Issuu on Google+

Winter 2014

Helping Middle School Children with Behavior Issues


reetings from 806 W. Franklin St.! As I write this, the spring semester is well underway, despite colder than average temperatures in Virginia. We have many exciting developments to report in this issue; for example, we are launching a new feature on leadership in psychology. Leadership is one of the three emphases of our counseling psychology doctoral program (along with scholarship and practice), and we are delighted to hear from Peter Zucker, Ph.D., who completed his studies at VCU in 1983. We continue to excel in scholarship and report on two applied projects conducted by our faculty. Herein you can read about work by Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., who works with middle school students diagnosed with ADHD to help them succeed in school. Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D., is also doing important work in our schools and focuses on school-based interventions for underperforming students. Specifically, she is interested in harnessing advances in cognitive science to develop and test interventions that target students' executive functioning; one way she is doing this is through the game of chess. These projects are just two examples of the cutting edge science produced in the department that provide graduate and undergraduate students the opportunities to get involved in high impact research. In this issue we are pleased to introduce our newest Psychology faculty members, Charles Calderwood, Ph.D., and Marcia Winter, Ph.D. We are excited to have their contributions to our dual missions of scholarship and pedagogy and look forward to their involvement in our dynamic and ever-evolving department. Graduate student training is a key focus of the university this year. As the department with the largest number of doctoral students at VCU, we invest considerable energy in our doctoral training. In this issue we spotlight Rob Goodman, a soon-to-begraduate of our social psychology program, and note the recent NIH training grant that Jasmine Abrams, a student in our health psychology program, received. Finally, we continue to celebrate the successes of and opportunities for our undergraduate students. Undergraduate student Haroon Popal recently won a highly competitive scholarship from the National Institutes of Health, based in part on his work in Dr. Joe Porter’s lab. As always, we would love to hear what you are up to. Please drop us a line or stop by for a visit. Wendy Kliewer Professor and Chair

Wendy Kliewer Chair

Michael Southam-Gerow Director, Graduate Studies

Linda Zyzniewski Director, Undergraduate Studies

Dorothy Fillmore Associate Director for Academic Operations

PROGRAM DIRECTORS Eric Benotsch Health Jeff Green Social Barbara Myers Developmental Bruce Rybarczyk Clinical Everett Worthington Counseling

Jody Davis Web and Facebook

Jennifer Elswick Newsmagazine Production

Important Alumni Links Submit a class note. Update your contact information. Join VCU Alumni . View the alumni directory. Get your alumni email address.


4-5

12-13

22

Alumni news and notes

COVER STORY Helping middle school children with behavior issues succeed Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.

Teaching spotlight Undergraduate preceptor program Jennifer Joy-Gaba, Ph.D.

14

Undergraduate student spotlight and news Haroon Popal, class of ‘14

6-7 Alumni spotlight Alexa Ebersole Carlo-Hickman (B.S. ‘06)

8-9 New feature: Leadership in Psychology Peter Zucker (Ph.D. ’83)

10 CPSD Corner Department celebrates five-year collaboration with Puller Clinic

11 Ask the CPSD Mom worries that her son has been stealing from the medicine cabinet

Faculty scholarship recognition College of Humanities and Sciences

15

23

24 New research findings

Department news and updates

16-17 Meet our new faculty members Charles Calderwood, Ph.D Marcia Winter, Ph.D.

TedxRVA talk Karen Kersting, M.A., M.S.

25

18-19

International visiting scholars Nuran Korkmaz, Ph.D. Muzafar Razali, Ph.D.

Graduate student spotlight and news Robert Goodman, M.A.

26

20-21 Research spotlight Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D.

December 2013 graduates

27 Department contact information


Alumni News and Notes 1970s Jodi L. Teitelman, Ph.D. (M.S. ’78), assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the VCU School of Allied Health Professions, received a certificate of appreciation from the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association for her ongoing commitment to advocacy in the field. She also presented at the association’s annual conference. Teitelman is a life member of VCU Alumni.

1980s Deborah Dugger (B.S. ’85), director of the Chesterfield Adolescent Reporting Program, was one of six chosen from among more than 100 applicants to make a presentation during the “rapid fire” session “Innovations in Public Safety” at the 2013 Transforming Local Government Conference in Atlanta. During her session, which was attended by 200 people, Dugger described the program she oversees and noted that it has saved Chesterfield County, Va. nearly $400,000. Furthermore, youths have provided more than 2,450 hours of community service, the equivalent of a full-time county employee.

2000s Three of our 2009 graduates who also went on to earn their masters of science in occupational therapy degrees at VCU in 2012 gave us a recent update:

Nicole Baeza (B.S. ’09) serves as an occu-

pational therapist at Henrico Health and Rehabilitation in Highland Springs, Va. Courtney English (B.S. ’09) is working at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and its Petersburg therapy center. Erin Laffoon (B.S. ’09) is working at Hopewell Heathcare in Hopewell, Va. Christina Mason (B.S. ’09) is working at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Petersburg.

2010s Katie Holcomb (B.S. ’11), artistic director at Coalition Theater, was named one of Style Weekly’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40.” Located in Downtown Richmond’s Art District, Coalition Theater is home to some of Richmond’s best comedy shows and improv classes.

VCU Psychiatry’s Grand Rounds in November. The title of her talk was “Physical Disability and Diversity: Cultural Competence in Clinical Practice.”

Andrea Konig (Ph.D. ‘11) presented at

havioral Sciences, as well as General Psy-

Kathy Reid-Quinones (M.S. ‘07, Ph.D. ‘11) was promoted to clinical/forensic psychologist supervisor in the child abuse Leila Islam (M.S. '03/HSC, Ph.D.) will finish program at Children's Hospital of The her postdoctoral fellowship at the VA Con- King's Daughters in Norfolk. She is the supervisor of the mental health team, necticut Health Care System in West Haven this August and would love to return which includes licensed clinical social to VCU to begin her career as a health psy- workers and psychology trainees. chologist thereafter; she is actively reErin Wood (B.S. ’05, M.S. ’07, Ph.D. ’10) searching opportunities. She and boystarted a tenure track job at Catawba Colfriend Jacob were married in a beautiful lege in late summer 2010. She officially ceremony in her hometown in Portsmouth ended the Ph.D. fun in the winter of that in December. Her sister Nadia, who is a same year and is still plugging away at current graduate student in our clinical “this very different institution.” At Catawprogram, was in the wedding. ba, she teaches Data Analysis for the Be-

Do you FEAR THE HAVOC? Join a pre-game social in a city near you!


Alumni News and Notes veloping is an honors Death and Dying course. “So, lots of breadth, and I hope some depth, too,” Wood says.

Wood, left, Micah Aerton and Aaron Stevenson

chology, Health Psychology, Behavior Modification, Fundamentals of Learning, Cognition and Neuroscience (all three lab courses) and also a multi-disciplinary first year seminar with both an honors and a non-honors section. A new course she and Catawba’s poet in residence are de-

The VCU School of Allied Health Professions‘ Department of Gerontology recently held a reception to honor She is being supported in an investigation Tracey Gendron (M.S. ‘95/AHP, M.S. ‘12, of the role of technology in higher educa- Ph.D. ‘13), an assistant professor in their tion, in particular how it works in institu- department, for her completion of all retions like hers. Wood recently presented quirements for her Ph.D. in developmental psychology in December. Gendron a poster at the Teaching Professor Techpresented her research on the professionnology Conference in Atlanta discussing the various aspects of integrating technol- al identity development of gerontologists and gerontological specialists. ogy into pedagogy from a multi-system perspective. She has also just started her Gendron teaches The Biology and Physiolown research investigating the role of ogy of Aging, Research Methods, Grant wellness/healthcare app use in healthWriting and electives in the Department related self-efficacy. Wood will present of Gerontology. She is also an ASPiRE facher pilot data at the 2014 Annual Southulty fellow and a service learning faculty eastern Psychology Association meeting in fellow at VCU. Nashville next month. This will be her Her research interests include the profesthird time in so many years both presional identity development and career senting at this conference, as well as tak- commitment of gerontologists; education ing undergraduates there to present work, through community engagement and seras well. vice learning; aging anxiety; ageism and On a personal note, she is a relatively new gerontophobia; LGBT aging; and staff homeowner, a partner, a mom and an knowledge and quality of care. aspiring jogger. Her son Micah is nearly 2 ½ and she refers to him as “cannonball with legs!”

Check out the results from the recent alumni survey.

Thanks for participating!


Alumna Spotlight Alexa Ebersole Carlo-Hickman (B.S. ‘06)

Carlo-Hickman poses in front of Mt. Rainier. She and her husband plan to climb the summit in September.


Give us a summary of your educational and/or career journey since you graduated in 2006.

I reached out to Dr. Z who put me in touch with an awesome post-doc , Steven Kinsey, Ph.D., who was conducting After graduating VCU in 2006, I joined the research at the VCU Pharmacology and military reserves which helped lead to Toxicology lab downtown. I volunteered my current career as a government ana- in his lab for about six months and was lyst. As an analyst, I focus heavily on able to contribute to one of his published both qualitative and quantitative repapers. Steve is now a professor at West search to create reports for a myriad of Virginia University. I jokingly like to think government organizations. It can be very I helped him get there. While I haven’t interesting (and frustrating), but I love decided on a graduate program just yet, I being able to compile all forms of data to gained the research experience I was create a complete story on my topics. looking for and know that Steve and Dr. Z are there to help with whatever I may Who were your greatest influences at need. VCU and how did they shape you into the person you are today? Linda Zyzniewski, Ph.D., had a huge impact both before and after I graduated. I’ve never considered myself a “math person,” so I was apprehensive when it came time to take the psych statistics course. Being the incredible teacher she is, Dr. Z did an amazing job conveying the complex mathematic principles of statistics. I actually did very well in her class. At the risk of sounding corny, she made me realize that I can do math. I don’t currently work with psych-specific statistics, but I do plenty of other statisticsWhat did you like best about your VCU based research. experience?

“..learning the science behind the mind and behavior was fascinating. It still is.”

One evening while I was running some research stats in the psych computer lab, I ran into a few problems with my data and had no idea what I was doing wrong. Thankfully, Dr. Z was still in the building and was willing to help me figure it out. She showed me where I went wrong and got me back on track. It sounds like a simple story, but it was probably pushing 8pm and she didn’t have to stay to help me. It meant a lot and I still appreciate it to this day. A few years after I graduated, I realized grad school was something I would like to pursue, but having been out of school for a few years, I was concerned I didn’t have enough recent research experience.

What was your favorite Psych course? I think it’s a tie between Personality and Physiological Psych. Physiological Psych was extremely interesting to me in that it provided the scientific, biological explanations behind psychology. I am a very fact- and data-oriented person, so learning the science behind the mind and behavior was fascinating. It still is. Personality was also fun. Like everyone else in the class, I had fun applying the personality disorders to my friends and family. But now, having an in-depth understanding of the complexities behind personalities helps me as a manager and leader. If I can truly assess a person’s work (or life) motivation, I can do my best to provide a tailored environment where they can thrive, and in return, the program retains a great worker. It doesn’t always work out like that, but I know the value of understanding different personalities and how to work with them. What are your plans for the future?

Grad school is still a goal. I’ve been taking my sweet time trying to decide on a program. I debate whether to go for a work-oriented program (i.e. International Relations or M.B.A.) or a less applicable Overall, I liked the diversity at VCU. I but more scientific program. Career come from a very small town, so meeting wise, I’m in the process of transitioning and working with so many eclectic and to cyber analysis, so maybe a program in unique people was great. I learned how cyber policy would be better. The debate to work with a variety of personalities continues. and how to solve problems diplomaticalDo you have any updates from your perly . That skill comes in handy working sonal life you’d like to share? with the government. But by far, my favorite thing at VCU was I got married to my high school (and VCU) boyfriend in April 2012. We’d been playing for the Women’s Rugby Team. dating on and off since we were 15. It’s The team was new at the time, so we were all figuring it out together and real- pretty cool to be married to someone I’ve literally known half my life. My marizing just how crazy you have to be to ried name is Alexa Carlo-Hickman. I happlay that sport. I got to know a lot of pened to marry the one guy on earth great girls and gained a lot of great friends from it. It was an awesome expe- who already had a hyphenated last name. rience that I’ll never forget.


New Feature: Leadership in Psychology I am fortunate to serve as the presiulty, I began to develop a vision of a dent and CEO of Stars Behavioral professional career that combined Health Group (SBHG), a communitypsychology, management and leadbased behavioral health, child welership. I discovered that I was eligifare, education and training compable to take elective classes in the ny in the state of California. Stars Graduate School of Business, so I employs more than 1,000 staff and took both the Management and Oroperates in the five biggest counties ganizational Development classes. in the state, delivering system-wide These were very interesting and training in evidence-based practices they seemed such a great fit with in more than 10 states throughout my way of thinking. It was a true the U.S. I started the organization “ah-ha� experience. In retrospect, I Counseling Psychology 24 years ago with a senior partner wish I had taken the finance or acClass of 1983 and served as clinical director and counting classes, too. Later, my advice president until 18 months ago, viser supported me in taking a when I became the president and CEO. The president and CEO is practicum in organizational development at Phillip Morris, where responsible for the successful operation of the entire SBHG en- I worked as an assistant at a quality circle. It was great to see terprise. This includes planning, management, financial steward- applied psychology in an industrial setting. Again, it all seemed ship, program effectiveness, community relationships, regulatory easy, within reach and a natural fit to my way of thinking. and ethical compliance, intelligent use of human resources, staff Once I completed my doctorate, I went to work at an adolescent training and development and purposeful development of orresidential treatment center in Los Angeles and was soon a suganizational culture and growth. Other key responsibilities inpervisor, manager, clinical director and administrator. Over the clude strategic planning, coordination of employee stock owner- years, I’ve paid more focused attention to leadership and emoship activities, legal management and external relationships. tional intelligence, which along with the more buttoned-down The president and CEO also represents the facility and its proskills of management and planning, have been the main skills I grams to governmental agencies, national, state and local agen- deploy daily. I have kept my clinical skills up to date, especially cy partners and the community. in some of the evidence-based practices such as Aggression Re-

My Career Pathway in Counseling Psychology and Organizational Leadership Peter J. Zucker, Ph.D.

My pathway from VCU to my current role reflects the academic and professional training I received and personalized to fulfill my goals, along with great assistance and support from my adviser and other VCU faculty. More important than my StrongCampbell code, was the fact that as a teenager, I held a variety of small jobs and always liked the world of work, from the role to the rewards. These jobs included everything from delivering newspapers to counseling the intellectually disabled at summer camp and being a waiter (Tobacco Company).

placement Training, Functional Family Therapy and trauma informed care such as Attachment, Regulation and Competency and Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress. These capabilities influence my approach and contributions to the program leadership team of Stars.

My personal approach to leadership takes into account two primary factors. The first factor appreciates the role that environment and situation play in choosing which leadership style I select to evidence. I exert greater direction and leadership at the When I began the VCU M.A./Ph.D. program in 1977 as a new beginning of a project, identifying objectives, pathways, due university B.A. graduate (who knew nothing about counseling!), dates, general budgets and more, and less direction and leadermy pre-practicum professor invited me to be a training assistant. ship as the project matures. Similarly, I provide more direction This involved two human relations contracts he was leading to and leadership to new staff and career-beginning staff versus provide human relations training to Virginia Commonwealth tax veteran and highly experienced colleagues.** Finally, I pay attenagents and to help Commonwealth Troopers identify and work tion to the distinction between work partners when they are an more effectively with the dangerous and seriously mentally ill actor versus an observer and I provide guidance and leadership person. Through my regular informal discussions with VCU fac- to work partners to make use of perspectives and contributing


Zucker in Richmond in 1981.

factors that may have been underemphasized.

ganizational development consultant who guides me in top team dynamics one hour per month, to a CEO circle I meet with one The second factor I appreciate is the role of emotional intellimorning per month and a finance coach who has helped me gence in guiding my leadership style. By this, I mean attaining and displaying awareness of self and others, as well as interper- read a P&L statement and hone in on factors limiting my compasonal effectiveness, self-regulation, cultural attunement and per- ny’s financial performance. I am amazed at how my teammates sonal integrity. All of these components initially came into focus pay sharp attention to the things I say and do. By nature a casuduring my graduate education, then developed over time in each al and informal person, I have had to learn to craft my comments and emails carefully to assure precision in my communication. job I had, along with the supervision I received and sought. To One way I keep my head on straight in times of uncertainty or this day, I am a big fan of coaching and provide mentorship to great negativity is to take the time more than 30 people in my current to identify my inner emotional reacorganization on a casual but regular tion to the event, but make sure to manner via scheduled coffee interpret and not gratify the commeetings, visits to their teams, etc. pelling affect. Another way to say This is a great way to guide and lead this is, “Name it to tame it.” In my the team, shape the organizational years in the field, I find I have alculture and address my responsibilready experienced quite a few sucity for talent management and successes, as well as a handful of setcession planning (along with more backs; it’s all part of the story and specific human resources activities). has reassured me that problem solvI receive several forms of coaching ing, resiliency and reliance on my currently. This ranges from an orteam and work partners will result

“I believe leaders are both born and made, and the development pathway is interactive.”


(Continued from page 9, Peter Zucker)

in the best outcome I could have managed at that time in that situation.

“Name it to tame it.” There is currently great interest and need for psychologists to assume leadership roles in many health care and service settings, along with the management and consulting fields. My advice for doctoral students pursuing this path is to first emThe Department of Psychology is proudly celebrating five years of successful collaboration with the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Bene- brace the contributions of counseling psychology to provide a firm grounding in psychological science, counseling, an appreciafits Clinic at the College of William & Mary. This joint effort was initiated to help clear out an overwhelming federal backlog of vet- tion of process and interpersonal dynamics and advanced capability in mathematics, statistics and computers. Having this skill erans’ benefits cases. set and grounding has truly allowed me to make far greater use Since 2008, our clinical and counseling doctoral students at the of my business and management assets. Along with the study of Center for Psychological Services and Development (CPSD) have psychology, one way to proceed might be to pursue academic partnered with the Puller Clinic’s law students to serve veterans by and field experience activities that will not only introduce the expediting the process through which their eligibility for benefits is concepts, skills and roles of the organizational world, but the determined. leadership skills, too. I believe leaders are both born and made, The Puller Clinic provides free services to military veterans who are and the development pathway is interactive. It is important to get exposure to persons in the management, consulting, training petitioning to increase their benefits, or are submitting benefits and business worlds, including their background, perceptions, applications for the first time. They often refer veterans to the language and world views. There is an entire field of literature CPSD, where psychologists-in-training provide assessment and counseling services. For example, CPSD students conduct objective and science on management, organizations, leadership and hupsychological evaluations, which may be used by the Puller Clinic to man factors. Integrating this with your scientific and professionsupport their veterans’ cases. al preparation and experience in counseling psychology will prepare you well for the challenges ahead. In August of this year, Senator Mark Warner and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki recognized the Puller Clinic as a national Finally, be purposeful, focused and warm about engaging with and making use of supervisors and mentors. Be open to both “best practices” program and the first law school clinic in the nareceiving and giving supervision. Keep in touch with prior mention to be certified as a member of the Fully Developed Claims tors, if even just once a year. I continue to occasionally visit Community of Practice. In his press briefing, Senator Warner described this as a “win-win-win” situation for veterans, the VA and mentors who have something to share with me, and find each the law students. Our department is proud to be a part of this contact rich and valuable. Our preparation as psychologists alequation. In September, Mary Beth Heller, Ph.D., interim director lows us to make use of these richly developmental opportunities of the CPSD, accompanied Puller Clinic staff to Washington, D.C., perhaps better than most. Make the most of it! where they met with Senator Warner prior to an outreach event for homeless veterans. At that meeting, Senator Warner reiterated **See my dissertation — Zucker, P.J. & Worthington, E.L., Jr. his praise for the successful collaboration. (1986). Supervision of interns and postdoctoral applicants for Read the press release from the U.S. Department of licensure in university counseling centers. Journal of Counseling Veterans Affairs. Psychology, 33, 87-89 – which found that interns requested and made more use of explicit direction than post-docs.


I had a knee replacement surgery a couple of months ago and was given a prescription for pain killers. I only used a couple of those pills, but yesterday I developed a severe pain in that knee again and when I went to find the bottle, I discovered that though it had been nearly full the last time I opened it, only a few pills remained. Puzzled, I asked my husband if he had used any and he reported that he had not. I am worried that my teenage son could be the one who has used them (no one else has access to our house) and I'm not sure how to handle this. You see, we caught him smoking about nine months ago and have worried since then about his curiosity about trying possibly harmful substances. I know him well enough to know that if we ask him about it, he would just say he doesn't know anything about it whether he does or not. Can you suggest the best way for me and husband to approach him about this?

Center for Psychological Services and Development, 612-620 N. Lombardy St.

First, let me say, “Good for you, Mom.” This is such a difficult issue that some parents opt to avoid confrontation, keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best. By conscientiously monitoring the medications in your home, you’ve already taken a big step toward keeping your son safe and healthy. Before beginning the conversation with your son, ask yourself if you’ve noticed other changes in him. These may include a drop in grades, skipping school, a different (and often more secretive) group of friends, withdrawal from family and activities, less attention to hygiene and/or changes in sleep or appetite patterns. Marked irritability and sullenness – or the opposite, unexplained giddiness – may signal intoxiSend an anonymous question about mental cation or the residual effects of substance use. While adolescence is unequivocally a season health and treatment of change, as the number and severity of these signs increase, so should your level of conissues through cern.

our secure messaging system.

Work through your own anger, disappointment and anxiety by perhaps talking to your husband or a trusted friend. Your goal is to have a dialogue with your son, so it’s important to remain calm and open. Being in control of your own emotions will help you resist the urge to lecture or interrogate.

Pick the right time to talk—ideally, a quiet time when your son isn’t engaged in other activities and you don’t have other pressing tasks. Begin by expressing your love and concern for him, then in a direct manner state the facts: because your prescription medication is missing, you are concerned that he may have been taking it. Then, wait for him to respond. Don’t be surprised if your son denies taking your prescription and don’t get caught up in the need to prove it. Empathize with the challenges of adolescence and stick to the message of love, concern and support. That said, be very clear about your family’s rules and what the consequences for drug use will be. (And, never threaten something you won’t/can’t enforce!) Be prepared to seek professional help if your son admits a problem or if you remain concerned despite his denial. Lastly, thoughtfully consider subtle, unintended messages your son may be getting from you, his dad or other family members about how to cope with stress and negative emotions, including the movies and TV shows you watch together. Keep the conversation going and stay involved with your son. You may be interested to learn that research shows, for example, that kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs. Mary Beth Heller, Ph.D., is interim director of the CPSD.


Helping Middle School Children with Behavior Issues

Courtesy of Sathya Achia Abraham, Science Writer/Editor, VCU Across the Spectrum

Succeeding in school can be challenging for any child, but the journey may be especially difficult for youngsters with attention and behavior problems.

Langberg

Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychology in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences, is hoping to make a difference for those chil-

dren. Langberg has spent the better part of the past 10 years working with schools across the country to develop interventions to help middle school students with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) succeed in school. For the next four years, Langberg and coinvestigator Albert D. Farrell, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology and director of the VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, will be leading a $2.4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to compare two different school-based interventions to determine which one may offer the most effective approach. The Institute of Education Sciences is the research arm of the United States Department of Education.

vention for middle school students with ADHD that is implemented by school psychologists and/or counselors. From 2009 to 2012, Langberg worked with a number of school districts to devise an acceptable model for teaching these skills to students in schools. This was transferred into the manual, which outlines a step-by-step, session-by-session approach to be implemented in the school setting. This will be one of the interventions evaluated in his new study. While HOPS was designed as a one-on-one approach, once Langberg met with school psychologists and counselors, they indicated that they saw themselves also using HOPS in smaller groups or as class-wide interventions. One school decided that they would instruct all students to use the HOPS system for organizing their school materials. So Langberg went back and revised the manual so it could be used in multiple ways and provides flexibility. Working directly with schools to develop the intervention resulted in a program that is effective and feasible to implement – directly impacting the lives of students, families and teachers.

As co-founder of VCU’s Center for ADHD Research, Education and Service, which In 2008, prior to coming to VCU, Langberg provides much needed evidence-based developed the HOPS Manual – Homework, ADHD services to the Richmond area, Organization, and Planning Skills, an inter- Langberg is also involved with training

clinical and counseling psychology graduate students at VCU to provide evidencebased interventions for children, adolescents and families with attention and behavior problems. Below Langberg provides insight into his work, where he hopes his field is headed and his passion for being a mentor. How is the translational nature and impact of your research on children and schools relevant? I focus on developing interventions that can be implemented directly in school settings. This ensures that all children have access to care. I also focus on developing interventions that are really feasible for schools to use. Many times, that’s not the case – what we develop in research is really not usable in school and community settings. So I try to develop interventions for these youth that the school can really take and apply. Many children with attention and behavior problems struggle with the skills needed to learn and succeed academically, such as organization, time management and planning skills. These skills are what all children and adolescents need to know in order to get homework done and to study for tests effectively and in a timely manner. These skills continue to be very important into adulthood and are necessary to be successful in college and in


work settings. Children with ADHD have particular difficulty with these skills. They may have the capacity to be A-B students, they are procrastinating, losing their homework, and as a result, they may receive C’s and D’s in their classes. Most of the interventions I have developed focus on helping children with ADHD in middle school do better academically. The main reason to focus on this age range is that middle school students with attention and behavioral issues often have a hard time with the transition to middle school. The context changes considerably – think about going from elementary school, where there is one teacher who really provides a lot of support and monitoring, to middle school, where students have at least four teachers who each assign different homework and cannot provide the level of support and monitoring that was offered in elementary school. Children often struggle with this transition and so most of my interventions focus on supporting kids academically during and after that transition.

that means that we have smaller effects very hard, but most leave with the skills and we have to continue to intervene over both academically and interpersonally time. that they need to be successful and are able to make informed career choices. I hope we will move away from testing interventions that take “the kitchen sink approach” and that target every behavior the child is having difficulty with at the same time. We’ve been doing that for a number of years and you can generate great effects, but the problem is that these interventions are costly and often require lots of staff time, effort and training to implement. I hope to see the field moving toward interventions that can really be disseminated. The goal is supposed to be that we develop not just something that works, but that can also be used widely.

Last, I hope the field moves toward a more chronic approach to treatment. Most research now is short term. We want to see what we can cram into eight weeks and then cross our fingers and hope improvements last the rest of their lives. Frankly, that doesn’t work. So I think we should move toward smaller doses of intervention delivered continuously over We really focus on teaching students how longer periods of time. Maybe this will to organize their materials, plan ahead for help with it being more feasible. the completion of tests and projects, rec- As a research mentor, what do you want ord homework accurately and in sufficient your students to walk away with? detail and to manage their time effectively Being a mentor is honestly the most enand efficiently. Importantly, we also show joyable part of my job. I view training upfamilies and schools how to use these inand-coming clinicians and researchers as terventions so they can help reinforce and one of the primary responsibilities of my monitor students using the skills. job. The family and school piece are imIn my case, during my post-doctoral and portant. There are really no interventions graduate training, I had some excellent for youth with attention and behavioral and invested mentors who took the time difficulties that work when delivered to to teach me how to be effective as a rechildren alone. We teach the child the searcher and a clinician. Working with skill, but what’s really important is teachthose mentors throughout graduate ing parents and school personnel how to school and their support is really what got monitor and encourage youth over time me started on this path and why I have so they maintain the use of these skills. been successful with a research and trainWhere do you see the future of your re- ing career. search field headed? I currently mentor students at all levels – I hope research will focus on developing from undergraduates to post-doctoral feasible, easy-to-use interventions, even if scholars. I expect my students to work

What advice do you have for students looking to enter the research field? The environment is pretty competitive these days and students have to get started early. I think it’s especially important for undergraduates and early graduate students to understand this. Mentors don’t come to you – students need to be assertive and seek out mentors. It may take many tries to connect with the right one, but the search needs to start early. Coursework only counts for half of the game, if not less. Students need to be proactive and work with people who are doing research. That is going to set them on the right path.

VCU Psychology Receives $2.4 Million Grant to Examine Skills Intervention for Students with ADHD The Institute of Educational Sciences awarded a $2.4 million grant to VCU Psychology to examine the “Efficacy of an Organizational Skills Intervention for Middle School Students with ADHD.” Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., is the principal investigator of the project. Read more.


The College of Humanities and Sciences proudly recognized its faculty’s accomplishments at a reception in October. The following are recipients from the Department of Psychology. A full listing of the College’s awardees can be found here and photos from the event can be viewed here.

Faculty author awards are given to faculty members listed as primary author or editor for a book published in 2013. Recipients from Psychology were Michael Southam-Gerow, Ph.D., for the book “Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner’s Guide” (Guilford Press) and Everett L. Worthington, Ph.D., for the book “Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free From the Past” (WaterBrook/Multnomah).

Scholarly award winners are faculty members who are the recipients of awards presented by outside organizations to recognize scholarship or scholarly works between January 1 and June 30, 2013. Recipients from Psychology were

one or more external grants whose total expenditures during fiscal year 2013 were at least $40,000. Recipients from Psychology were Faye Z. Belgrave, Ph.D., for the project “Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention Among African American College Students” funded by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration;

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Joshua M. Langberg, Ph.D., for the project “Organizational Skills Intervention for Children with ADHD” funded by the U.S. Department of Education; Suzanne E. Mazzeo, Ph.D., for the project “Nourishing Families to Promote Healthy Eating and Exercise In Overweight Adolescents” funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development;

Thomas E. Eissenberg, Ph.D., for the project “Waterpipe Tobacco Smoke Toxicant Sampling in the Natural EnvironBryce McLeod, Ph.D., and Michael A. ment” funded by the National Institute on Southam-Gerow, Ph.D., for the project Drug Abuse; “Development and Validation of Child Albert D. Farrell, Ph.D., for the project “A Therapy Integrity Measures” funded by the National Institute of Mental Health; Comprehensive Approach to Youth Violence Prevention” funded by the Centers Barbara J. Myers, Ph.D., for the project for Disease Control and Prevention; “Parenting Children of Promise” funded by

Thomas E. Eissenberg, Ph.D., member of Clarissa S. Holmes, Ph.D., for the project the Virginia Department of Corrections; “Parenting and Control Among Young Chil- Bruce D. Rybarczyk, Ph.D., for the project the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections, Department dren with Type 1 Diabetes” funded by the “Psychological Services for the Uninsured” of Health and Human funded by the Health Services; Resources and Services Administration; Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., Fulbright scholar, U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Everett L. Worthington, Ph.D., fellow of American Psychological Association’s Division 17, Society for Counseling Psychology.

Principal investigators 2013 are faculty members who were principal investigators on

Terri N. Sullivan, Ph.D., for the project “Promoting Social, Emotional and Behavioral Competence” funded by the U.S. Department of Education and Everett L. Worthington, Ph.D., for the project “An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of Humility” funded by the Everett Worthington, Ph.D., left, and Suzanne Mazzeo, Ph.D., pose for a picture with James Cole- John Templeton Foundaman, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences, at the awards reception. tion.


Department News and Updates Elijah Christman, fiscal technician, completed the VCU Sponsored Projects Administration Certification Program. This is a VCU program aimed at fosChristman tering and disseminating knowledge about sponsored projects administration. What is the ideal age for parenthood? The Science of Relationships blog recently featured an excerpt from a chapter Jody Davis, Ph.D., wrote for the 2011 Davis book, “The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions About Dating, Marriage, and Family” addressing this very question. Read the excerpt. Tom Eissenberg, Ph.D., continues to make headlines following the announcement of his $18.1 million grant establishing the Center for the Study of Eissenberg Tobacco Products in our department. Eissenberg’s work has most recently been featured in a video and expert opinion forum for Legacy for Health, a foundation that advocates for longer, healthier lives through education, government outreach, community initiatives and research. VCU’s research blog Across the Spectrum also recently featured his collaborative work with Penn State colleague, Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D. The research focuses on electronic cigarettes, work that continues with a planned clinical trial of 520 smokers – half recruited at Penn State and half at VCU. The trial will evaluate the effects of cigarette substitutes on smokers who have

decided to not quit smoking. The results of the study will advise the FDA on regulation of novel tobacco products.

Congratulations to Victoria Shivy, Ph.D., for winning a 2013-14 service learning award through VCU’s DiviFinally, Reuters UK tapped Eissenberg’s sion of Community Engageexpertise for this article on the rising numment. In her project ber of Florida teens trying hookah Shivy “Human Behavior in the (waterpipe) smoking. Parks: Recycling,” students in PSYC 317 Geraldine Lotze, Ph.D., will work with Central Virginia Waste Manwas elected to the board agement Services, the City of Richmond, of trustees for Jackson James River Park System and Friends of Feild Homes, an agency James River Park to develop and implethat provides intensive ment survey instruments that will assist therapeutic services for with understanding attitudes towards reLotze boys and girls in residential cycling. It is hoped that the outcomes of homes and in community-based services. the survey will provide important inforThe Lott-Carey Herald mag- mation to help increase recycling particiazine recently published a pation. feature on Micah Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., was McCreary, Ph.D., and the featured in a recent Richwork he has done in Haiti. mond Times-Dispatch artiRead the article on page 17. cle and VCU News article McCreary Reforming Virginia’s mental highlighting his Fulbright health system is a popular topic of conver- scholarship to study in Utsey sation following the tragic incident involv- South Africa. Utsey will ing Virginia State Senator conduct an oral history project to examine Creigh Deeds and his son the extent to which apartheid continues to in December. James affect South Africans. McCullough, Ph.D., Everett Worthington, weighed in on the converPh.D., was profiled as sation in an op-ed piece in part of a front page story McCullough the Richmond Timesin The News Leader, a Dispatch advocating for a community-level newspaper that serves prevention approach. localities in Virginia’s Listeners of local public Shenandoah Valley. The Worthington radio station WCVE (88.9) article was called “Out of recently heard Bruce the Depths I Cry to You, Oh, Lord” and Rybarczyk, Ph.D., explain detailed the struggle of a minister to forhow his “boot camp” for give his murdering, arsonist son-in-law for chronic insomnia works. the death of his grandson and the injuries Rybarczyk Listen to the interview and to his daughter. Worthington is an expert a patient testimonial. in forgiveness and shared his own personal tragedies and how he came to forgive.


Meet our New Faculty Members As an applied psychologist, I am also very drawn to the strong emphasis in this department on improving people’s lives using a variety of approaches. Given that my research focuses on work (non-work relationships, stress and occupational health processes), it is a good fit with this general focus. I believe that this position will give me opportunities to conduct impactful collaborative research with undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members at VCU. Charles Calderwood, Ph.D.

Charles Calderwood, Ph.D., joined our faculty in January as an assistant professor in the social psychology program. He is a native of Maine and has spent the last year and a half living abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. What is your educational background? I attended Tulane University for my undergraduate studies and received my B.S. in psychology in 2006. I enrolled in graduate school at the Georgia Institute of Technology and received my M.S. in 2009 and my Ph.D. in 2012. My primary concentration in graduate school was industrial/ organizational psychology, with a minor in quantitative methods. What brought you to VCU? I am excited about joining a psychology department with such a large impact on the broader university and community. I think that being involved with one of the largest doctoral programs and undergraduate majors at VCU is very exciting, as it will give me the opportunity to interact with many students from diverse backgrounds and approaches to psychological inquiry. Being able to teach and conduct research in this type of environment is very appealing, as diverse perspectives greatly enhance discussions in classroom and research settings.

Describe your past research experience. I have been involved in research in psychology for the last 10 years. My research career began as an undergraduate at Tulane, where I assisted faculty members and graduate students with research on topics of managerial ethical decision making, workplace discrimination and intergroup bias in virtual teams. I also had the opportunity to spend a summer doing applied research at Vanderbilt Medical Center, where I was involved in investigating patient safety issues in surgical settings. Most recently, I spent five years working in the Knowledge and Skill Lab at Georgia Tech, where I was involved in a number of research projects on topics of work – non-work relationships, occupational health, subjective fatigue, adult cognitive training and student academic performance. What are your current research interests and activities? My research interests center on the impact of daily and enduring influences on work – non-work relationships and occupational health. My most recent work has focused on investigating employees’ off-job reactions to encountered daily work stressors and the implications of these reactions for outcomes of employee well-being, work/ non-work conflict and perceived health. I am currently broadening the scope of this

research by investigating the individual and joint effects of specific daily events, personality traits and work characteristics to the duration of the post-work stress response, while also exploring short and longterm influences on work/non-work relationship experiences over time. I have also begun to extend my research to educational contexts, through investigations of technology usage demands and strategies in student populations, with attention to the role of technology in linking academic and nonacademic domains of student life. What do you like to do in your spare time? I like to hike, travel, cook, watch movies, read and write.

Marcia Winter, Ph.D.

Marcia Winter, Ph.D., joined our department in February as an assistant professor in the developmental program. What is your educational background? I earned my Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 2006. From there, I completed postdoctoral fellowships at Syracuse University and the University of Rochester Medical Center. What brought you to VCU? This is a tough question because there were many things that drew me to VCU. The faculty is diverse, but with many connected interests; I see this as a place where collab-


orations are fostered and I appreciate that. I believe this is also reflected in the productivity and success of the department. In addition, I appreciate the connections of the psychology department with the VCU Medical Center and the broader Richmond community. Not only is that essential for my research, but I also like to stay connected to the people we serve. Similarly, I look forward to working with the VCU students, about whom I have heard such great things. Finally, I have found all of the faculty, staff and graduate students to be very welcoming and helpful, and I am looking forward to being a part of the team and exploring all that VCU and Richmond have to offer.

caregiving and family processes can be pro- With this work, I hope to address an anomtective to children. aly in the pediatric cancer literature: many children and families appear to function I first focused on family and sociodemographic stress (e.g., family and community relatively well initially (i.e., they rally to fight the disease), but in the longterm can discord, low socioeconomic stress), then began to also look at pediatric illness con- suffer multiple deleterious emotional and mental health effects (e.g., symptoms of texts. The danger and fear inherent in medical threats to children render disease post-traumatic stress). Ultimately, I hope contexts—such as chronic asthma and can- this work can be applied to assist families at the time of diagnosis and treatment cer—as particularly salient contexts for with the intention of preventing future research pertaining to threat. negative effects. What are your current research interests What do you do in your spare time? and activities? To VCU, I will be bringing a short term, lon- I have twin daughters, age 5, with whom I spend most of my spare time. We like to gitudinal project that examines how chilbe outdoors, hiking and enjoying nature; dren and families cope during diagnosis when it rains, we all love to read. I also Describe your past research experience. and the initial phases of treatment for My research focuses on the mechanisms by childhood cancer. I am examining the im- love to travel and seem particularly drawn to Central American countries. which chronic stress and threat impacts pact of socdiodemographic stress, child child development. Of particular interest is and family coping and child health behav- Name one “little known fact” about yourself. how children are affected emotionally, es- iors on child immune and mental health pecially in how they interpret and make meaning of challenging situations, as well as physically, at the level of immune function and health outcomes. I examine the role of the family in these risk pathways, for example, by examining how various

outcomes. For example, I am wondering if the family’s reaction to the initial diagnosis and treatment (i.e., family routines and communication styles, child emotional security) impacts child immune and mental health during and following treatment.

I come from a family of commercial apiarists (beekeepers). It’s such an interesting field and always a fun topic of conversation – people have strong feelings about bees!


Graduate Student Spotlight Robert Goodman, M.A., Social Psychology program ines how mindfulness influences the regulation and experience of emotions, particularly under conditions of threat; second, I examine how mindfulness affects memory -related processes, such as the content and accuracy of memory and the subjective experience of remembering.

Rob Goodman came to our social psychology doctoral program in in 2009 after receiving undergraduate degrees in both psychology and religious studies in 2007 and a master’s in experimental psychology from Cleveland State University in 2009. He claims no hometown saying, “I was a Navy brat, so I never stayed in one place for too long.” He has worked under the mentorship of Kirk Brown, Ph. D., while at VCU and expects to graduate with his own Ph.D. this spring. We caught up with him recently and asked him to tell our readers about his interesting work. Describe your research and teaching interests. My research program implements a socialaffective neuroscience approach to understand how a particular kind of awareness known as mindfulness – an alert and receptive awareness of the present moment – influences emotional experience and memory function across physiological, behavioral and psychosocial levels of analysis. At the broadest level, the aim of my research is to extend mindfulness theory by examining the constituent processes that facilitate mindfulness and influence basic emotion and memory processes. I have recently extended these lines of inquiry into applied domains, including geriatric care and education. Accordingly, I have two intersecting lines of interdisciplinary research. First, my research exam-

I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had to grow and develop as an instructor during my time at VCU and actively seek opportunities to learn new methods that will keep my students engaged. I recently completed the Preparing Future Faculty Program to enhance my pedagogical training. At VCU, I have had the opportunity to teach the undergraduate courses Social Psychology and The Application of Statistics to Psychology and I am currently working as a lab instructor for Dr. Linda Zyzniewski’s statistics course this spring. One aspect I particularly enjoy about teaching is how closely it intersects with my research interests in mindfulness. Exemplary teaching requires a particular sensitivity to context, such that an instructor knows when to pull back from planned lecturing to honor moments of studentdirected learning. Students recognize when their time is being honored. By practicing mindfulness during my interactions with students I improve as an instructor. At the same time I build a deeper first-person understanding of a mental quality central to my research interests. Describe your work on the grant you received from the Mind and Life Institute. One line of my research recently received funding by the Mind and Life Institute to examine mindfulness training as a way to slow the decline of several cognitive capacities among a community sample of aging adults at risk for mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a

state of cognitive decline between typical aging and dementia that is characterized by impaired cognitive functioning. This randomized controlled trial will examine the influence of two stress reduction programs on neural measures of cognitive functioning related to mild cognitive impairment. Additionally, the study will use mobile phone devices to assess the cognitive functioning of participants as they move throughout their daily life. Taken together, these measures will allow for tests of whether treatment-induced changes in neurological activity are translatable into functional, real-world benefits in the day-to-day life of senior citizens. The interventions are scheduled to begin this term and our team is excited by the opportunity to watch seniors from the community improve their quality of life through these stress reduction programs. What are your plans for the future? I am currently on the academic job market seeking a tenure track faculty position at institutions that balance their value of scholarship and teaching. Ideally, I’d like to obtain employment at a university that will provide me with equal time to work closely with undergraduates on rigorous psychological research, and teach. On the teaching side, I definitely have an affinity for teaching statistics, particularly because students are often uncertain about the connection between psychology and statistics. It is very exciting to me to help these students recognize something novel and valuable that they hadn’t thought of before. In short, while the precise details of my future are uncertain at the moment, I am certain it will include research and scholarship.


Grad students in feel-good video of the year! What do you do in your spare time? In my spare time I enjoy backpacking, particularly on the Appalachian trail south of Shenandoah National Park. Virginia is a very beautiful part of the country and spending time in the forest is one of my favorite ways to spend my free time. Another hobby, of course, is meditation (which I also enjoy doing in the forest). For the last two years I have helped organize Sit and Sutta Study, a VCU student organization that meets weekly to practice meditation and discuss the teachings of the historical Buddha. Finally, a current hobby is watching VCU basketball with friends. Let’s go VCU!

Jasmine Abrams, M.S., a doctoral student in the health psychology program, recently won an F31 research grant from the National Institutes of Health for a project entitled, "Psychosociocultural Determinants of Cardiovascular Disease Risk among Black Women." The study will address important gaps in the literature by using innovative methods (i.e., objective measures of health via heart rate and biometric data) to assess the impact of internalization of the culturally salient Strong Black Woman schema and emotion regulation on cardiovascular disease risk. Results will inform future research and ultimately the development of culturally specific prevention strategies to decrease cardiovascular risk in black women. Broadly, Abrams is interested in global health prevention research with an emphasis on chronic illnesses.

Elizabeth Robinson

Emily Wheat

When Shaka Smart and several players from the VCU men’s basketball team paid a visit to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU to spread some holiday cheer in December, a party broke out! The players, patients and service providers participated in a video lip dub of Katy Perry’s “Roar” that captures the wonderful spirit of CHoR. Clinical psychology students Elizabeth Robinson, M.S., and Emily Wheat, M.S., happened to be around that day and joined in the fun. Their individual moments of fame come at about 3:33 in the video. Robinson and Wheat are practicum students at CHoR for the hematology/ oncology (Robinson) and cystic fibrosis (Wheat) clinics.

Jordan Quaglia, M.S., left, Morgan Maxwell, M.S., and Joshua Brevard, M.S., take a well-deserved break on W. Franklin St. on a cold day in January. Quaglia and Maxwell are in the social psychology program and Brevard is in the health psychology program. Look for great things from these three!


Research Spotlight Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D. meaningful impact on academic achievement, particularly among minority students. A different approach that is gaining popularity is to directly train cognitive skills independently from academic material.

Consider a student struggling in school to pay attention, to make smooth transitions between English and math class, to keep his hands to himself, to control his impulse to laugh out loud during instruction. Perhaps the child has multiple tutors for his various classes and a history of poor grades and problem behaviors as far back as preschool. Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, readily recognizes such difficulties as possible indicators of poor executive functioning. Executive functioning refers to our ability to reason, solve problems, plan ahead, switch between tasks and delay gratification. She and other researchers have found that these skills are more malleable than we previously imagined and, that our brains can be trained to operate more efficiently. The more traditional approach to addressing struggling students’ difficulties is through one-on-one content tutoring with an individual proficient in the subject matter of difficulty. Studies show, however, that this type of intervention does not produce a

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Serpell and collaborators from Virginia State University are studying whether cognitive training through commercially available “brain training” programs improves executive functions in African American students from middle school through college. Preliminary findings suggest that computer-based training for just one hour per day for five days a week for 15 weeks in a school context improves students' cognitive skills. The training tasks involve activities known to stimulate various executive functions, such as working memory and holding attention.

Serpell and her team have learned – unsurprisingly – that training one-onone with a human works better than training with a computer-based program. However, one-on-one methods, she reports, are not practical for widespread use in public schools that fre-

Executive functioning refers to our ability to reason, solve problems, plan ahead, switch between tasks and delay gratification. quently lack the human resources necessary to provide individualized instruction. As such, developing more effective computer-based programs is an important goal of her research. To accomplish this goal, she and researchers at the University of California San Diego have been studying student engagement, motivation and affect during training sessions to understand what specific aspects of facial expression and non-verbal behavior human trainers use to effectively train students, and to see if these strategies can be replicated in an automated or computerbased system. Serpell’s second project, one for which she admits having a special passion, involves a deeper examination of the pliability of brain functioning using cognitive activities involved with playing chess. It turns out that the particular set of skills required to play chess – forecasting moves, pattern recognition, mental imagery processing, etc. – map very well onto components of executive functioning. Funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences, Serpell collaborates with faculty at the Univer-


sity of Cambridge and a local chess company on a project exploring whether cognitive activities associated with playing chess improve executive functions and whether these improvements boost academic performance in African American students in local inner city elementary schools. The chess curriculum under investigation was developed by department alumna Teresa Parr (B.S. ‘93, M.S. ‘95, Ph.D. ‘99) and the first African American grandmaster of chess, Maurice Ashley. Ashley says, “Playing chess is really about making a series of critical decisions move after move, and therefore forces the player to be alert, vigilant, cunning, patient and focused at all times.” Reporting on her project’s progress, Serpell excitedly describes her obser-

vations of students making the transition from a chaotic and unruly group of third and fourth graders at the beginning of a school year to one that demonstrates discipline, attentiveness and engagement at the commencement of the end-of-year chess tournament. “The strength of this project is that it scientifically tests whether cognitive skills previously thought to be stable are trainable. As a training context, chess playing affords many benefits: it is engaging and intense, so students practice these skills hard and often, all the while receiving lots of feedback and reinforcement.” Serpell is looking forward to examining whether their qualitative observations bear out in the data they have collected. This overarching commitment to developing innovative approaches to promoting school success, particularly

among students who are struggling academically, is a common thread in all of Serpell’s research efforts. A new faculty member this year in the Department of Psychology, Serpell says she came to VCU for the research opportunities—new faculty collaborations, working with VCU’s diverse student body and getting involved with efforts to improve outcomes for K-12 students attending urban public schools. Serpell’s communityengaged, translational scholarship exemplifies department and university initiatives to build high impact research programs that have practical benefits for the community at-large.

Submitted by Jennifer Elswick, director for strategic initiatives and assistant to chair.

Veterans Day 2013 The Department of Psychology hosted its third annual Veterans Day event and reception for veterans who have served or were serving in the military (Active Duty, Reserves or National Guard) and their families. The event included the panel discussion “Community-Based Behavioral Health Resources for Veterans.” The panel members were Kristen Lessig, Sportable; John Paul Cimino, Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the College of William & Mary and Helping Veterans through Higher Education; Jennifer Drake Patrick, Operation Educate the Educator and Sean Longnecker, VCU Student Veterans Association. After the discussion, representatives from various community-based behavioral health service organizations were on hand to provide information and raise awareness of some of the services available to veterans and their families.


Teaching Spotlight: Undergraduate Preceptor Program Jennifer Joy-Gaba, Ph.D. Jennifer JoyGaba, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in our department and is part of the social psychology program. This past academic year, Joy -Gaba launched a new undergraduate course entitled Introduction to Teaching. The purpose of the course was to introduce undergraduate students to basic issues related to teaching, with an emphasis on learning ways to increase teaching effectiveness. Many of the undergraduate courses offered at VCU adopt a large lecture format; however, Joy-Gaba’s course was in the style of a seminar – one that took on many forms as the semester progressed. Some weeks, students engaged in small group discussions and were given the opportunity to present on material before class. On other occasions, students took part in an ongoing and enriching dialogue posing questions to one another, debating the merits of particular teaching strategies and thoughtfully considering questions posed by Joy-Gaba. Student discussions spanned various topics, including how to lead a class discussion, integrate teaching strategies to increase student engagement and evaluate students’ understanding of course material. Students received information about how to approach large lecture courses, lead discussions, generate quality items for exams and grade effective-

ly. Throughout the course, students also learned about the importance of a syllabus – its purpose in effectively guiding and structuring a course, as well as the material that should be included.

teaching statement delineating teaching goals and style. In their statements, students were asked to address questions such as “How will you manage challenges you may face as an instructor?” and “How In addition to participating in class discus- do you perceive your role as an instrucsion, students were asked to write a series tor?” of reaction papers through the semester. Joy-Gaba’s preceptor program and correSuch papers were designed to provoke sponding seminar was a tremendous succritical thinking about the undergraduate cess. One student remarked, “[The preceptor program and issues related to course] really helped me solidify my future teaching more generally. Reaction papers goals, specifically within the teaching arewere not only a way for Joy-Gaba to criti- na.” Another said, “Before taking the cally evaluate students’ thought processes, class, I guess I did not understand all of the ideas and responses to material covered, details that go into teaching. I mean, evethey also stimulated rich class discussions. rything has to be planned from what material will be covered in class to specific exPerhaps the most unique aspect of JoyGaba’s course was that it was designed to am questions. This was definitely a neat simulate many of the experiences that stu- eye-opener.” dents would encounter in future teaching careers. For instance, at the end of the semester, students were asked to write a

pre·cep·tor prē′sĕp′tər n. 1. A teacher; an instructor.

In Joy-Gaba’s words, Becoming a preceptor is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to gain insight into the teaching process. The course, Guided Inquiry in Psychology, is intended to compliment the preceptor experience. For example, we discuss ways to effectively lead class discussion. In turn, students can employ these methods in the course in which they are preceptoring.

2. An expert or specialist who gives practical experience and training to a student. 3. The head of a preceptory.

The Department of Psychology hopes to see the development of similar courses to JoyGaba’s in upcoming semesters.


Undergraduate Student Spotli ght Haroon Popal, Class of ‘14 After visiting Richmond during his senior year of high school, Haroon Popal, class of 2014, decided to attend VCU. “I liked the idea of being in a city while in college because there would be plenty for me to do outside of academics.” In particular, he really enjoyed the art, music and variety of cuisines that Richmond had to offer. Popal was also interested in going to a university with a prestigious medical school where undergraduates could be involved in research projects. When asked why he chose psychology as his major, Popal says his choice reflected an interest nurtured by a particularly interesting high school psychology course and, too, that psychology is a major related to the medical field. He indeed has interests in pursuing a career in medicine and is currently pursuing minors in biology and chemistry as part of that preparation. About being a psychology major, he says, “After taking a few psychology courses at VCU, I realized I made the right choice. I am always excited to go to my psychology classes.”

ses because he is interested in how individuals learn and form memories. He says that it was interesting to learn about something relevant to his everyday life and that Joy-Gaba made the class very interesting by explaining studies that were related to what they were learning. With Porter, he particularly enjoyed learning about different types of conditioning because of his interests in behavioral psychology and brain functioning. “I liked how Dr. Porter brought in his own experiences and talked about the research he does.” Inspired by Porter’s course, Popal is now considering neuroscience research as a future specialty.

Popal is very active in our department’s research mission and currently works in our behavioral pharmacology lab on an animal model study that is investigating drug discrimination of ketamine in rats under Porter’s direction. Taking good advantage of VCU’s many opportunities to experience interdisciplinary research, he has also taken part in the VCU Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Program where he had the opportunity to Popal’s favorite psychology classes have been Learning and Cognition with Jennifer work in Biomedical Engineering’s RehabiliJoy-Gaba, Ph.D., and Physiological Psychol- tation Technology and Haptics Lab under the direction of Dianne Pawluk, Ph.D. The ogy with Joseph Porter, Ph.D. Learning and Cognition was one of his favorite clas- lab study under investigation explored the viscoelastic properties of intra-abdominal organs. He has also worked in the VCU Center on Health Disparities with Allison Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, held an event in November to spread awareness and raise support for victims of domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The group discussed services offered, whom to contact for information and common myths about domestic violence.

Vanderbilt, Ed.D., where he contributed to the statistical analyses for several of Vanderbilt’s collaborative projects. As the crowning achievement of his undergraduate career, he recently won a very competitive scholarship for up to $20,000 for educational and living expenses for the 2013-2014 academic year from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to the scholarship, Popal will receive a paid 10-week position at the NIH research laboratory and will work for the NIH for at least one year after graduation. He was one of 19 students chosen from more than 250 applicants nationwide for the scholarship. When Popal has time, he enjoys catching up on television shows he has missed from working so hard! He also enjoys reading and is most interested in fiction, but will also pick up a biography or history narrative if it sparks his interest. We congratulate Popal on his stellar academic performance and look forward to even greater accomplishments from this rising star. Submitted by Samantha Miadich, doctoral student in the health psychology program

Psychology undergraduate student, chef and disability activist,

Jenson Larrimore (class of ‘14), was featured in Style Weekly’s popular annual feature, “Top 40 Under 40: The Young Standouts Who Are Lifting the Community to Greater Heights.” Read the article.


New Research Findings Read about some new findings from our department’s investigators. A sampling of the research questions addressed are: 

Taking another look: Can we replicate popular psychology findings?

How can clinicians promote effective asthma management and better asthma control among adolescents with asthma?

How good are we at predicting our future happiness or sadness regarding hurtful offenses in our romantic relationships?

Karen Kersting, M.A., M.S., doctoral candidate in counseling psychology, was recently invited to speak at TEDxRVAWomen, the first independently organized TEDxWomen event in the region. Kersting’s experiences teaching The Psychology of Women engendered a passion for examining the tough decisions women face when trying to balance career and family. Kersting’s doctoral dissertation, which she successfully completed in October, examines one of these issues — The Ticking of the “Biological Clock”: Worry about Future Fertility in Nulliparous Women — with findings relevant to the significant number of women putting off motherhood in their 20s and 30s. Prior to graduate school, Kersting worked as a professional journalist at Bloomberg News, National Geographic Channel and the American Psychological Association’s MonGreen Hulsey Van Tongeren itor on Psychology and gradPsych magazines. In her spare time, she swims with the River City Magnolias, a vintage-style water ballet team she founded in 2013.


International Visiting Scholars Nuran Korkmaz,Ph.D., and Muzafar Razali, Ph.D. Nuran E. Korkmaz, Ph.D., was born and raised in Turkey, where she received her bachelor’s degree from Ankara University in the Faculty of Divinity. She continued there for her graduate education and earned two master’s degrees—one in the history of sects and the other in the psychology of religion. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy and religious science in 2012. Since 2002, Korkmaz has been working as a research assistant at Ankara University’s Faculty of Divinity in the Department of the Psychology of Religion.

the interaction among different cultures and religions, noting that VCU gives her that atmosphere. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, watching movies with her family, doing illumination (tezhip), cooking and sampling cuisines from different cultures.

Muzafar Razali, Ph.D., is a senior lecturer at the Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia in the Department of Psychology and Counseling and is faculty of education and human development. His research expertise is drug abuse education, prevention and counseling. Razali spent Korkmaz’s research interests are cross-cultural relationships time at VCU before as a 2009-10 felwithin the field of psychology of religion and more specifically, low in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in VCU’s the relationships between self-compassion, forgiveness and psy- Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies under the mentorship of chological health. During her visit, she is working with Everett Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D. He is working with Kliewer anew on deWorthington, Ph.D., and his Positive Psychology Research Group veloping a model of drug abuse prevention for adolescents in (PPRG) on a project examining the relationship between selfMalaysia based on risk and protective factors. compassion and psychological health in a cross-cultural context. During his visit, Razali will explore the latest prevention models Korkmaz believes that working with a VCU mentor and particiand techniques related to drug abuse counseling and will work pating in the research group’s endeavors are very important ex- on writing journal articles for publications. After his year long periences in her academic career. When she finishes her study visit, he looks forward to continuing the collaborative academic at VCU, she plans to publish some articles with Worthington and and research partnership between VCU and the Sultan Idris Eduother colleagues from the PPRG and to continue to build her re- cation University in the area of drug abuse education, prevenlationships with colleagues from various psychology departtion and counseling. ments. Korkmaz says she enjoys and gains great benefit from Timothy Wilson, Ph.D., Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, has many of the most cited papers in social psychology over the last several decades. In Green Hulsey Van Tongeren fact, he has three papers in the prestigious journal Science over just the last five years! He has written well-regarded textbooks and wonderfully reviewed popular books on topics such as the adaptive unconscious and psychological change. Wilson has inspired new fields in social psychology and is particularly known for work on self-knowledge and the limits of introspection and how we deal with uncertainty. He was one of the first researchers to study affective forecasting, which is how we predict our emotional reactions to future events. It turns out that we typically overestimate how strongly we will feel and how long we will feel an emotion, whether positive or negative. For example, you may think that your wedding will make you feel much happier for months, when actually you will feel somewhat happier for weeks. On the flip side, you may predict that if your partner breaks up with you, you will feel devastated for years, but you won’t feel as bad as you think, and you will recover more quickly than you think. This is an important area for all of psychology because if we can’t accurately predict our emotional reactions, then we might make the wrong choices about what we think will make us happy. - Jeff Green, Ph.D., director of the social psychology program

Special Visitor


CONGRATULATIONS, December 2013 Graduates! Doctor of Philosophy Alison Eonta Tracey Gendron Leila Islam Alison Kramer Aaron Martin Cassandra Pasquariello Katherine Taylor Jason Wiebelhaus Master of Science Laura Caccavale Jennifer Coleman Nadia Islam Benjamin Rosen Meghan Smith Bachelor of Science Samaneh Abyar Emily Adams Asiah Afsharie Sobia Ahmed DeMonica Alexander Jasalle Allen Kamar Alsamman Ashley Atkinson Kinnera Atluri Marjorie Baja

Rebecca Barr Rizelle Baul Ja'nice Benjamin Shakeyra Birt Dora Braxton Tyra Brogdon Ayanna Broom Candace Brown Edniesha Brown Brittany Bush Devin Byrne Christina Carreiro Grace Carscadden Andrew Carter Jacob Clements Kelsea Copeland Maryann Cotman Clinton Crosby Alexandra Dahl Miriam Darby Bryonna Davis Kristin Davis Myrna De Jesus Molly Dearhart Justin Delaney Zumreta Dudic Eric Dugan Ashley Dunphy Mary Elyiace Marwa Fadlalla Benjamin Fauber William Fletcher Meghann Forshey Randolph Fuhrman Ashley Gibson Danielle Gibson

Mariah Gilbert Maria Govind Travis Grammo Lashaun Greene Melissa Grignol Jessica Griswold Stephanie Gross Nyra Gumbs Taylor Hamilton Jessica Harris Louis Hartman Melissa Haslam Crystal Hermano Ruth Hewitson Katherine Huber Sevindzh Izrailova Emily Jackson Britney Jefferson Cara Jennings Jennifer Jimenez Jennica Johansen Hannah Johnson Sara Jones William Kazas Rebecca Keel Leah Keuper Hira Khaliq Omid Khanzadeh Rebecca Kiefer Balin Kim Erika King Ryan King Evan Kirschner Taylor Lambert Laurenzee Landicho Brandon Lette

Caitlyn MacQueen Hannah Mey Leah Mirzayan Tasya Mitchell Sarah Mizelle Alexander Moe Christina Monaco Attallah Muhammad Mariam Nadri Mitali Patel Tegan Petersen Alexa Poe Courtney Proffitt Kelsey Richardson Crystal Richmond Brendan Riley Karen Rodriguez Angelo Rose Lauren Schefflien Katherine Schihl Trish Stanley Ian Staples Leah Staples Melvena Talley Sara Taylor Megan Theuerkauf Chelsea Thornton Amy Trigger Jessika Turner Gabriel Anth Villegas-Aloran Jason Von Unwerth Kelsey Wash Jasmine West Shanthi Wickramasinghe Melinda Williams

The speaker for the diploma ceremony was our very own Barbara Myers, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and director of our developmental psychology program. Myers is a department treasure and has been at VCU since 1979. She received her Ph.D. from Temple University in 1981. She is an active teacher, researcher and scholar and currently serves as the associate editor for the Journal of Child and Family Studies. Myers’ research interests are with two groups of high-risk children — children with autism and their families, and children and families affected by incarceration. She has previously served on the Board of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Virginia overseeing the policies and practices of juvenile correctional centers, detention facilities and group homes across the state. Students know her as a quintessential teacher.


Psychology faculty celebrate our December graduates with James Coleman, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. Kathleen Ingram, Ph.D., left, Micah McCreary, Ph.D., James Coleman, Ph.D., and Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences

806 W. Franklin St. P.O. Box 842018 Richmond, VA 23284 Phone: 804.828.1193 Fax: 804.828.2237 Email: jlelswick@vcu.edu Website: psychology.vcu.edu Virginia Commonwealth University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action university providing access to education and employment without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, veteran’s status, political affiliation or disability.


VCU Psychology's Winter/Spring 2014 Issue of ZEITGEIST