursuing not only a Master of Social Work, but also a Master of Science in Addiction Studies from the International Programme in Addiction Studies, a partnership between VCU, King's College London and the University of Adelaide.
Amira Turner is pursuing not only a Master of Social Work, but also a Master of Science in Addiction Studies from the International Programme in Addiction Studies, a partnership between VCU, King’s College London and the University of Adelaide.

The program’s instructors and guest lecturers are among the leading experts on addiction, said program director and leader Mary Loos, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

Continue reading Program trains the next generation of leaders in addiction studies from around the world

Dr. McLeod aims to develop tool to assess how therapists treat youth anxiety

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.
Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.

Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical psychology and co-director of the anxiety clinic, recently received a $431,244 federal grant to develop an instrument to assess the effectiveness of therapists’ treatment of young people with anxiety.

The grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, “Development of a Pragmatic Treatment Integrity Instrument for Child Therapy,” aims to develop a practical, short and easy-to-use observational treatment integrity instrument capable of assessing the extent to which a therapist delivers cognitive behavioral therapy for youth anxiety with integrity and skill. The development of this practical instrument will help support the evaluation, implementation and sustainability of evidence-based treatments in community settings.

McLeod, who is also the clinical child/adolescent track director in the Department of Psychology and is associate editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, explained the grant’s objectives and why such an instrument is needed.

Why is it important to develop an instrument to assess the effectiveness of treatment for young people with anxiety?

The development of a practical, short and easy-to-use observational treatment integrity instrument may be able to help support the training of therapists to use evidence-based treatment for youth anxiety in community-based mental health clinics.

Continue reading Dr. McLeod aims to develop tool to assess how therapists treat youth anxiety

Congratulations to the new graduates of the Humphrey Fellowship Program!

humphrey fellows_2015-16_graduation

The 2015-16 Humphrey Fellows received their graduation certificates for completion of the Humphrey Fellowship Program on April 30 at the Valentine Museum in Richmond. Congratulations to our entire cohort for a job well done! Judy Gibson, director of global professional exchanges from the Institute of International Education, and John Sedlins, branch chief from the Department of State, were there to give congratulations and hand out the certificates. Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Psychology gave the keynote address. 

This year’s graduates came to us from Pakistan, Mexico, Peru, Togo, South Africa, Slovak Republic, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Uganda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are privileged to have hosted these international scholars and look forward to hearing of their great accomplishments in their home countries!

2015-16 student award and scholarship winners


Please join us in congratulating our departmental and program award and scholarship recipients for 2016!


Undergraduate Psychology Black History in the Making Cydni A. Gordon
Graduate Psychology Black History in the Making Melanie P. Moore
Outstanding Senior Natalie A. Robles
Outstanding Clinical Psychology Behavioral Medicine Track Graduate Student Award Shaina L. Gulin
Outstanding Clinical Psychology Child Clinical Track Graduate Student Award Meghan M. Smith
Outstanding Clinical Psychology Child Clinical Track Graduate Student Award Laura J. Caccavale
Outstanding Counseling Psychology Graduate Student Award Brandon Griffin
Outstanding Leadership and Community Engagement in Counseling Psychology Jennifer A. Coleman
Outstanding Developmental Psychology Graduate Student Award Rachel C. Garthe
Outstanding Developmental Psychology Graduate Student Award Lena J. Jaggi
Outstanding Health Psychology Graduate Student Award Sarah J. Javier
Outstanding Health Psychology Graduate Student Award Daniel J. Snipes
Outstanding Social Psychology Graduate Student Award Daniel R. Berry
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award Daniel R. Berry
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award Rachel C. Garthe
Psychology Graduate Student LGBTQ Ally Award Michael A. Trujillo


Deborah Braffman Schroeder Award to Outstanding Clinical Student Cassie Overstreet 
John P. Hill Award for Adolescent Research  Rachel Garthe
Evelyn E. Gunst Scholarship  Ariella Tabaac
Melvin V. Lubman Scholarship in Psychology  Akea Z. Robinson
John Corazzini Award for Therapeutic Group Work  Annalucia Bays
Peirluigi Antonio Menna Scholarship  Akea Z. Robinson
Initiatives of the Bersoff Scholarship  Melissa Dvorsky

Dean’s Scholars Awards:

Department of Psychology

Megan Adair
Chaneika Barber
Sean Dunavant
Dhruv Sethi
Sonal Vijayanagar
Marsha Wilson

Department chair honored by students

Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D. 2016 Faculty Mentor Award
Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D.
2016 Faculty Mentor Award

Though she stays busy with department chair duties, research endeavors, service, and teaching, Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., still finds time to mentor students. At this week’s annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, Dr. Kliewer received a Faculty Mentor Award from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. For nominations, undergraduate students were asked to select a faculty member who has made a lasting impression through their guidance and mentorship of undergraduates conducting research and scholarship at VCU. Congratulations, Dr. Kliewer!

Cydni Gordon studies the effects of migration on the people left behind in an indigenous Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico

Cydni Gordon and other VCU Globe students pose with local children on the steps of the village municipal building in Teotitlán del Valle during a service-learning trip in 2014.
Cydni Gordon and other VCU Globe students pose with local children on the steps of the village municipal building in Teotitlán del Valle during a service-learning trip in 2014.

Mexican emigration to the U.S. is a hot topic these days. While the available research literature on the subject is often focused on remittances and how that money is used, Cydni Gordon, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, is more interested in the impact on the people, particularly those left behind.

It started on her first trip to Oaxaca for a service-learning program through VCU Globe in 2014. “I became fascinated with the culture and people there,” said Gordon, who is a triple major in psychology, broadcast journalism and African American studies as well as an Honors College student. “I heard stories about people traveling to the U.S. — the stories were always really intense and very emotional, and I just wanted to know more.”
Continue reading Cydni Gordon studies the effects of migration on the people left behind in an indigenous Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico

Distinguished Speaker Series: Dr. Barbara Fiese

Barbara Fiese, Ph.D.
Barbara Fiese, Ph.D.

In February the department was honored to welcome Barbara Fiese, Ph. D., as its second speaker in the new Distinguished Speaker Series.  Her talk, “Why Family Mealtimes Matter: The Science and Politics of Food, Family and Children’s Health,” was delivered to a standing room-only crowd in University Student Commons.  View pictures from the event.

Fiese is The Pampered Chef Ltd. endowed chair in family resiliency, professor of human development and family studies, and director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research areas and interests include:

  • Child and Adolescent Development in Context
  • Diverse Families, Poverty / Inequality, and Social Justice
  • Health and Well-Being Across the Lifespan
  • Mixed Methods
  • Family Mealtimes
  • Family Routines
  • Household Food Insecurity and Child Wellbeing
  • Child Obesity Prevention
  • Child and Family Health

Faye Belgrave receives APA award

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D.
Faye Belgrave, Ph.D.

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., professor of health psychology and director of the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, has been named the senior career recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, which recognizes those who have advanced psychology by a single extraordinary achievement or a lifetime of outstanding contributions in the public interest.

Belgrave has made a significant impact in the area of community interventions that attend aspects of culture – gender, ethnicity, age and place – to promote well-being among African American youth and young adults, according to the award, noting “Belgrave has devoted her career to developing interventions to promote the health of youth, families and communities.”

In 2001, Belgrave founded the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention at VCU, working with community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, school systems and other institutions to implement and evaluate culturally appropriate prevention programs in the area of HIV and substance abuse prevention. As a result of the center’s work, more than two dozen people have been trained to deliver culturally informed HIV and substance abuse prevention programs.

She has also secured nearly $8 million in funding, primarily from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to deliver and evaluate HIV and substance abuse prevention programs and to conduct research in communities of color.

Belgrave is the author of “African American Girls: Reframing Perceptions and Changing Experiences” and co-author of “African American Boys: Identity, Culture, and Development,” and many other works.

Courtesy of VCU News

Global Health Symposium on Health Disparities


 VCU Global Health Symposium on Health Disparities

Friday, April 1, 2016

9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Larrick Student Center: Court End Ballroom A

900 Turpin St.

Richmond, Virginia

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University is pleased to present the Global Health Symposium on Health Disparities.  The symposium will bring together people from the Richmond area, students, and professionals in health sciences to draw attention to global health challenges that also affect our local communities.



This symposium aims to raise awareness and discuss:

(1) global health issues that create health disparities
(2) the underlying determinants of these health disparities with a focus on health equity
(3) potential pathways and pitfalls for establishing health equity

Symposium Agenda

9:00 a.m.  Registration

9:35 a.m.  Introductions and overviewindian girl

10:00 a.m.  Keynote presentation: Global Health Equity

11:00 a.m.  Coffee break

11:15 a.m.  Panel discussion: Universal Health Coverage and Access to Health Care

12:30 p.m.  Lunch

1:30 p.m.  Panel discussion: Access to Food: Food Insecurity and Obesity

2:45 p.m.  Break

3:00 p.m.  Panel discussion: Determinants of Behavioral Health

Alumni news

What’s YOUR latest news?  Let us know and we’ll feature you in our next newsletter!


Ayn Welleford GerontologyAyn Welleford, Ph.D. (’98), associate professor and chair of the Department of Gerontology in the VCU School of Allied Health Professions, was honored in October 2015 as a Valentine Richmond History Maker for her work with the Greater Richmond Age Wave, a collaboration of public and private organizations, businesses and individuals, including older adults, working to prepare for the opportunities and challenges of the region’s growing aging population. The annual Richmond History Makers Program, sponsored by The Valentine, pays tribute to everyday citizens and outstanding organizations that make significant contributions to the greater Richmond region.


Gina Pido at her graduation in 2014
Gina Pido at her graduation in 2014

Gina Pido (B.S.’14) was chosen for a summer Multicultural Advertising Internship Program. Offered by the American Association of Advertising Agencies to students from diverse backgrounds, the program links its interns to high-profile advertising agencies for a chance to gain real-world experience.


First speaker in the Distinguished Speaker Series

Tim Elliott, Ph.D., and Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D.
Tim Elliott, Ph.D., and Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D.

In early October, we kicked off the new Department of Psychology Distinguished Speaker Series with Timothy Elliott, Ph.D., and his talk “Resilience in the Initial Year of Caregiving for a Family Member With a Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury.”  The presentation was based on an article he and his colleagues published last year in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.  Elliott is a former member of our own faculty and serves currently as professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University. His scholarly and clinical interests are in the adjustment and well-being of persons with chronic and disabling health conditions. Theoretical models of social problem-solving abilities, hope and personality guide much of this work.

We got to catch up with Psychology alumni, colleagues and friends after the talk at an alumni reception in Scott House.  View pictures from the alumni reception.

Trenice Morton ('12), Rachel Mason ('13), and Kelsey Richardson ('13) enjoyed catching up with each other and Psych faculty at the alumni reception that followed the talk.
Trenice Morton (’12), Rachel Mason (’13), and Kelsey Richardson (’13) enjoyed catching up with each other and other Psychology faculty at the alumni reception that followed the talk.

Continue reading First speaker in the Distinguished Speaker Series

Faculty awards and honors

Everett Worthington, Ph.D.
Everett Worthington, Ph.D.

The State Council of Higher Education in Virginia will award Everett Worthington, Ph.D., one of its 2016 Outstanding Faculty Awards. The Outstanding Faculty Awards are the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. These awards recognize superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.  Worthington is commonwealth professor of counseling psychology at VCU and an internationally renowned expert in the study of forgiveness and positive psychology. He also studies constructs related to forgiveness, such as such as justice, humility and mercy; the REACH Forgiveness intervention, which has 22 outcome studies from many labs supporting its efficacy; religion and spirituality in counseling and marriage – especially, but not exclusively, Christianity; and the Hope-Focused Couple Approach to marriage/couple enrichment, which has been adjudicated as one of four having enough evidence to merit a designation of empirically supported.

Read the full VCU News article detailing the award.

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D.
Faye Belgrave, Ph.D.

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D. has won the American Psychological Association 2016 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest (Senior Career). 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. Belgrave is professor of health psychology, director of the Center for Cultural Experiences and Prevention, and faculty fellow in VCU’s Division for Inclusive Excellence.

Danielle Dick, Ph.D.
Danielle Dick, Ph.D.

Danielle Dick, Ph.D., has been elected to the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. The Academy is the honorary senior scientist society for those whose research exists at the interface of behavior and medicine.

Election to this society is reserved for those with national and international behavioral medicine research excellence. Dick is professor of developmental psychology, African American studies and human and molecular genetics.


Dorothy Fillmore
Dorothy Fillmore


Congratulations, Dorothy Fillmore!  Fillmore, associate director of academic operations, received the VCU Excellence in Advising –
Advising Administrator Award from the VCU Undergraduate Academic Advising Board.







Focus on community and health: The Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention

CCEP group photo_2016 JanuaryThe Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention in the Department of Psychology was established in 2001 to conduct research and provide innovative, evidence-based programs and interventions to reduce health disparities and promote healthy youth, families and communities. Under the leadership of Faye Z. Belgrave, Ph.D., 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.

Belgrave has recently secured a new grant to expand Richmond’s capacity to address the HIV crisis in the African American community.  Funded through 2020 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, this project is a collaborative effort with community partners Fan Free ClinicNia Incorporated of Greater Richmond and the VCU Wellness Resource Center.

Nia-Logo-with-4Ps-e1440800984340 FFC_logo_blue275green382 vcu logo_cropped for cmor page





Read more about the collaborative community research being conducted at the Center.

Learn about the Center’s dynamic group of faculty, students and alumni.



Student scholarship

Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Sarah Izabel

izabel, sarah

Sarah Izabel has been awarded a 2016 Exceptional Research Opportunities Fellowship for summer research.  She will be matched with an investigator from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for a 10-week summer research experience. VCU nominates two students each year for this award and though our students were awarded the fellowship in 2014 and 2015, we have never been awarded both of our nominations in the same year.

Sarah is a sophomore psychology major, an Intensive Research and Training Program scholar and an assistant in the laboratory of Jeff Dupree, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, VCU School of Medicine.  She started as a criminal justice major, but during her first semester at VCU, she says a psychology class inspired her to change her major to “explore the human mind.”  Recently, her focus has turned to neuroscience, believing the field will “allow [her] to study the brain and the mind in deeper ways, comprehending the functionality and expression of brain pathways and how neurons work to make us who we are.”

As an undergraduate VCU Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) scholar, she has worked with Dupree and his team on studying multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.  Izabel, whose grandmother suffers from MS, has a personal connection to her work in the Dupree lab.

“We have been focusing on the neuron, more specifically the axon initial segment, which our lab has found to get shorter and even disappear as the disease progresses. To reach our goals we use an animal model of inflammatory condition and expression of demyelination named EAE.”

“[I] have…developed a great relationship with my mentor and we are working on developing methods for the analysis of human tissue with MS to possibly replicate results presented in the EAE model. I am excited to [expand] my knowledge about the human brain and its functions.”


Graduate Research Spotlight: Melissa Dvorsky

Dvorsky, Melissa


Melissa Dvorsky, a clinical psychology doctoral student, and her mentor, Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.,will receive a $29,400 grant from Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects to fund her dissertation work. The title of the project is “Factors That Protect Against Tobacco Use During the Transition to College for Adolescents With and Without ADHD.”  Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., will serve as co-investigator.

Melissa will be collecting data from 75 high school seniors with ADHD and 75 without ADHD and their families with the intent of examining individual-level, family-level and broad social environmental risk and protective factors for their transition to emerging adulthood and specifically to the college setting. One of the more explicit goals of the study is to identify specific promotive and protective mechanisms associated with tobacco use including alternative tobacco products such as cigarettes during this critical developmental transition, and to translate the findings into improved prevention services and policies. Taken together, the findings generated from this study will lead to best-practice recommendations for how prevention programs can be implemented during this transition.

Developmental psychopathology in children, adolescents and emerging adults with ADHD and in particular, protective factors associated with successful outcomes for this population, are Melissa’s primary research interests; however, she is also interested in school mental health interventions for youth with ADHD and related behavioral difficulties. She enjoys teaching developmental psychology and will be teaching Psychology of Adolescence (PSYC 302) for the second time this summer.

Melissa is from Columbus, Ohio and  received her B.A. in psychology from Ohio University in 2010.  She worked for two years thereafter as a full-time research coordinator at the University South Carolina before she began her doctoral studies in our clinical program.  As for career goals, Melissa hopes to continue building a research ​program in a university/academic setting.

We think she’s off to a good start!

Congrats, December ’15 grads!

class of 2015 road sign illustration design

PhD in Psychology
Danielle Worthington-Stoneman
Nikola Zaharakis

MS in Psychology

Melanie Moore
Tennisha Riley
Tory Spindle
Michael Trujillo

BS in Psychology

Sarah Abogabir
Frauline Agarin
Shameka Allen
Angela Angulo
Teresa Auditore
Cezar Bagonton
Anosha Baig
Zachary Bailey
Brooke Ballance
Sabrina Barillas
Michael Barnes

Continue reading Congrats, December ’15 grads!

Three new books from Psychology faculty

Richard Bargdill, Ph.D.
Richard Bargdill, Ph.D.

Richard Bargdill, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, has collected a number of writings on “living the good life” by seminal psychologists, such as Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner, Karen Horney, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

The book, “Living the Good Life: A Psychological History,” delves into a variety of topics, including living within the framework of an irrational world, the roles of creativity and resilience in African American experiences, experiencing growth and the importance of art and art education.

Read Dr. Bargdill’s interview with VCU News.

James McCullough, Ph.D.
James McCullough, Ph.D.

James P. McCullough Jr., Ph.D., spent 25 years developing the Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy, or CBASP, to treat chronically depressed patients, i.e. those patients who have been continuously depressed for two or more years. A full 75% of this population of patients report having been depressed since mid-adolescence. When combined with medication, CBASP therapy has been shown to be 85% effective in treating chronic depression for patients who complete treatment.

McCullough’s new book, “CBASP: A Distinctive Treatment for Persistent Depressive Disorder,” explains how CBASP differs from more traditional forms of cognitive behavior therapy, and describes its clinical application.

Read the VCU News article about how CBASP is attracting international interest and attention.

Everett Worthington, Ph.D.
Everett Worthington, Ph.D.

Dr. Everett Worthington’s new volume, “Forgiveness and Health: Scientific Evidence and Theories Relating Forgiveness to Better Health,” *collects the state-of-the-art research on forgiveness and mental and physical health and well-being. It focuses specifically on connections between forgiveness and its health and well-being benefits. Forgiveness is examined from a variety of perspectives, including the moral, ethical and philosophical. Ways in which to become more forgiving and evolutionary theories of revenge and forgiveness have also been investigated and proposed.

This volume offers an examination of the theory, methods and research utilized in understanding these connections. It considers trait and state forgiveness, emotional and decisional forgiveness, and interventions to promote forgiveness, all with an eye toward the positive effects of forgiveness for a victim’s health and well-being. Finally, this volume considers key moderators such as gender, race, and age, as well as, explanatory mechanisms that might mediate links between forgiveness and key outcomes.

*  Description provided is from book jacket.


bargdill book_2mcculloughPages from Forgiveness+and+Health

Professor Utsey offers insight on matters of race at VCU, the RVA community and beyond

Shawn Utsey, Ph.D.
Shawn Utsey, Ph.D.

Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., professor of counseling psychology, has become a leading voice in racial justice issues at VCU, in Richmond and beyond. He uses his expertise to draw attention to the deeper meanings behind the headlines, call attention to sometimes uncomfortable truths and hold individuals and institutions accountable for their actions. For example, Utsey recently spoke to the Richmond Times-Dispatch about a set of reports from The Education Trust listing VCU among the nation’s top institutions of higher learning for boosting graduation rates and closing the graduation rate gap for both black and Hispanic students between 2004 and 2010.  The Times-Dispatch article drills a bit deeper into those numbers to note the disparity in the graduation rates between black females and black males (68% versus 51% respectively).

“VCU presents as a hostile place for black people, especially males,” [Utsey] said.

The sense of alienation is experienced by black women, as well, … [b]ut he believes they have developed better coping behaviors and social support networks, and as a result are better able to integrate into college life.

“Black males, on the other hand, are seen as threatening and menacing in society at large, and this forces them to isolate from others to avoid rejection,” he said. “This avoidance reduces the social and academic support for black males enjoyed by others.”

That likely puts them at a disadvantage for taking part “in tangible academic activities,” he said, such as being included in extracurricular activities outside of class or being selected for research and lab assistant positions.

The problem isn’t unique to VCU, he said, “but I expect them to do better.”

Kapsidelis, K. (2016, January 9). Graduation rates for black men lag at VCU. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved from

Shining light on schools’ role in the subjugation of people of color, Utsey spoke at a recent Black Lives Matter panel discussion at VCU:

“The most violent actions against us occur in the classrooms — not at the hands of police but in the classroom, where the minds of our children begin to become disfigured, and then we wonder why we behave toward each other like we do.”

Kapsidelis, K. (2016, January 21). At VCU, Black Lives Matter panel looks at movement’s future. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved from

Utsey is generous with his contributions to the community discourse on race, and other matters, as well.  For instance, he could be found this week at the Greenbriar Cafe in Richmond speaking as a panelist for what Spice Rack, a new community group in Richmond, advertised as “a candid discussion about cultivating harmony and respect across all faiths, beliefs and cultures in our community.”

Utsey poses with Taquara Rashida Felix outside the Greenbriar Cafe.
Utsey poses with Taquara Rashida Felix, founder of Spice Rack, outside the Greenbriar Cafe.

Utsey’s research interests include understanding how race-related stress impacts the physical, psychological and social well-being of African Americans. More recently, however, he has sought to examine how trauma is manifested in the victims of racial violence. Other areas of interest include examining the influence of African American culture (e.g., collective social orientation, spiritual centeredness, verve, etc.) on indicators of health and well-being.

To learn more about Utsey’s work, visit his website.


E-cigarettes and vaping – public radio feature

Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D.
Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D.

Have questions about e-cigarettes?  Chances are they were answered on a recent public radio show in Maine that featured a comprehensive, 50-minute panel discussion on the latest research on e-cigarettes and vaping.  Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., professor of health psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products in the Department of Psychology, was one of the guests.  Listen to the interview.

Eissenberg is a member of the FDA’s Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee.  The Center for the Study of Tobacco Products is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.


Notable speakers: Fall ’15

Laura Koehly, Ph.D.
Laura Koehly, Ph.D.
Chris Marcum, Ph.D.
Chris Marcum, Ph.D.









In addition to the launch of the new Distinguished Speaker Series, the department also welcomed special speakers Laura Koehly, Ph.D., and Chris Marcum, Ph.D., from the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health.  Koehly and Marcum presented “Measuring Family Environment from a Network Perspective:  Implications on Long Term Impacts of Genetics Services.”

Abstract: Lynch Syndrome (LS) is a dominantly inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome with 1 out of every 370 persons carrying a LS mutation. Genetic services offer opportunity to identify mutation status of those at risk – information important for cancer screening. When faced with this information, family members must cope with their individual and shared risk status. The social environment that surrounds these at-risk families can be a source of coping resources, through close interpersonal relationships, and stress, in the form of interpersonal conflict – both of which are important predictors of psychological well-being, and in turn, health outcomes. While a small body of research has examined relational outcomes among LS family members receiving genetic services, there is limited information about such interpersonal processes in those who decline genetic services. Here, using social network methods, we examine the structural characteristics of support and conflict networks in families affected by LS. Measurement of cohesion and conflict using a network perspective can be challenging.  Multiple item scales have long been used to measure latent constructs on individual-level data. Network data, which consist of observations on the relationships between a set of actors, however, are typically drawn from single-relation measurements. While this approach is sufficient for learning about discrete relations, such as co-authorship or communication, it may not be appropriate when measuring relational constructs, such as cohesion and conflict.  Thus, we begin by presenting a psychometric framework for evaluating the reliability and construct validity of family cohesion and conflict constructs derived from a set of multiple item assessments obtained from 157 individuals in 34 families approximately three years following identification of a Lynch syndrome mutation.  Then, we investigate how families are structured along these network constructs and their role in coping processes.

Charles Klink, Ph.D.
Charles Klink, Ph.D.

The Counseling Psychology Leadership Forum welcomed VCU Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Charles Klink, Ph.D., for a discussion of leadership in higher education.






Why Family Mealtimes Matter: The Science and Politics of Food, Family and Children’s Health


Barbara Fiese, Ph.D., is The Pampered Chef Ltd. endowed chair in family resiliency, professor of human development and family studies, and director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research areas and interests include:
  • Child and Adolescent Development in Context
  • Diverse Families, Poverty / Inequality, and Social Justice
  • Health and Well-Being Across the Lifespan
  • Mixed Methods
  • Family Mealtimes
  • Family Routines
  • Household Food Insecurity and Child Wellbeing
  • Child Obesity Prevention
  • Child and Family Health

Please join us for a vigorous discussion on this timely topic!

Contagion effect and gun violence

Paul Perrin, Ph.D.

Paul Perrin, Ph.D., recently published a timely article featured in American Psychologist, an American Psychological Association publication, detailing contagion effect and how the media may play a role in spreading gun violence.

“Despite [the] advocacy that I and many of my APA colleagues are engaged in, I believe that psychological science has yet to reach its translational potential for the public good in terms of the prevention of mass shootings.”

Read the full article.  Also, here is a story Forbes published that quotes Perrin on this topic.


Psychology welcomes new staff members

Joanne Biggs
Joanne Biggs Fiscal technician
Rachel Salinas
Rachel Salinas Grants manager
Peter Stauffer
Peter Stauffer Receptionist and administrative assistant







The Department of Psychology has experienced substantial growth in its grant awards in recent years.  More than half (63%) of the full-time, tenure-track faculty had federal, state or foundation funding as principal investigators in 2014-2015. In the same year, the department’s faculty and graduate students received more than $14.3 million in new funding from grants and contracts, and a total of $13.1 million in continuing funding.  In addition, we are on pace to exceed those totals for 2015-2016.  In order to provide specialized support for our growth in this and other areas, we are pleased to introduce you to three of our newest staff members – Joanne Biggs, Rachel Salinas and Peter Stauffer.

Joanne Biggs came to us in the fall as a fiscal technician in our service center, where she orders supplies, arranges travel, processes expense reimbursements and provides timekeeping support.  Before joining our team, Joanne opened and ran a childcare business out of her home for eight years; for the prior 15 years, she was in professional services sales.  Joanne attended Vanderbilt University for biomedical engineering for a period before figuring out it wasn’t the right field for her.  Not one to sit around, Joanne still babysits in her off-time, drives for Uber and volunteers at various Comic Cons.

Rachel Salinas is our newest hire and will serve as grants manager, a position responsible for the financial management of the department’s grants.  Rachel received a B.A. in history from Connecticut College and has a wealth of experience in university fiscal management, serving as fiscal assistant, fiscal administrator and grants manager in VCU’s Schools of Education, Pharmacy and Medicine, respectively.  She also has experience as graduate secretary at the University of Virginia and as accounting clerk at the University of Maryland – Baltimore.  In her spare time, Rachel enjoys riding bikes, drawing/coloring, yoga, jogging, reading and building Legos with her son Diego.

Peter Stauffer came to our department in August after working at Capital One. He is originally from Pennsylvania but has lived in Richmond off and on for the past 13 years. After graduating in 2012 from VCU with a Bachelors of Social Work, Peter taught English in Barcelona.  As our receptionist and administrative assistant, he serves as the department’s event planner and processes mail, completes work orders for faculty members and provides support for the overall academic operations of the department.  He is always up for trading recipes and sharing a good laugh, and is enjoying working with the faculty and staff in Psychology.

Please join us in welcoming Joanne, Rachel and Pete to our team of staff all-stars!



CPSD becomes canvas for new RVA mural

'Float' by James Bullough
‘Float’ by James Bullough

Over the summer, the Richmond Mural Project agreed to use the Department of Psychology’s Center for Psychological Services and Development at 612 N. Lombardy as a canvas for one of its projects. Artist James Bullough took about a week to complete this stunning piece of artwork he named ‘Float.’

Check out this video from a drone fly-by of Bullough at work.

Artist James Bullough at work
Artist James Bullough at work


August 2015 graduates

class of 2015 road sign illustration designPhD in Clinical Psychology

Cassidy Arnold
Andrea Garroway
Benjamin Lord
Krista Mehari
Melody Mickens
Alexis Quinoy
Elizabeth Robinson
Elizabeth Sadock
Carrie Tully
Lisa Ulmer

PhD in Counseling Psychology

Bradley Antonides
Karen Kersting
Stephen Trapp
Jacqueline Woods

PhD in Health Psychology

Jasmine Abrams

MS in Psychology

Jessica McCauley
Cassie Overstreet

BS in Psychology

Emily Adams
Mariah Adlawan
Rimsha Ali
Rebecca Askey
Hilary Baham
Reem Basit Continue reading August 2015 graduates

Grad students receive dissertation grants

Please join us in congratulating the following doctoral students for winning grants to conduct their dissertation research!

garthe, rachel


Rachel Garthe, a developmental psychology doctoral student, has received a Society for Research in Child Development Dissertation Research Funding Award for her project “Longitudinal Relations between Parental and Peer Support of Violent and Nonviolent Responses and Early Adolescent Dating Aggression.”



javier, sarah 2


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has awarded health psychology doctoral student Sarah Javier a 17-month dissertation grant for her project “Sustainable Adapted Treatments for Eating Disorders: A Cultural Pre-Treatment for Eating Disorder Prevention Programs.”


miadich, samantha


Samantha Miadich, doctoral student in the health psychology program, received a National Institutes of Health training grant award for her project “Effects of Cumulative Risk on Asthma Outcomes in Urban Children and Adolescents.”





Health psychology doctoral student Tory Spindle will receive a three-year training grant from the National Institutes of Health for his project titled “The Effect of Electronic Cigarette (ECIG) Liquid Vehicles on ECIG Acute Effects.”

Welcome, Dr. Natalie Dautovich!

dautovich (1)
Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D., has recently joined the counseling psychology doctoral program in the department as an assistant professor. Dautovich’s education and training has focused on the intersection of behavioral sleep medicine and aging. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta, Canada, and received her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Florida. While at the University of Florida, she was mentored in the Sleep Research Lab by Christina McCrae, Ph.D, C.BSM. Through this experience, she developed a background in cognitive-behavioral interventions for insomnia. This training led to the development of her dissertation research examining the role of regularity in behavioral circadian rhythms in predicting sleep outcomes across the adult lifespan. Following her doctorate, she completed a post-doctoral research fellowship focused on aging at the University of South Florida, under the mentorship of Amber Gum, Ph.D. Dautovich comes to VCU from the University of Alabama where she served as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and an Emerging Gerontological Research Scholar in the Alabama Research Institute on Aging. Related to her interests in sleep health, Dautovich also serves as the Environmental Scholar for the National Sleep Foundation.

Within the area of counseling psychology, Dautovich has continued to focus on behavioral circadian rhythms across the lifespan. This topic, broadly described as chronopsychology, examines the timing of daily activities and routines (e.g., sleep, meals, social contact, light exposure, and starting work), the health implications of stability in these daily routines, and changes in routine that occur with aging. She relies on intensive, microlongitudinal designs to capture this information and the use of subjective (ecological momentary assessments) and objective (actigraphy) measures.

Pip and Tika
Pip and Tika gearing up for colder weather

After growing up in Canada, Dautovich is pleased about the move northward to VCU. However, her two Italian greyhounds will need some better cooler weather gear! She is excited about the opportunities to work with an enthusiastic student body and the vibrant group of faculty in the department. She is interested in teaching a range of courses from general undergraduate courses such as Introduction to Psychology to specialized graduate coursework. She is invested in mentoring students and believes in making research accessible, feasible, and inspirational.

White House Office of Management and Budget visits Hayes Clinic

DSC_0012Dr. Bruce Rybarczyk and his Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative welcomed officials from the White House Office of Management and Budget to the newest member clinic of the collaborative of integrated behavioral health safety-net clinics, the VCU Hayes E. Willis Health Center. The visitors took a tour and talked to our faculty and trainees about the successes of the integrated care model in providing mental health services in primary care settings to underserved populations in Richmond. The OMB makes recommendations for budget appropriations to, among other federal agencies, the Health Resources and Service Administration, which provides funding for the collaborative.

Meet the 2015-15 Humphrey fellows

humphrey fellows_2015-16

The Humphrey Fellowship Program, sponsored by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a U.S. government international exchange program supported by the people of the United States.  In the program’s tenth year at VCU, we will be hosting twelve fellows from the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Togo, Turkey, and Uganda.  Read the fellows’ bios.

Located in the Department of Psychology, the program focuses on a broad range of health problems with an emphasis on understanding the behavioral, psychological, social and cultural factors that affect people’s health, and the use of behavior change interventions to promote positive health outcomes. Specific health problems addressed may include alcohol, drug and tobacco use, HIV/AIDS, mental health, developmental disabilities, obesity, violence, and eating disorders, among others. The program emphasizes the use of culturally appropriate, science-based prevention, treatment and policy interventions.

Read more about the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in the Department of Psychology.

Dr. Thomas Eissenberg wins VCU’s Distinguished Scholarship Award

Dr. Eissenberg’s acceptance speech

In 1999 a new tobacco product called Accord caught the attention of Dr. Thomas Eissenberg, then assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. His primary area of research is the behavioral pharmacology of drugs of abuse, so he was understandably intrigued. Accord was one of several cigarette alternatives collectively called potential reduced exposure products, or PREPs, cigarette-like products marketed as being less harmful. Little was known about their effects despite aggressive marketing campaigns.

When Accord was launched by Richmond, Virginia-based Philip Morris, in essentially the university’s backyard, Dr. Eissenberg, who joined the VCU faculty in 1997, was applying clinical laboratory and clinical trial methods to the development of opioid dependence pharma­cotherapies and had recently published research related to cigarettes. Thinking about Accord, he wanted to know: Are products marketed to cigarette smokers as cigarette alternatives less harmful than cigarettes? His search for answers resulted in the first National Institutes of Health grant to study PREPs.

Asking the right questions at the right time has been the hallmark of his career.

Continue reading Dr. Thomas Eissenberg wins VCU’s Distinguished Scholarship Award

Psychology student receives national grant to study cross-racial friendships, teacher-student interactions

Krystal Thomas Developmental Psychology Doctoral Student
Krystal Thomas
Developmental Psychology Doctoral Student

A doctoral student in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Psychology has been named the 2015 recipient of the American Psychological Foundation’s Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark Fund research grant award.

Krystal Thomas, a first-year student in the Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology Program, received the $10,000 award, which supports research and demonstration activities that promote the understanding of the relationship between self-identity and academic achievement with an emphasis on children in kindergarten through eighth grade.   Continue reading Psychology student receives national grant to study cross-racial friendships, teacher-student interactions

Grant to expand Richmond’s capacity to address HIV crisis in African-American community


Virginia Commonwealth University professor has been awarded a nearly $1.5 million grant to expand the Richmond region’s capacity to prevent HIV and substance abuse, particularly among young African-Americans.

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., a professor in the Health Psychology Program of the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, received the five-year research grant, “Building Capacity for Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention,” from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“HIV continues to be a crisis in the black community, especially among young black adults,” Belgrave said. “One in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV and one in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV at the current prevalence rate. So you can see that HIV continues to be a huge problem, despite the research and advances in programs to prevent HIV.”   Continue reading Grant to expand Richmond’s capacity to address HIV crisis in African-American community

Dr. Robin Everhart wins National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute research grant

everhartDr. Robin Everhart, assistant professor in the Health Psychology Program, was awarded a U34 grant from the National, Heart, Lung, Blood Institute for the project, “A Community-Engaged Approach to Reducing Pediatric Asthma Disparities in Richmond.” Dr. Everhart and her research team will partner with Engaging Richmond to conduct a community needs assessment that will inform the development of a randomized clinical trial to decrease asthma morbidity among urban children with asthma (5-17 years). Continue reading Dr. Robin Everhart wins National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute research grant

Alumna spotlight: Dr. Joianne L. Smith

Joianne L. Smith (M.S. ’93, Ph.D. ’96)

Fourth President, Oakton Community College

Congratulations to Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D., who was recently named president of Oakton Community College in Des Plaines and Skokie, Ill.  Smith received her bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in 1991 before joining the counseling psychology doctoral program at VCU under the mentorship of Everett Worthington, Ph.D.  Despite her busy presidential schedule, Smith took the time recently to answer a few questions for our readers.

Who were your greatest influences at VCU and how did they shape you into the person you are today?

Ev Worthington played a very significant role in my experiences at VCU and shaped me both personally and professionally.  Ev is a mentor in that he provided tremendous opportunities for learning and growth.  He had high expectations for me (and all of his students) and he provided the support necessary for me to meet those expectations.  He worked harder than anybody I know (and still does) and that garnered tremendous respect from me and from my classmates.   Ev was ethical and led by example.  In addition, he is an accomplished scholar, but has a humility about him that is inspiring.  Those are all characteristics that I want to strive to incorporate in my leadership.Jack Corazzini who was the director of the Counseling Center when I was at VCU also shaped who I have become.  He was masterful at leading process-oriented therapy groups and although I no longer lead therapy groups, I lead many [other kinds of] groups in my current work.  I still carry with me the things I learned from Jack — it was a sad day for VCU when Jack passed away.

Do you have any particular memories, anecdotes, or comments about VCU you’d like to share?  

I met my husband, (also a VCU psychology alum) while at VCU so that is definitely the most important anecdote.  We have now been married for 18 years and have two children.  We brought them to VCU for the first time this summer to see where we met. They also got to meet Ev.

One of my assistantships at VCU was with Project GOLD working with middle school students in public housing.  I spent two years working in Gilpin Court.  That experience deepened my understanding of urban poverty and institutional racism.  It is because of those experiences that I have become committed to leading a community college as community colleges serve many first generation, low income, and students of color.    I believe that education is the pathway out of poverty and want to be part of creating that solution.

From Dr. Smith’s inauguration page:

During her years at Oakton prior to being selected president, Smith worked tirelessly to increase student engagement and to promote an inclusive and caring environment for teaching and learning. Her “All for One” initiative is intended to move the college forward in terms of key student success metrics with a wildly important goal of improving fall-to-fall new student persistence by eight percent.   Continue reading Alumna spotlight: Dr. Joianne L. Smith

Psi Chi welcomes Dr. Tim Donahue as its faculty mentor for 2015-16

psi chi officers 2015-16

Dr. Timothy Donahue, left, Jhaminique Lynwood (Coordinator of Transfer Students), Simar Sarkaria (Treasurer), Amanda Mueller (President), Jerry Mize (Vice President), and Ciera Cannizzaro (Secretary)

Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, serves two major goals — one immediate and visibly rewarding to the individual member, the other slower and more difficult to accomplish, but offering greater rewards in the long run. The first of these is the society’s obligation to provide academic recognition to its inductees by the mere fact of membership. The second goal is the obligation of each of the society’s local chapters to nurture the spark of that accomplishment by offering a climate congenial to its creative development.  For example, the chapters make active attempts to nourish and stimulate professional growth through programs designed to augment and enhance the regular curriculum and to provide practical experience and fellowship through affiliation with the chapter. Some of this year’s planned activities include learning how to develop personal statements, the sponsoring of a Q&A session on the graduate school application process, and “Movie Night” with its members.

donahueWe are pleased that Dr. Tim Donahue will be taking on the job as faculty mentor of Psi Chi for 2015-16.  Our department welcomed Dr. Donahue as its newest assistant professor in the health psychology program in January.  In fact, he had no sooner defended his dissertation under the mentorship of Dr. Joe Porter than we put him to work bringing his engaging teaching style to our students.

Dr. Donahue attended St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he received his Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Humanities: Behavioral Sciences Concentration (1973). He received a Master of Education from Virginia Commonwealth University (1976), and a Master of Humanities from the University of Richmond (1984). He is a career educator with 42 years of teaching experience. He spent 37 years as a public school teacher, primarily as an AP psychology teacher at Hermitage High School in Henrico County, and the past seven years as a biopsychology doctoral student and adjunct faculty instructor for our department before taking the full-time position.

Dr. Donahue is a recipient of the R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence, sponsored by the R.E.B. Foundation of Richmond.  This award allowed him to travel and interview acclaimed neuroscientists. He was awarded a Neuroscientist-Teacher Travel Award by the Society of Neuroscience given to teachers who have established effective relationships with SfN neuroscientists to help them teach neuroscience in the classroom. He also received The Hollins University Teaching Award, supported by an endowment established by Mary Bernhardt Decker ’58 and James DeWitt Becker, honoring secondary school teachers who have devoted their lives to preparing students to achieve and excel in a higher education setting.

To learn about Dr. Donahue’s research interests, visit his faculty page.