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College of Humanities & Sciences

Psychology Department

2015-2016 News

Dr. Shawn Utsey's Film Inspires Community Action

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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 the WCVE report [radio broadcast] for more information about the project.


2015-2016 Student Award and Scholarship Winners

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

> View the full list of awardees

Dr. Joshua Langberg Wins College of Humanities and Sciences Award

langberg-thumb [View Image]Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Langberg, recipient of the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences' 2016 Excellence in Scholarship Award. Dr. Langberg has received more than $8 million 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.


Dr. Danielle Dick Speaks at TEDxRVA

dick-thumb [View Image]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. 

> Watch the video



Dr. Bryce McLeod Receives Research Grant

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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.

> Read Dr. McLeod's interview with VCU News.

Drs. Rose Corona, Suzanne Mazzeo, and Bruce Rybarczyk Receive VCU Community Engagement Grants

corona-thumb> View the VCU News story [View Image]

Excerpt: "Virginia Commonwealth University’s Council for Community Engagement awarded six university-community programs one-year grants of up to $20,000 during a celebration of the university’s commitment to community engagement on May 4 at the Depot."

Dr. Rose Corona's project, submitted with Dr. Shelby McDonald from the School of Social Work, was awarded $20,000 to train Latino residents in mental health first aid. "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."

Dr. Suzanne 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 to fund "MITI Meals: A Hands-On Approach to Nourishing Families." This project partners with Shalom Farms. "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."

Dr. Bruce Rybarczyk's Community Engagement grant led by Dr. Briana Mezuk entitled “Strengthening a Community-engaged Research Partnership to Promote Diabetes Management in Richmond" was funded for $18,000. "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."

Dr. Wendy Kliewer Wins Faculty Mentor Award from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Wendy Kliewer thumbnail image [View Image]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. Dr. Kliewer was acknowledged at the annual Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity.




Dr. Joshua Langberg Receives IES Research Grant

langberg-thumb [View Image]> View VCU News story
> View IES story

Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Langberg, recipient of a 4-year $1,399,988 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). This 2-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).

Dorothy Fillmore Wins the President's Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award

filmore-thumb> View the VCU News story [View Image]

On Monday, April 4th Psychology's Dorothy Fillmore received the President's Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award at the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment awards ceremony. Dorothy was recognized for her 30 plus years of advocacy at VCU. She is a 2012 recipient of VCU’s Burnside Watstein LGBT Award and a 2013 honoree of the Catalyst Award from ROSMY, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ youth issues. “I see lots of places for us to continue to grow and progress, and keep listening to one another,” Fillmore said.

Dr. Ev Worthington Wins SCHEV Award

worthington-thumb [View Image]> Read the VCU News story

Dr. Everett Worthington has been named a recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. This statewide honor recognizes excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration and public service and has been bestowed annually since 1987 to faculty members of Virginia's public and private institutions.

Excerpt from story: "Worthington, a clinical psychologist, has published more than 350 scholarly articles and chapters and more than 35 books and is an internationally recognized expert in the field of forgiveness and reconciliation. His writing and research has focused on forgiveness, as well as other virtues, religion and spirituality, and issues related to marriage and family. He began studying forgiveness scientifically in 1990. From 1998 to 2005, he directed “A Campaign for Forgiveness Research,” a nonprofit organization that awarded more than $6 million toward forgiveness research. And he has worked to nurture researchers studying forgiveness in several foreign countries."

Melissa Dvorsky Receives Research Grant

dvorsky-thumb [View Image]Melissa Dvorsky, a PhD student in the Clinical Psychology program received a grant from VYTP Small Grants Program for Research on the Causes and Prevention of Youth Tobacco Use to conduct a study on "Factors that protect against tobacco use during the transition to college for adolescents with and without ADHD."  A total of $29,400 was awarded. Dr. Josh Langberg is a Co-Principal Investigator on the grant and Dr. Rose Corona is a Co-Investigator.



Danielle Dick Elected to the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research

dick-thumb [View Image]Dr. Danielle Dick has just 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.




Dorothy Fillmore wins Advising Award

filmore-thumb [View Image]Dorothy Fillmore, Associate Director of Academic Operations in our department, received the 2015 Excellence in Advising - Advising Administrator award from the Undergraduate Academic Advising Board!





Robin Everhart Receives National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute Research Grant

everhart-thumb [View Image]Dr. 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). Engaging Richmond is an existing community-university partnership that was funded by NIH in 2011 to address the health priorities of Richmond City residents. The asthma-focused needs assessment will include stakeholder meetings, caregiver and child focus groups, community surveys, and interviews with key informants in the Richmond area. Collaborators on this multi-disciplinary project include Dr. Michael Schechter, Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Rosalie Corona and Dr. Suzanne Mazzeo, Department of Psychology, Dr. Amber Haley and Dr. Steven Woolf, Center on Society and Health, Dr. Leroy Thacker, School of Nursing, data analysts in the Office of Health Innovation, and Engaging Richmond team members.

Sarah Javier Receives R36 Award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

javier-thumb [View Image]Sarah Javier, a PhD student in the Health Psychology Program, recently received a 17-month R36 award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality titled, "Sustainable Adapted Treatments for Eating Disorders: A Cultural Pre-Treatment for Eating Disorder Prevention Programs." This project will focus on the etiology of disordered eating and motivations for treatment-seeking motivations among African American and Asian American women in emerging adulthood. Sarah will utilize a mixed-methods approach including conducting focus groups with college and community women and developing a culturally targeted pre-treatment for an eating disorder prevention program.

Dr. Faye Belgrave Receives 5-Year Grant from SAMHSA

> View the VCU News story

belgrave-thumb [View Image]Dr. Faye Belgrave, a faculty member in the Health Psychology Program, was awarded a 5-year research grant from SAMHSA for close to $1.5 million. This is her 8th SAMHSA grant as PI (9th as Co-PI). The project is "Building Capacity for Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention." Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV are higher for African American young adults than any other racial/ethnic and age group.  The overall goal of this project is to strengthen capacity to provide comprehensive HIV and substance abuse prevention services to young African American adults in the City of Richmond and at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Specifically the project will strengthen the capacity of community organizations and VCU to provide prevention programs and services comprised of evidence-based HIV prevention programs, education and awareness sessions, HIV and Hepatitis Viral (HV) testing and counseling, and a social media campaign to African Americans 18-24 years of age.  The objectives are to (1) establish integrated HIV and substance abuse prevention services in Richmond and at VCU for the target population by linking organizations and entities that provide these services through the establishment of a workgroup/advisory council; (2) improve capacity within Richmond and VCU for increased access to HIV and substance abuse education and prevention services; (3) implement gender and culturally appropriate evidence-based prevention interventions for men and women; (4) carry out substance abuse and HIV awareness and education activities within targeted catchment areas in Richmond and at VCU; and (5) increase HIV and HV testing and counseling.  The final prevention strategies will be identified though a needs assessment that will involve focus groups and interviews with the target population, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders.

Rachel Garthe Receives SRCD Funding Award

garthe-thumb [View Image]Rachel Garthe, a PhD student in the Developmental Psychology Program, is a 2015 recipient of the Society for Research in Child Development Dissertation Research Funding Award. This award is for dissertation proposals that display a strong potential to contribute to the field of child development. Rachel’s dissertation will examine the influence of parental and peer support for violent and nonviolent responses, and their concurrent influence on adolescent dating aggression in middle school students. This award will allow Rachel to obtain more advanced methodological and statistical training for her dissertation. Overall, Rachel’s graduate work has focused on developmental changes in adolescent relationships with peers and families, as well as the association between these relationships and adolescent aggression.

Krystal Thomas Receives American Psychological Foundation Grant

thomas-thumb [View Image]Krystal Thomas, a PhD student in the Developmental Psychology Program, is the 2015 recipient of the American Psychological Foundation's Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark research grant award. She will be recognized in the APA Monitor and the award provides $10,000 for her to conduct pilot work. Her project explores links between racial-identity and academic achievement among African American and Latino students using a transactional approach. The transactional approach highlights the importance of the social context and associated social processes in students’ learning and identity development, and to this end, her work specifically examines the role of cross-racial friendships and teacher-student interactions.

Samantha Miadich Awarded F31 Grant

miadich-thumb [View Image]Samantha Miadich, a PhD student in the Health Psychology Program, was recently awarded an F31 pre-doctoral training grant from NIH/NHLBI for a project entitled, "Effects of Cumulative Risk on Asthma Outcomes in Urban Children and Adolescents.” The proposed study will use data from ecological momentary assessments delivered via smartphone to examine processes that place urban children at increased risk for poor asthma outcomes. Specifically, this study will use a toxic stress framework to investigate the association between a cumulative risk model of stress and child asthma outcomes (ages 7-12) in a low-income, urban sample, as well as the potential for caregiver support related to asthma care to serve as a protective factor in this association. Given developmental differences between younger children and adolescents, the proposed study will also develop an adolescent-specific cumulative risk model of stress and test its association with asthma outcomes in adolescents (13-17 years) from urban settings. Results will inform future research aimed at improving asthma outcomes among low-income, urban children and adolescents by better understanding the association between stress and asthma outcomes in a group most at risk for experiencing high rates of asthma morbidity, including healthcare utilization. Samantha's primary mentor in the program is Dr. Robin Everhart.

Tory Spindle Awarded F31 Grant

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Tory Spindle recently was awarded a 3-year F31 predoctoral training grant from NIH/NIDA titled "The effect of electronic cigarette (ECIG) liquid vehicles on ECIG acute effects." This project will examine the extent to which the two primary solvents used in electronic cigarette (ECIG) liquid (propylene [PG] glycol and vegetable glycerin [VG]) influence nicotine delivery and subjective effects associated with ECIG use. Specifically, experienced electronic cigarette users will complete several conditions in which they use ECIGs of varying PG:VG concentrations. In addition to measuring nicotine exposure and subjective effects, participants in these sessions will have their puffing behaviors analyzed. This recorded puffing data will later be used to generate ECIG aerosols using a computerized puffing machine, providing the first opportunity to assess nicotine yield from ECIGs under actual human puffing conditions. This second portion of the project will take place in Beirut, Lebanon at the American University of Beirut (AUB). I will be traveling to AUB on two occasions over the 3 year span of the grant in order to conduct this portion of the project. Results from this project will result in further understanding of the factors that influence the abuse liability of ECIGs and could inform regulation of these products.

Dr. Tom Eissenberg Wins VCU Distinguished Scholarship Award

eissenberg-thumb [View Image]Congratulations to Dr. Tom Eissenberg, of the Health Psychology Program, who was awarded the VCU Distinguished Scholarship Award. His primary area of research is the behavioral pharmacology of drugs of abuse, focusing primarily on nicotine/tobacco. He is co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products 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.


Dr. Jeff Green's Research on Nostalgia in the News

green-thumb [View Image]View the Time story

This research was conducted by Dr. Chelsea Reid (an alum of the Social Psychology Program), Dr. Jeff Green, and colleagues. Excerpt: "... Comfort foods remind us of our social ties, which means they may help us feel less lonesome when we feel isolated. . . . Even the smell of a meaningful dish can elicit feelings of belonging, some research suggests. In a February 2015 study, Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Chelsea Reid and her colleagues had 160 people smell 12 different scents, including apple pie, cotton candy and baby powder and rate the extent to which the scent was familiar, arousing, autobiographically relevant, and the extent to which it elicited nostalgia. “Nostalgia can be evoked in different ways, but scents may be particularly likely to evoke nostalgia due to the strong link between scents and memory. The smell of pumpkin pie might bring all those holidays with family flooding back, or the smell of a familiar perfume might arouse memories with your partner,” says Reid. Biologically speaking, scent and memory are closely tied. “Psychological research has demonstrated that smells are powerfully linked to memory, and to autobiographical memory in particular,” says Reid. “The olfactory bulb, which is involved in the sense of smell, is linked to areas in the brain associated with memory and emotional experiences.”

Dr. Ev Worthington Receives APA Elder Recognition Award

worthington-thumb [View Image]Congratulations to Dr. Ev Worthington, of the Counseling Psychology Program, for receiving the Elder Recognition Award for Distinguished Contributions to Counseling Psychology, APA Division 17, Society of Counseling Psychology. The Society of Counseling Psychology has a long tradition of honoring senior colleagues whose excellence in scholarship, practice, and leadership has positively influenced the field.



Dr. Utsey Discusses the Ripple Effects of Police Violence

> Read the VICE story

utsey-thumb [View Image]Excerpt: " . . . VICE spoke with Dr. Shawn O. Utsey, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, about the unseen, psychological consequences of being black in America. . . More often than not, race-related stress involves the impact of racism. Most people tend to think that you have an experience of racism and it upsets you, and as a consequence of you being upset, you experience stress, and that's what makes you sick over the course of your life, that chronic exposure to stress. But my work now is looking at it from a different perspective: prolonged activation. It's not necessarily the fact that you've experienced racism. It's that you've experienced racism and it stays with you. The other phenomenon that I'm studying now is anticipatory race-related stress. You haven't even had an experience, but you anticipate it happening, and you are stressed just by anticipation. So, I'm about to go shopping at the mall across town, a predominantly white-mall. I anticipate that they're probably going to follow me around. They may even treat me with disdain. So I begin to prepare in anticipation of racism I might or might not encounter. As a consequence, I'm stressed, even in the absence of racism."

Dr. Linda Zyzniewski Selected for APA Leadership Institute for Women

zyzniewski-thumb [View Image]The American Psychological Association has selected Dr. Linda Zyzniewski as a participant in their Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology. Dr. Zyzniewski is the VCU Psychology Department's Director of Undergraduate Programs and a Dean's Fellow in the College. She will join a select group of exceptional women from across the country in workshops aimed at preparing, supporting, and empowering women psychologists as leaders.

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