Special to UM News
Laura Kohn-Wood, left, and Liana Mentor were the BGCP 2016 conference co-chairs.
Sixty student researchers from throughout the country had an opportunity to present their papers and posters, learn from faculty, and network with their colleagues at the 22nd annual Black Graduate Conference on Psychology (BGCP), held at the University of Miami’s Shalala Student Center May 19-22.
“We had a record number of submissions for this intensive conference experience,” said conference co-chair Laura Kohn-Wood, associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies (EPS) in the School of Education and Human Development. “Our attendees took full advantage of four days of research and professional development, networking, and mentoring opportunities.”
Liana Mentor, a graduate student in the school’s Ph.D. program in Community Well-Being, co-chaired the annual conference, which was last hosted by the University of Miami in 2011.
The BGCP’s panel discussions, paper and poster presentations, and lunch table conversations touched on a wide range of important research areas in psychology, including the development of racial identity, the impact of HIV intervention on black college women, home literacy practices in Haitian families, and community needs assessments. Several of the sessions also focused on academic career paths involving research, teaching, and service.
“Find your passion and it will guide your career,” said Joan Muir, professor in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, on one of the professional development panels. “For me, it’s about helping black families raise strong, healthy children.”
At the conference’s opening dinner, Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost, welcomed attendees and invited them to join the UM faculty after earning their degrees. “We are building a diverse community of scholars and hope you will apply here,” he said.
Isaac Prilleltensky, professor and dean of the School of Education and Human Development and vice provost for institutional culture, said UM is committed to building a culture of diversity and belonging. “We want everyone to feel valued,” he said. “We also want to be sure our faculty, staff, and students have an opportunity to add value to our university and the community.”
Guillermo Prado, dean of the Graduate School, said there is great value in this type of conference. “I attribute much of my success to attending a conference for Hispanic doctoral students a decade ago,” he said. “It helped give me a direction in my career, while meeting mentors and making friends that I still have today.”
The conference faculty included Roger McIntosh, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the College of Arts and Sciences; Charlton Copeland, professor in the School of Law and president of the Woodson-Williams Marshall Association of Black Faculty and Administrators; and Guerda Nicolas, professor in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies in the School of Education and Human Development, as well as 15 additional faculty, department chairs, and deans from across the country.
“We thank our guest faculty, as well as our students, for making this commitment to our conference,” said Copeland. “As a legal scholar, I appreciate the importance of psychology in advancing how we think about rational behavior. Your research in identity development has also played an important role in law.”
Kevin Cokely, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Department of African and African American Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and editor in chief of The Journal of Black Psychology, delivered the keynote address.
The conference was funded by a grant to the University of Michigan from the National Science Foundation; several units at the University of Miami provided additional funding, including the provost’s office, the dean of the School of Education and Human Development, the Graduate School, the Department of Psychology, and the Woodson Williams Marshall Association. UM students on the planning committee included Dorothy Addae, Amina Simmons, Shannon Chiles, Kayann Richards, Vanessa Thomas, Calvin Fitch, Rhoda Moise, and Atara Muhammad.