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UMBC faculty awarded grant to introduce high school students to psychological science

June 8, 2011

Chelsea Haddaway
Communications Manager

Three faculty members from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) psychology department have been awarded a $3,000 grant by the American Psychological Association to increase the diversity “pipeline” into the field of psychology. The project, called ASPIRE (Applied Social Psychology Intensive Research Experience), is funded through an implementation grant overseen by the APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs.

Shawn Bediako, associate professor of psychology, will serve as the lead investigator. Danielle Beatty, assistant professor of psychology, and Adia Garrett Butler, psychology lecturer, will serve as co-investigators.

The aim of the project is to provide high school juniors from Baltimore City schools with an intensive, mentored research experience during the 2011-2012 school year. Bediako expects that the program will benefit the students in several ways. “While the initial focus is on increasing each student’s aptitude in the social sciences, we expect that the majority of ASPIRE participants will eventually begin their college careers as psychology majors,” he said.

“Youth in urban school settings have limited exposure to the social sciences, which makes them less likely to consider majoring in psychology,” agreed Beatty. “If we can get them interested and prepared in the discipline during their high school years, then we can hopefully get them involved in conducting research much earlier in their undergraduate experience—and we know that students who are heavily involved in research are more likely to be accepted into graduate programs.”

Bediako said that one goal of the program is to increase the number of minority students who pursue graduate degrees and careers in psychology, noting that many minority students who study psychology at the undergraduate level do not pursue graduate work. “Clearly, as you go farther up the career ladder in psychology, there are fewer and fewer people of color. With this project, we want to approach this problem by doing things that will increase the talent pool so that the other programs and initiatives that occur later in the academic trajectory will have a critical mass of individuals with whom to work,” he said.

Bediako, who received funding from the National Science Foundation to bring the 16th annual Black Graduate Conference in Psychology to UMBC last summer, will work with Beatty and Butler to initiate the ASPIRE program with a cohort of high school juniors from Baltimore City Public Schools. The students will meet after school twice a month and complete didactic training in the responsible conduct of research, research methods and statistics and scientific writing and dissemination. Students chosen to participate in the program will receive a stipend and will present their independent research at one of the local science fairs endorsed by the BCPS and at an inaugural ASPIRE Symposium, which is planned for the spring.

About UMBC
UMBC balances a deep commitment to undergraduate education with its rapid development as a distinguished public research university. For the second year in a row, U.S. News & World Report recognized UMBC as the top university in the nation on a list of “Up-and-Coming” schools to watch. The Princeton Review and Kiplingers recently ranked UMBC among the “best values” among public universities in the nation, recognizing educational excellence with affordability. UMBC offers undergraduates an honors university experience with special learning opportunities traditionally found at small liberal arts colleges and is building one of the most inclusive graduate education communities in the nation. For more information, visit www.umbc.edu or contact Chelsea Haddaway, 410-455-6380 or chaddaway@umbc.edu.

About the American Psychological Association
Based in Washington, D.C., the American Psychological Association (APA) is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With more than 154,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide. The mission of the APA is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

The APA Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs convenes a Committee on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training to award the Implementation Grants to various institutions through a competitive application and review process. The ASPIRE proposal was among four applications approved for funding in the Applied Experiences and Service Learning priority area.

Posted: June 8, 2011, 12:00 PM