Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Lauren Mims

October 2019

Lauren Mims, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at Ball State University. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and her M.A. in Child Development at Tufts University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Joanna Lee Williams, Lauren received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.

Broadly, Lauren’s work focuses on promoting the wellbeing and development of Black students, with a particular focus on Black girls. Lauren’s dissertation, Meeting Black Girls on the Moon: A Qualitative Exploration of Black Girls’ Experiences in Schools, centered and privileged the voices of thirty-one Black girls to explore how ongoing practices, assumptions and processes across multiple levels of schooling perpetuate racial inequalities or promote racial equity. In seeking to better understand the lived experiences of Black girls in schools, she highlighted opportunities for educators and policymakers to “meet Black girls on the moon!”

Lauren took a leave of absence from her doctoral program to serve as the Assistant Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans during the Obama Administration, where she focused her efforts on student programming, supporting federal interagency relationships, the development of research-based publications and handbooks for students, managing the Initiative social media accounts, and engaging with stakeholders through multi-media platforms. She was a member of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the U.S. Department of Education Policy Committee, the U.S. Department of Education Socioeconomic Diversity Working Group, as well as a member of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Working Group. Lauren developed and hosted events such as the #AfAmWomenLead Student Summit to Support Black Girls, a summit to support African American students with disabilities, and reading parties for youth to share resources, foster creativity and nurture a love of learning.

Before transitioning to Ball State University to begin as an Assistant Professor, Lauren designed and piloted a socio-emotional program for Black girls in middle school in partnership with Girls for a Change (#BlackGirlBecoming). During the program, Black girls read and discussed Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and participated in activities that addressed the challenges (and joys!) Black girls may experience in middle school. At the end of the program, students created a motivational magazine, titled Melanin Magazine, for other Black girls. In addition to original essays, the magazine included original children’s books with Black girl protagonists and an original rap titled “Hey Michelle Obama” about persevering.

Current Work

The late American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot —it’s all there. Everything influences each of us.” Lauren’s new research explores how the sum total of schooling (e.g. policies, practices, relationships, cultural representations and other norms) influences Black students’ identities. This research also explores student-teacher relationships, dreamkeeping, and the consequences of bias and discrimination.

In addition to conducting research, she is equally committed to mentoring as well as teaching emerging scholars, including pre-service elementary school teachers. Class days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, are her favorite days of the week! In addition to introducing developmental theories and issues relevant to preservice teachers, Lauren’s classes unpack how economic, political, social, and cultural influences shape the experiences of young students and their families. In Lauren’s classes, students creatively demonstrate their knowledge of child development through projects, such as recording a podcast, writing a book, writing new lesson plans, filming documentaries, and creating websites.

Lauren’s two pieces of advice for emerging scholars are drawn from two of her favorite quotes by Black women writers:

  • “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”

–Toni Morrison

  • “I’ve been in many boardrooms where I was the only woman, the only person of color. There’s a wonderful poem by Maya Angelou where she says, ‘I come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.’ Before I’d walk into those rooms, I’d say that line to myself, because I feel the presence, the energy. There’s a whole pack behind me.” –Oprah. Dream a little as you work and know there’s a whole pack behind you, emerging scholars!

Twitter handle: @DrLaurenMims
Personal website: laurenmims.com
Email: lcmims@bsu.edu

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Cortney Simmons

February 2019

Cortney Simmons is a doctoral candidate in Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine. Her path to psychology began as an undergraduate at Rice University, where she completed her B.A. in both Psychology and Kinesiology. Cortney was a research assistant for Dr. Mikki Hebl, whose research on diversity and discrimination taught her the importance of conducting research that could be applied to real-world problems. With that lesson in mind, Cortney applied to work under the advisement of Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman who strives to bridge developmental science with practice and policy. For example, findings from her research were incorporated into numerous amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on cases which abolished the juvenile death penalty and limited the use of life without parole for juveniles. Under Dr. Cauffman’s guidance, Cortney hopes to make a similar impact by exploring the individual and environmental factors that influence juvenile delinquency and by examining the effects of justice-system involvement on adolescent development.

Cortney was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, which has allowed her to pursue projects covering different topics related to juvenile delinquency. Her first publication examined the impact of fathers on juvenile delinquency. Cortney and her co-authors found that youth with hostile fathers engaged in more offending and substance use than those without fathers. Compelled by these findings and the expansive literature that recognizes that a father’s influence is more complex than just their presence or financial support, Cortney launched a study to interview the fathers of first-time male juvenile offenders. Each interview will assess the fathers’ personality traits and behavior, as well as their emotional, academic, and financial support of their sons. The results of this project will provide a fuller picture of how fathers’ involvement impacts adolescent behavior and well-being.

As an NSF fellow, Cortney has also dedicated time to learning advanced statistical methods and taking courses outside of her primary research area. Doing so has given her a broader understanding of what methods can be used to understand individual differences in psychology and behavior at multiple levels of analysis. Cortney employs advanced statistical modeling and salivary bioscience methods, both of which she picked up through outside coursework, for her dissertation. The two-part study focuses on the biological correlates of callous-unemotional (CU) traits—a robust risk factor for delinquent behavior (Simmons et al. 2018). Compared to other antisocial youth, those with elevated CU traits are more likely to engage in violent and severe antisocial behavior, which in turn increases their likelihood of justice-system involvement. To better understand how CU traits predispose youth to delinquency, the dissertation will use an experimental design to examine the relation between CU traits, delinquency-related behaviors, and three hormones: cortisol, testosterone, and alpha-amylase. Importantly, the proposed study will include a diverse sample of male first-time offenders recruited from an ongoing longitudinal study. Cortney hopes this dissertation will refine our understanding of CU traits and help researchers and practitioners develop more effective early prevention and treatment methods.

Advice for other emerging scholars.

  • Pay it forward. It is important to recognize that you might have not made it to (or through) graduate school without scores of people providing knowledge, encouragement, and opportunities. The best thing you can do is provide the same for undergraduate and graduate students who are on their own academic journeys. This can be done by sharing your own experiences on career panels, meeting one-on-one to discuss ideas, or by helping them obtain research experience. For Cortney, mentoring undergraduates through their own research projects has been one of the most rewarding experiences while in graduate school.
  • Don’t skip presentations, classes, or articles just because they are outside of your discipline. The most innovative research integrates theories and methods from multiple fields in order to better understand a construct. You never know what interesting tidbit you could pick up and use to improve/expand your own work.

Personal page: https://www.cortneysimmons.com/
Google scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=7o9mlt0AAAAJ&hl=en
Lab Website: https://3dlab.psychology.uci.edu/

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Emerging Scholar Spotlight – Riana Elyse Anderson

Riana Elyse Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Health Behavior & Health Education Department in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship addresses culturally specific parenting practices to reduce race-related stress in families. She earned her doctorate in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and was a Clinical and Community Psychology Predoctoral Fellow at Yale University’s School of Medicine. She was a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader at the University of Pennsylvania.


Personal Website

Faculty Profile

EMBRace Research

Anderson, R. E., Jones, S. , Anyiwo, N. , McKenny, M. and Gaylord‐Harden, N. (2018), What’s Race Got to Do With It? Racial Socialization’s Contribution to Black Adolescent CopingJournal of Research on Adolescence. doi:10.1111/jora.12440

Anderson, R. E., Jones, S., Navarro, C. C., McKenny, M. C., Mehta, T. J., & Stevenson, H. C. (2018). AAddressing the Mental Health Needs of Black American Youth and Families: A Case Study from the EMBRace InterventionInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(5), 898. doi:10.3390/ijerph15050898

Anderson, R. E., McKenny, M., Mitchell, A., Koku, L., & Stevenson, H. C. (2018). EMBRacing Racial Stress and Trauma: Preliminary Feasibility and Coping Responses of a Racial Socialization InterventionJournal of Black Psychology, 44(1), 25-46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798417732930

Pooja Brar

Pooja Brar is a doctoral candidate in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and expects to receive her PhD in 2019. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she will participate in the Leadership and Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) pre-doctoral interdisciplinary fellowship with Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics at University of Minnesota. This is a competitive university-wide predoctoral fellowship funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The fellowship is focused on training future leaders in child and adolescent health.

International, relational, and ecological perspectives have informed her work with adolescents and young adults. Being a 1.5 generation immigrant to the United States fueled her interest in the role of culture on adolescent development. This interest led to an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She sought out graduate education in family studies to immerse herself in a systemic perspective and consider the influence of family and culture on individual development. After training as a family therapist, she applied an ecological lens to her work in various capacities with individuals, couples, and children, in the US and internationally.

During her time in India, she was struck by the rapid changes in the country brought about by globalization and urbanization, and the impact of these changes on urban youth. It became clear that this generation of youth was experiencing a coming of age unknown to previous generations. One of the most striking changes could be seen in youths’ liberal attitudes and behaviors around premarital romantic and sexual relationships. With little to no sex and relationship education, abortions, illegal and repeat, are a growing concern among unmarried youth, as are HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and intimate partner violence. She entered the PhD program in the Department of Family Social Science (FSOS) at University of Minnesota with goals of tackling issues around youth intimate relationships and sexual health.

With the support of her adviser, Dr. Jodi Dworkin, she collected data with college students in India. The data focused on perceptions of parenting, risk taking behaviors, and well-being. This research resulted in a first author journal article in Sexuality and Culture (Brar, Dworkin, & Jang, 2018). The article, Association of Parenting with Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors of College Students in India, highlights the changing norms in the experience of adolescents in rapidly globalizing urban India.

Building on this work, her dissertation research extends her scholarship on youth romantic relationships and sexual health. Her dissertation study examines sexual self-efficacy among sexually active adolescent women. Self-efficacy, a component of Social Cognitive theory, is a key determinant of individual behavior often included in some of the most prominent health behavior theories. In conjunction with Bronfenbrenner’s Human Ecological theory, her dissertation examines the role of family and romantic partners on adolescent women’s self-efficacy to refuse sex without condoms and use condoms. Her long-term research agenda is to extend her research to examine the role of culture, media, and health policies on adolescent sexual health.

She also has a strong interest in teaching undergraduate students, particularly first-generation college students. She would like to focus her teaching around adolescent development, immigrant/refugee families, and cultural globalization.

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Kendall Johnson

Kendall G. Johnson is a rising second year Social Work doctoral student at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. Her research seeks to understand the effects of trauma and community violence, especially homicide, on the Black families’ and communities’ mental health, as well as the supports they utilize in response to traumatic loss and violent events. Individual, family, community and systemic factors contribute to higher homicide rates in Black communities and affect the bereavement process that Black families and communities experience after a homicide. Ensuring that communities have adequate support means not only investigating the accessibility and availability of mental health services, but also determining whether the services are culturally sensitive and trauma focused. She hopes that her research will shed further light on this topic and help improve outcomes for Black adolescents exposed to violence. Her current research funded by the Boston University School of Social Work PhD Non-Stipend Funding mini grant, is titled Enough is Enough: The experience of Black Homicide Survivors and the impact of homicide in the Boston area. This qualitative study will examine the experience of Black homicide survivors in the Boston area and the impact that homicide deaths have on institutions that are directly involved with the aftermath of the death. The central research questions are: What is the experience of Black homicide survivors in the Boston area? and How can this knowledge inform city efforts to decrease violence amongst adolescents of color in Boston?

Kendall is also working on a few research projects this summer. The first is funded by the Boston University Initiative on Cities whose mission is to research, promote, and advance the adaptive urban leadership strategies and policies necessary to support cities as dynamic centers of inclusive economic growth and sustainable development in the 21st century. The project is titled Informing Municipal Policies & Identifying Best Practices to Support Women Survivors of Homicide and is done in conjunction with Assistant Professor Dr. Linda Sprague-Martinez, also in the Social Work Department at BU. Kendall is conducting an in-depth analysis of the Women Survivors of Homicide Movement’s (WSOHM) change strategy and tactics, and how privilege and power impact the manner in which WSOHM seeks to create change for women of color who have lost a loved one to homicide. The second project she is working on is titled Engaging Local Youth to Create a Culture of Health: Building a Community-Based Culture of Health Accelerator. The goal of this project is to engage, mentor and support local youth to conceptualize, organize, and implement culture of health initiatives in our shared community. Her role on this project is to explore parent perceptions of the program as well as parent perceptions of barriers to health and assist with parent engagement. She will provide content expertise for the curriculum as it relates to trauma and the impact of community violence on youth well being.

As a Social Work Master’s Student at the University of Michigan, Kendall became interested in the effect of community violence on black adolescents in urban areas through her field placement work at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office in Detroit, MI. There she was a part of a pilot Social Work Bereavement Team that provided support and resources for families and friends who lost a loved one to homicide. Through her independent research titled Case Analysis at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office: A Homicide Epidemic, she found that over 85% of homicide victims in Detroit and surrounding areas were African-American males under the age of 35. She was able to present her findings to staff at the medical examiner’s office and the pathology department at the University of Michigan Health System.

Kendall is mentored by Dr. Judith C. Scott (MSW, MPP, PhD) an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at Boston University. Judith’s research focuses on childhood and adolescent trauma related to physical maltreatment and racial discrimination experiences.

In her spare time, Kendall enjoys competing in beauty pageants. She successfully obtained the title of Miss Universal World 2017, and has spent the past year and a half promoting her platform, Young Women Walking in Purpose. This platform focuses on empowering young women of color from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue their dreams, reach their fullest potential, and have access to mentors who can support them in their communities.

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Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Mengya Xia

June 2018

Mengya Xia is a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University under the supervision of Dr. Gregory M. Fosco. She is passionate about research that uses innovative methods, such as person-centered approach and dynamic system modeling, to study how the transactional dynamic processes between adolescents and their developmental context (especially family) influence adolescent well-being, interpersonal relationships, and positive development. She has investigated these transactional dynamic processes in multiple levels: 1) a dyadic level in family (i.e. parent-adolescent relationships and interparental relationships), 2) a triadic level in family (i.e. mother-father-adolescent relationships), and 3) the level of whole family and beyond (e.g., family climate and reciprocal influence of family and school).

As an undergraduate student at Wuhan University, her academic background in both psychology and computer science inspired her integrative thinking between human development and dynamic system modeling. Her trajectory as a researcher began as an undergraduate research assistant on projects of adolescent autonomy and belongingness in family and school contexts. She further pursued her Master’s degree and worked on these projects in the same lab at Wuhan University. At the same time, she began volunteering to provide counseling services on mental health for primary, middle, and college students. During these research and counseling experiences, she realized the important implications of family and other developmental contexts on adolescent well-being, which resulted in her pursing a Ph.D in Human Development and Family Studies.

At the Pennsylvania State University, Mengya’s method coursework and training equipped her to use innovative methodology to answer nuanced questions on family systems dynamics and adolescent development. For example, she has used multi-level modeling in ecological momentary assessments (EMA) data to examine how daily parent-adolescent support and conflict, and their general relationship closeness are associated with adolescent feeling love by their parents. She has also used autoregressive models to test the transactional processes between adolescent individual factors and their developmental contexts (family and school) on their academic success and romantic relationship outcomes in longitudinal data. While working with Dr. Sy-Miin Chow—an expert in dynamic system modeling—she identified husbands’ and wives’ self- and co-regulatory dynamics in couple interaction process by using a coupled oscillators model. She has also received training in advanced Latent Class/Profile Analysis (LCA/LPA) from Dr. Bethany C. Bray as a Prevention and Methodology Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Prevention Research and Methodology Center, and used this person-centered technique to investigate the associations between profiles of mother-father-adolescent triadic relationship patterns and different adolescent outcomes, such as friendships and substance use initiation.

Mengya is currently working on the Family Life Optimizing Well-Being (FLOW) Study, which aims to 1) understand how family relationships and processes predict adolescent long-term well-being, adaption, and success in life, and 2) understand how day-to-day experiences shape adolescent daily well-being and self-regulatory skills that have a lasting impact on adolescent development. After working on data collection, management, and cleaning with her mentor and lab mates, Mengya is now using the daily dairy and 6-month follow up data in this study for her dissertation. Her dissertation project examines the associations between mother-father-adolescent (MFA) triadic relationship dynamics and adolescent ill-being and positive well-being, which contains three main goals: 1) to identify MFA triadic relationship patterns during daily interactions, 2) to identify configurations of MFA triadic relationship dynamics, and 3) to investigate the association between different configurations of MFA triadic relationship dynamics and adolescent depression, anxiety, substance misuse, positive affect, life satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in life. Mengya believes that it is essential to understand adolescent development in their developmental contexts from a dynamic transactional perspective. She looks forward to contributing to research on dynamic processes in family systems that facilitate adolescent positive well-being, healthy interpersonal relationships, and positive development in a person-specific approach and mentoring students who are interested in adolescent positive well-being and development.

University page: http://prevention.psu.edu/people/xia-mengya

ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mengya_Xia

Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., Lippold, M. A., & Feinberg, M. E. (2018, online first). A Developmental Perspective on Young Adult Romantic Relationships: Examining Family and Individual Factors in Adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-018-0815-8

Feinberg, M. E., Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., & Chow, S. (2017). Dynamical Systems Modeling of Couple Interaction: A New Method for Assessing Intervention Impact Across the Transition to Parenthood. Prevention Science, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-017-0803-3

Fosco, G. M., Van Ryzin, M., Xia, M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2016). Trajectories of Adolescent Hostile-Aggressive Behavior and Family Climate: Longitudinal Implications for Young Adult Romantic Relationship Competence. Developmental Psychology, 52(7), 1139-1150. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000135

Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2016). Examining Reciprocal Influences Among Family Climate, School Attachment, and Academic Self-Regulation: Implications for School Success. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 442-452. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000141

Kaufman, E., Xia, M., Fosco, G. M., Yaptangco, M., Skidmore, C. R. & Cowell, S. E. (2016). The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale Short Form (DERS-SF): Validation and Replication in Adolescent and Adult Samples. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 38, 443-455. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10862-015-9529-3

Fosco, G. M., Xia, M., Lynn, M. G., & Grych, J. H. (2016). Triangulation and Parent-Adolescent Relationships: Implications for Adolescent Dating Competence and Abuse. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26(3), 524-537. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12210

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