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Volume 54, Number 4 Fall 2021
Edited by Chris Keys, DePaul University
The SCRA Research Council is delighted to announce the outcome of the 2021 cycle of recruitment, review, and selection of Research Scholar applicants. The SCRA Research Council was founded in 2017 and decided a good way to begin supporting community research would be to help untenured community psychology faculty enhance their research programs and become tenured. Such scholars may become tenured faculty, contribute to community research literature and mentor future scholars for decades to come. This effort helps build a base of community psychology knowledge that is the bedrock for our field. In winter 2021 the SCRA Executive Committee (EC) approved the SCRA Research Scholars Program for 2021, SCRA’s fourth cohort of Research Scholars, and committed $10,000 to support four Scholars. As part of the SCRA’s commitment to promoting social justice and uprooting white supremacy, the Executive Committee designated two of these appointments for Black and BIPOC Scholars. For other appointments, racial and ethnic diversity is a high but not an exclusive criterion in the selection process. In addition to financial support for four Scholars, all Scholars receive mentoring assistance from one or more accomplished senior researchers in community psychology or related field. The Research Council called for applications in the spring and was happy that a number of talented young university researchers from the United States and other countries applied. After carefully reviewing these SCRA members’ applications, the Council selected the following five very promising assistant professors in community psychology graduate programs or programs including community psychology as SCRA Research Scholars:
Meeta Banerjee, University of South Carolina
Josi Bañales, University of Illinois at Chicago
Natalie Kivell, Wilfrid Laurier University
Seanna Leath, University of Virginia
Guillermo Wippold, University of South Carolina
To introduce the readers of The Community Psychologist to this inaugural cohort of Research Scholars, here are a brief biography of each Scholar and a short account of their plans as a Research Scholar:
Dr. Meeta Banerjee is an Assistant Professor in the Clinical-Community program at the University of South Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Ecological Community Psychology with a specialization in Applied Developmental Science from Michigan State University and her BA and M.S.W. from University of Michigan. During her postdoctoral program, she was an International Jacobs Pathways fellow and an NIH minority postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan at the Institute for Social Research. Dr. Banerjee’s research examines the interaction between ecological contexts (e.g., schools, families, neighborhoods, communities, racial discrimination) and parenting practices. In particular, she is interested in how these processes directly and indirectly influence psychosocial and educational outcomes in African American/Black and Latinx communities. Dr. Banerjee utilizes mixed methods to explicitly examine how race-related processes in the family (e.g., parental ethnic-racial socialization, youth’s reports of ethnic-racial socialization practices, ethnic-racial identities) influence ethnic minority youth.
For the 2021-2022 Scholar Program, Dr. Banerjee hopes to accomplish three main research goals. First, to establish a multi-year funded research program from foundations and national institutions. For the second aim, Dr. Banerjee hopes to delve deeper into both quantitative (e.g., social network analysis) and qualitative methodologies (e.g., PhotoVoice) to understand the lived experience in neighborhoods/communities as well as race-related factors in African American/Black children and youth. Finally, she hopes to begin a community-based participatory research project that helps to highlight factors related to resiliency and individual strengths. Dr. Banerjee’s underlying goal is to move the field forward in reducing physical and mental health-related disparities for both African American/Black and Latinx communities. She is excited to be a SCRA Research Scholar and looks forward to receiving guidance from her mentors within the field of Community Psychology.
Josefina Bañales, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Community and Prevention Research Area at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). Dr. Bañales infuses her personal experiences as a Mexican American woman who is a first-generation high school, college, and doctoral student from the Southwest side of Chicago with her community-engaged research with youth of color in schools and community organizations. Her research examines how youth develop beliefs, feelings, and actions that challenge racism (i.e., youth critical racial consciousness development). In collaboration with youth, schools, parents, and community organizations, she co-creates opportunities that facilitate youths’ critical racial consciousness development. In collaboration with a Latinx youth community organizing group and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Bañales is co-developing and implementing a YPAR project on what it means to be a Latinx youth in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Bañales loves hot black coffee, singing, and walking at a very leisurely pace.
As a SCRA Research Scholar. Dr. Bañales’ goals are to: 1) create authentic relationships with Community Psychologists and other youth engaged scholars at UIC, youth, adults invested in youths’ positive development (e.g., parents, teachers), and research collaborators at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in Chicago and across the United States, 2) apply for a multi-year, external grant, 3) and deepen her mixed-methods and YPAR skills. She is excited to work towards these goals with her mentors Dr. Bernadette Sánchez (University of Illinois, Chicago) and Dr. Gabriel Kuperminc (Georgia State University), and her fellow SCRA Research Scholars!
Dr. Natalie Kivell is an Assistant Professor in Community Psychology (CP) at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), Waterloo, Canada. She completed her Ph.D. in 2018, in Community Well-Being - the CP program at the University of Miami - with Dr. Scot Evans. In her dissertation Reframing the role of size in transformation: A Participatory Theory Development study with community organizers and activists, Natalie engaged with long-time community partners in a participatory and grassroots theoretical co-creation process on social transformation. In 2017, she was awarded the 1st place SCRA Dissertation Award, and in 2018, the Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award from the Urban Affairs Association. Natalie has put a lot of love and care into SCRA as an institution, most recently by co-authoring the SCRA Call to Action on anti-Blackness. As a white scholar, she works to uproot systems of white supremacy and domination in her research, teaching, CP program, tenure process, university institution, and SCRA.
Research. Dr. Kivell’s research program is participatory, action-oriented, community-based, and employs critical methodologies to advance the theoretical and empirical foundations of the phenomena and process of social transformation. Her areas of interest include: theorizing and engaging in social transformation; building and applying critical social theory and participatory and critical methodologies; challenging epistemic authority and violence through the de(re)-centering of knowledge(s); and engaging in and studying intersectional social movements. Her research is built from an anti-racist and anti-oppressive praxis, actively building a culture of inclusion for students – opening space for students from historically marginalized communities to see (and build) a space for themselves in her lab, at WLU, and in CP more generally. In her position at WLU she is co-director of the Access and Equity Lab with Dr. Ciann Wilson.
Teaching. Natalie has been collaboratively re-designing the theory courses at the undergrad, Master’s, and Ph.D. level in Community Psychology at WLU - taking an intentional process of centering racialized, Indigenous, queer, trans, and disabled scholars in course construction. Her courses focus on social transformation, Mutual Aid, coloniality, and CP from and with scholars in the Global South, to prepare undergrad and graduate students with a critical theoretical foundation built in relation to and with a critical eye towards CP theories.
Service. Natalie facilitates a “Reading Difficult Conversations” series with graduate students and is the incoming co-program director for our graduate program in CP. Further, she is building connections between WLU and the broader field of CP through her service to SCRA as the co-chair of the Critical CP Interest Group, SCRA Canada Regional Representative, and her recent project in partnership with global colleagues titled: Moving critical voices to the forefront: Building global solidarities with Community Psychology scholars to Increase Scholarly Impact and Inform Everyday Praxis. This project furthers her long-time priority of increasing the visibility and accessibility of the field of CP, which she had done previously through hosting a CP radio show called RadioActive (www.mixcloud.com/natalie-kivell).
SCRA Scholar Appointment: Natalie has been working with two mentors during her SCRA Scholar appointment – Dr. Urmitapa Dutta and Dr. Regina Langhout. These two scholars, each inspiring so much of Natalie’s work, are supporting her in developing accessible and actionable publications based on her comprehensive and dissertation research.
Dr. Seanna Leath is an assistant professor at the University of Virginia (UVA) in the Psychology Department who runs the FHIRE Lab. She uses interdisciplinary approaches in education and psychology to understand the holistic development of Black girls and women within their families, schools, and communities. Specifically, her work focuses on how individual factors (e.g., race and gender identity beliefs) and contextual factors (e.g., friendship groups and community support) promote academic and psychological resilience and resistance. A number of her current projects focus on Black family processes – and more specifically – how Black mothers try to prepare and protect their children from racialized and gendered bias. During her time at UVA, Dr. Leath has focused on building a network of scholarly and community partners who can help her expand and realize her visions of personal wellness and collective freedom for Black women and girls. For example, she is the founder of Black Girls Learn, Experiment, and Play (LEAP) – a pilot fellowship through 500 Women Scientists that provided community-based STEM learning opportunities for Black girls in K-5th grade. She also conducted mixed-methods program evaluation (i.e., household surveys and semi-structured interviews with program leaders) for community-based mentoring groups in Charlottesville for Black girls and their families. Finally, Dr. Leath has obtained external funding through the Society for Research on Child Development and the National Science Foundation to conduct research with Black families and their communities. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Leath is the mother to three (and almost four!) beautiful Black children, who help her find new ways of living authentically and joyfully through each stage of her academic career.
Within the SCRA Research Scholars Program, Dr. Leath hopes to receive guidance and mentorship around a current project, “a mixed methods investigation of Black parents socialization on gendered racism and misogynoir against Black women and girls”. This project will investigate Black parents’ awareness of misogynoir (i.e., the ways in which racism and sexism intersect to produce racialized gendered harm against Black women and girls). Given the historic and persistent crisis of state-sanctioned violence against Black people in the U.S., Black parents have unique considerations in trying to prepare their children to cope with discrimination and bias in schools, neighborhoods, and community settings. While racial socialization is a normative parenting practice that many Black parents use to help their children understand, process, and cope with racial discrimination, fewer scholars have considered the unique messaging that Black parents offer to their daughters on misogynoir – at the intersections of racism, sexism, and classism. The proposed study will identify if and how Black parents use socialization messages on gender and race to foster positive developmental competencies among their daughters through an exploratory sequential mixed methods design. The first goal is to explore the extent to which Black parents discuss an awareness of misogynoir as a day-to-day reality for Black women and girls, and how they integrate this awareness into their parenting practices through semi-structured interviews. The second goal is to build on the qualitative findings and create a survey measure of Black parents’ knowledge of misogynoir, and to test direct relationships between Black parents’ awareness of and communication about misogynoir with their daughters and their sense of socialization self-efficacy. Dr. Leath is thrilled by the opportunity to integrate misogynoir into the community psychology and family science literature, and hopes that she and her team find innovative ways to make this data translational and accessible to Black families across the country.
Guillermo M. Wippold received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Florida (UF). At UF he worked to develop and implement health promotion interventions grounded in a community-based participatory research framework with various communities, including African Methodist Episcopal Churches and YMCAs. During this time, Guillermo also served as Clinical Co-Director of Equal Access Clinic Free Therapy Night, an after-hours volunteer clinic that provided free mental health services to uninsured and underinsured individuals. He then completed his internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). At KUMC, Guillermo dedicated a significant portion of his time to providing mental health services to underserved individuals, including individuals in rural Kansas and individuals enrolled in a Ryan White program. He also provided mental health services at clinics serving low-income individuals in underserved areas of Kansas City.
In Fall 2018, Guillermo started a position in the Clinical-Community Psychology program at the University of South Carolina (UofSC). While at the UofSC, he has established partnerships with the South Carolina Community Health Worker Association (SCCHWA) and the South Carolina Free Clinic Association (SCFCA). He is currently working on a project (PIs: Wippold and Jowers) with the SCCHWA that seeks to improve preventive health behaviors among African American men in South Carolina. The project is being conducted in two rural and underserved counties of SC. The long-term goal is to implement changes within the SCCHWA to improve the recruitment of African American males as CHWs and in doing so, promote preventive health service use by African American men in SC. This project is funded by the Community Engaged Scholars Program housed in the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute (UL1 TR001450).
He is also funded by a Career Development Award through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (PI: Wippold; K23 MD016123). This project uses an innovative community-informed framework that draws from the Social Ecological Model of Health, Social Cognitive Theory, CBPR, Intervention Mapping, and prior experience to adapt and implement a culturally-relevant peer-to-peer program to improve health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among African American men in SC. Findings from this project will provide insight on the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary results of a theoretically-based tailored intervention to improve health-related quality of life among African American men, in addition to providing insight on the recruitment and retention of these men in health promotion efforts. The long-term goal is to establish a nationally-funded independent program of research to develop and implement innovative interventions to improve HRQoL among underserved and at-risk communities.
During his time as a SCRA Research Scholar, Guillermo will be engaged in advancing these two grant-funded projects. In addition to working on these projects, Guillermo will commit himself to mentoring the next generation of community psychologists. He is currently mentoring two outstanding doctoral students in the Clinical-Community Program at the UofSC – Ms. Sarah Grace Frary and Mrs. Kaylyn Garcia. Both Ms. Frary and Mrs. Garcia are committed to promoting health among underserved communities. They are integral members of the research team and are involved in every aspect of the research process. They are the unsung heroes of these projects. All funds received by Guillermo from the SCRA Research Scholar Program will be used as supplemental summer support for Ms. Frary and Mrs. Garcia.
Congratulations to these five 2021 SCRA Research Scholars! Many thanks to our esteemed senior colleagues who responded so quickly and positively to requests to mentor from applicants and the Research Council! We wish them all well as they embark on their Research Scholar and mentor experiences.