Issue 5
Spring 2021

From the Chair's Desk 

Psychologists have long studied bias – from explicit and implicit attitudes to stereotypes and structural inequality. Now we are working to apply those findings to our own house. The Iowa State University Psychology Department has several diversity initiatives underway – some ongoing for decades, some new.

In the articles below, you’ll learn more about faculty, advisors, graduate students, undergraduate students and alumni working to include diverse voices in our classes and research and to support and train students from diverse backgrounds. One way we seek to impact the field and our society is to increase the number of students from under-represented groups who ultimately develop careers as counseling psychologists, research scientists, university professors, medical doctors, business managers and related professions. We are developing a plan and a program to provide additional opportunities for such students to obtain the information, skills, and experiences they need to further their training in psychology and related fields. We are calling this “The Mosiac Project,” and our goal is to help the field of psychology (and related fields) become more diverse and more representative of our society. 

We are grateful for the support you have provided through our Psychology Excellence Fund. This flexible use fund allows us to invest in new projects and programs like this. Would you be interested in partnering with us in The Mosaic Project? Your continued support will allow us to provide a variety of opportunities for students from under-represented ethnic/racial groups, first generation college students, and other non-traditional students. These opportunities may include: 
  • Paid research internships in faculty labs
  • Funding to attend professional conferences and learn more about the field
  • Workshops focused on providing information, training, and support for first-generation, non-traditional, and BIPOC students to prepare their way for further graduate training. 

If you are interested in being a part of this project, I invite you to make a gift to our Psychology Excellence fund by clicking here ( and note The Mosaic Project in the notes section.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and partnership in our efforts to create an exceptional experience for students from diverse backgrounds. Your support will make a difference today and in the future.

Read on to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the Department of Psychology.  

Susan E. Cross, Chair
Neighborhood Racial Discrimination and Depression

Psychology Professor Carolyn Cutrona, now Associate Dean of the Graduate College, has been involved in the largest and longest-running study of African American families, the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS). An important set of findings on the effects of neighborhood discrimination on mental health was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2018.

In addition to the pain of experiencing racial discrimination directed at oneself, people face additional burdens when they live in a neighborhood where their family, friends, and neighbors experience frequent discrimination. A sample of 499 African American women, who had never suffered serious depression, were followed for 10 years, and asked repeatedly about their mental health. Results showed that the women who lived in a neighborhood in which neighbors reported high rates of discrimination were significantly more likely to develop one or more episodes of serious depression over the next 10 years than those who lived in neighborhoods with lower average rates of discrimination. The association between neighborhood-level discrimination and depression was statistically significant even when controlling for well-known causes of depression, such as stressful events in the women’s lives, financial problems, relationship problems, sensitivity to negative events (negative affectivity), and even the number of experiences of discrimination the individuals themselves had experienced. Neighborhood characteristics other than neighborhood-level discrimination failed to predict the onset of serious depression, including neighborhood disorder (dilapidation and prevalence of criminal behavior) and neighborhood cohesion (willingness to help one another). Supportive relationships with individuals in their lives did protect women against depression, to some extent. Those from high-discrimination neighborhoods with supportive relationships were less likely to become depressed over the years.

Russell, D. W., Clavel, F. D., Cutrona, C. E., Abraham, W. T., & Burzette, R. G. (2018). Neighborhood racial discrimination and the development of major depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 127(2), 150-159.

Grace Wolf, M.Ed.
Diversity in Advising
Grace Wolf is the department’s newest academic advisor. She came to the department after 3 ½ years with the ISU Academic Success Center. Grace earned her 2016 Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa and her 2019 M.Ed. in Student Affairs from ISU. In her new role, Grace fully supports all her advisees, but, as a biracial woman, she feels a special affinity for multiracial and biracial students. “College is a time where students often become more aware of their racial identity and I remember as a biracial woman . . . the nuances that come with trying to fit in as both a White and Mexican-American woman.” As an advisor, successfully navigating racial identity means helping students find “spaces they feel they belong” as well as developing a sense of community. 

Grace finds that much of the work of diversity at ISU takes place behind the scenes such as campus-wide events like the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) and the psychology department’s diversity committee. The committee has formed a book club which is currently discussing Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. Other examples, Grace said, include advisors sending daily check-ins to first-generation college students and supporting identity-based learning communities. 
Advising Defined
Grace Wolf: "Academic Advisors are there to support students in navigating their academics, whether it’s helping them select the classes, prepare for the job/graduate school search, or more. Although we provide support around academics, we also provide support holistically, making sure students feel connected, sharing other campus resources, and simply being a go-to person anytime they have a question. Outside of supporting students in a one-on-one setting, we also typically teach orientation classes, help with campus visits, and are a part of different university committees."
Psych Club Diversity Updates
Psych Club Diversity Officer
Natalie Rivera serves as the Psychology Club’s diversity officer, a new position within the club. She attends the Psychology Department Diversity Committee meetings and helps develop new initiatives to encourage growth in diversity. Her favorite aspect of her new role was the Diversity Panel held on October 21, 2020. “The club plans on having it every year from here on out,” said Natalie. For the panel, psychology faculty from multiple cultures shared their professional and everyday experiences with students. “There was an amazing discussion between students and faculty. Individuals were connecting and having conversations that can be hard to have sometimes, but it contained so much useful information.” Her role, she said, was to “help underrepresented students feel heard and understood.”
Natalie is currently a junior Psychology major from Arlington, Illinois, with a minor in Criminal Justice and U. S. Latino/a studies. Her plans after graduation are to apply to graduate school to study criminology. 
Psychology Club President on Diversity

Sierra Shields, a Latina student with an “urge to help people and impact others,” championed Natalie Rivera’s role within the Psychology Club. The Diversity Panel was also her most significant diversity event and proudest moment. “We gathered BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) speakers on Zoom from across the country from all different backgrounds to speak on their experiences in their career,” said Sierra. Speakers were from ISU as well as the University of Iowa and Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College (a tribal four-year college for Native American students in North Dakota). “That event has been one of our best in terms of turnout and student interest. It reiterated the need for representation within our profession and these topics resonated with our students deeply.”
“With a personal interest in student affairs,” said Sierra, “I hope to help break down academic barriers relating to a student's racial background in hopes of having a more diverse and qualified professional psychology community.” As a Hispanic student in a predominantly white university, “I have been allowed leadership roles and worked hard to utilize my platform to advocate for those unable.” Sierra is currently a junior Psychology major. Her hometown is Glendale Heights, Illinois. 

Nathaniel Wade

Counseling Diversity
When Nathaniel Wade came to the ISU Counseling program in the 2003-2004 academic year, there were no students of color among the 24 doctoral students in the counseling program. This year, 9 of the 25 doctoral students identify with a race other than white/European American. “More non-white students are being accepted into and completing the program,” said Wade. But numbers are only one indicator of progress. “We faculty members have been discussing in much greater depth how we are making the curriculum, the mentoring, the clinical training, the research experiences, etc. welcoming for all,” said Wade. “We are trying to examine the implicit ways that our structures default to whiteness or to European-American values. If we can understand that we might be able to deliberately change things to make them more welcoming.”  

Reducing Barriers to Mental Health in the LGBTQIA+ Community *
Dr. Izzy TenBrook, a 2019 ISU Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, values warmth, compassion, humor, and genuineness. Those ideals are evident in her gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary clients at Ames Psychological Wellness Center, a private counseling and therapy practice. Izzy understands the consequences of marginalization and the benefits of inclusion. “When I joined the PhD program at ISU,” she writes, “I connected with the LGBTQIA+ community on campus, and through those connections met some amazing advocates for social justice, equity, and inclusion.”
ISU provided some direction for her advocacy concerns. “I co-led planning the first ever Multicultural Training Day within the Counseling Psychology PhD program in 2014,” she writes. “I was also a founding member of the ‘Let's Talk’ program at ISU Student Counseling Services, a program developed in collaboration with the Multicultural Student Affairs to reduce barriers to mental health care. My dissertation focused on stereotypes of trans men and women.”
Before coming to the Center, Izzy did her postdoctoral training at Colorado Therapy & Assessment Center with an emphasis in eating disorders.
*       LGBTQIA+ – A common abbreviation for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual and other queer-identifying community.

Even the Rat Was White

In 1976, when Robert Guthrie first published his famous historical look at the role of African Americans in psychology, notable Black psychologists were a rarity. In 1998, Guthrie updated the book and explored the scientific contributions of African American psychologists as well as their problems, views, and concerns.

Since the murder of George Floyd, there is a greater awareness of the problems Guthrie outlined. “When our students read texts, articles, and book chapters that are focused on European-American understandings of life written by mostly white people, it creates an environment that does not value them or their culture, and can make them feel unwelcomed,” said Nathaniel Wade of ISU’s Counseling program. “So, most of the faculty have been working to expand our curriculum (including readings, guest lecturers, webinars) to include scholars with various viewpoints and cultural backgrounds to capture a much richer perspective in our field.” The goal, said Wade, is for “all our students to feel valued, appreciated and welcome in our program.” 

The PsyClone is published periodically throughout the academic year.
Pete Prunkl, Off-Campus Editor

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