Newsletter Edition

Winter 2009

Published: 12/08/2009

Welcome from the Chair

It is with great excitement that I welcome you to the inaugural edition of the Department of Psychology eNewsletter!  Despite the economic turmoil of last spring, the Department of Psychology continues to define a path to excellence in teaching and innovative research discoveries that will ultimately contribute to solving many problems in our society. We continue to offer courses with the highest undergraduate enrollments, as well as the largest number of research related experiences for undergraduate students on campus.  Our Graduate Training Program was ranked #13 (2009 U.S. News and World Report), and our Clinical Psychology Graduate Program in particular was rated #1 in the country. Thus, our department is making significant contributions to the training of the next generation of scientists and clinicians.  Today, more than ever, these enormous strengths are a great asset as we strategically set a course for the future in a new economic climate.

Speaking of future plans, we are thrilled to announce that we will be establishing a Child Behavioral Testing facility in the Department of Psychology.  This facility will allow behavioral assessments and physiological measures in an environment especially designed for children.  This interdisciplinary facility will provide a unique venue for discovery and the creation of new ideas under the direction of the department's Child and Family Well Being research group.  We are also very excited to announce the establishment of a Center for Global Field Study under the leadership of Research Professor Randy Kyes.  This Center seeks to facilitate for our students research and training opportunities around the world, an effort that dovetails nicely with a new departmental initiative that facilitates worldwide collaborative research for our faculty.

Another exciting upcoming event is our 5th annual Allen L. Edwards Lecture series.  It will be held on February 17, February 24, and March 3, 2010. Please save the dates!  The general theme of these public evening lectures will be Development of Behavior.  Talks will feature three Psychology faculty who are among our many leaders in this field (Professors Michael Beecher, Liliana Lengua, and Jessica Sommerville), as well as three nationally and internationally renowned scholars (see Research Highlights section of this newsletter).

I hope you enjoy reading about the many current and future activities of our department. At this point, I would like to take a moment to recognize our incredible staff who make essential contributions that enable the department’s success. Official recognition went to Michele Jacobs and the Clinic IT Transformation and Clinic Renovation team (Jon Hauser, Shannon Ford, and Amanda Patrick) as they were nominated for UW Distinguished Staff Awards.  Also Jon Hauser created our new departmental web site, with guidance from the Web Resources Committee (Ted Beauchaine, Steve Buck, Jim Diaz, Ione Fine, Nancy Kenney, Jeansok Kim, and Jeanny Mai).  Take a look!

We look forward to seeing you again in the spring of 2010!


Warm wishes,

Sheri J.Y. Mizumori

Professor and Chair

Featured Articles

Student Leaders "Pay It Forward"

Greg Smith smiles as he thinks about the weekly class he leads for first quarter transfer students planning to major in psychology.  "The best part of peer teaching is connecting with the students and being able to share accumulated knowledge and experience that can't be found in textbooks," he says.  "It's about paying it forward ."  Both Greg and fellow psychology senior Adrian Garcia are experiencing the satisfaction--and the challenges--of temporarily swapping the student role for that of the teacher.

Photo of Greg Greg leads a Transfer and Returning Student Interest Group (TRIG), while Adrian leads a freshman seminar called an Academic Learning Lab (ALL).  The UW TRIG program brings first quarter transfer and returning students together in weekly peer-facilitated sessions that are bundled with academic classes (Greg's students are taking Biopsychology and Fundamentals of Psychological Research).  Adrian's ALL is part of a pilot project conceived of by academic advisers and run out of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office.  ALLs are freshman seminars attached to clusters of social sciences or arts classes.  The primary goal of the project is to give first quarter freshmen an in depth introduction to the arts or the social sciences--teaching them about disciplinarity by having them hear faculty and students talk about their work, and by making connections between courses in the clusters.  "The idea of being part of a program that is trying to provide freshmen with a cohesive academic focus during their first quarter at UW was very exciting to me," says Adrian of his motivation for leading the ALL.  "And, it's been a fun growing experience for me," he adds, "it's really gotten me out of my comfort zone!"

Photo of Adrian Adrian's first step out of that comfort zone came when he transferred to UW from Columbia Basin Community College, leaving his hometown of Prosser, Washington, for the big city.  A bachelor of arts student in psychology with an art history minor, Adrian hopes to move on to Antioch University's art therapy program.  Adrian credits his UW education not only with the breadth and depth of academic knowledge gained, but with helping him to progress on a path of personal development.  Reflecting on the benefits gained from a recent class on human performance enhancement, Adrian explains that "it was amazing to take all of the theoretical aspects of psychology that I had learned in previous classes and be able to apply them to myself in the form of self discovery and growth."

Having already made one big transition from his hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, to the University of Texas at Arlington, Greg came to UW seeking a very specific kind of education.  "I wanted a psychology degree with the kind of scientific research base that is here at UW," Greg remembers.  "The research focus that I sought is interwoven into every class here."  Greg points to the blending of UW Psychology's emphasis on research and the scientific method with what he calls the more "humanistic," or applied focus of UT Arlington, noting that this combination will undoubtedly make him a stronger candidate for graduate programs.

Now a year into their studies, these two friends and alums of the autumn 2008 psychology TRIG class reminisce about their first quarter on campus and consider what it means to each of them to help lay a strong foundation for new UW students.  "I like being part of the evolution of this new first quarter seminar," says Adrian of his work with the social science ALL, "brainstorming from week to week with fellow student leaders, faculty and advisers."  No doubt familiar to any educator is Greg's characterization of his TRIG class, equal parts enthusiasm and frustration:  "There isn't enough time. Period. The class becomes this wonderful academic and social snowball, bringing up all kinds of questions and discussions." 

As that snowball picks up speed, heading toward the end of the quarter, it will likely result in a new cohort of psychology majors who are ready to move forward with the momentum gained during an exciting first quarter.  Many will be ready to dive into the opportunities that just several weeks ago may have been unknown to them:  research, community-based fieldwork, study abroad, and--perhaps--peer teaching.  Learning.  Growing.  And... paying it forward .

Research to Action: A Partnership to Support and Strengthen Families

When Caroline Sawe was an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Liliana Lengua’s Kid’s World Project, her job was to rate parents’ behaviors while they were interacting with their children. This is a challenging job for anyone, but for Caroline it was particularly challenging to make sense of the kinds of behaviors on which the research project was focused. The reason was that Caroline is originally from Tanzania, Africa, and cultural differences in perspectives on parenting became obvious as Caroline and Liliana worked together. 

After graduating from Seattle University, Caroline started a non-profit organization, Center for Well-being of Africans in America, aimed at providing health and education support to families who had emigrated from Africa. At the same time, concerns were rising about the health and well-being of the youth in the communities of African immigrant families, who are sometimes struggling in school and running into problems with the law. 

That’s when Caroline got back in touch with Liliana, and they started a partnership between CWAA and the Child and Family Well-being Research Group to support parents in promoting well-being among the youth of the immigrant communities. For Caroline, who has a background in biomedical research, it was very important to bring a research perspective to efforts aimed at improving the lives of children and families in Seattle's African communities. 

Caroline spearheaded an effort to meet with community leaders and parents of families from Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea to better understand the concerns and challenges they faced raising their children in the U.S.  These meetings led to fruitful insights about the experiences of families in these communities.  The information will be used to tailor an empirically supported parenting program to be attuned to the cultural values of these communities and to specifically address the concerns of immigrant parents. In the coming year, Caroline and Liliana will be seeking funding support to conduct and evaluate a program to support parents in the African communities of Seattle.

Allen L. Edwards Endowed Lectureship in Psychology


Professor Allen Louis Edwards was affiliated with the University of Washington Department of Psychology for half of a century, from his arrival in Seattle in 1944 as an Associate Professor to his death in 1994. Edwards was an outstanding teacher, researcher, and writer who is credited with changing the way modern psychological research is conducted by introducing modern statistical techniques into the science. Three of his seven books are considered landmarks in the field.

Edwards is also known for developing personality tests, in particular the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS), which was designed to eliminate the test-taker's bias toward socially desirable answers. Edwards endowed the Edwards Lectureship to bring nationally and internationally renowned psychologists to campus for short visits to interact with faculty and students. The first Edwards Lecture was delivered by a former Ph.D. student of Edwards, Professor Mark Pagel of University of Reading, England, on May 24, 1999. Since the inaugural Edwards Lecture, we have hosted an impressive list of distinguished scholars. 

In each year since 2004, three of the Edwards Lecturers are invited to participate in our public Psychology Lecture series.  In this series, world renowned leaders in a variety of Psychology subdisciplines join our faculty for three evening public lectures on important issues facing our society. The topics vary each year, and they cover issues in mental health, language and cognitive development, social and emotional regulation of behavior, society and individual behaviors, and the neuroscience of normal and abnormal behavioral functions.  These lectures are recorded for future viewing on UWTV. Past lectures are available for viewing

Three Psycholgy Department faculty will soon be featured in the 5th public Psychology Lecture Series: Dr. Jessica Sommerville (Feb. 17), Dr. Michael Beecher (Feb. 24), and Dr. Liliana Lengua (Mar. 3). The common theme will be the Development of Behavior, and descriptions of their individual research program can be found below. Also you will find the names of world renowned colleagues who have been invited to participate in each of the lectures. Save the date, and we hope to see you there!