Diversity and Inclusion Spotlights - Fall 2021

Chenelle Miller

Undergraduate, Class of 2022

How do you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your research, leadership, engagement in student organizations, and/or community-building efforts? 

In my role as a peer health educator, I worked to co-facilitate and revamp the Sexfest initiative. Sexfest has always been about positive sexual health, but it has historically focused on heterosexual individuals. I helped revamp it to be more inclusive and destigmatize sexual health among gender and sexual minorities. Ultimately, I hope all UVA students can use Sexfest as a resource.

Why are you committed to excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion? What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts?

Current DEI initiatives don’t go far enough because they predominantly focus on integrating minorities into already intact systems. Instead of integrating minorities into the existing systems, we should reform these systems. We need systems and services geared toward minority groups that help minority students thrive. In the future, I hope to research adolescent psychopathology, ensuring that my research includes different minorities and uplifts their voices.

Who was/has been an important mentor in your work (either as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion, or more generally)?

Dr. Noelle Hurd, Ariana Rivens, and Janelle Billingsley have been important mentors. Working in the PHAD Lab has allowed me to think more about Black mental health and uplifting minority voices in one’s research. The work in the PHAD lab is an inspiration for the research I want to pursue in the future. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion? What motivates you to persist in the face of these challenges?

Most of the issues that surround these initiatives are systemic. Although one person can’t fix everything that is wrong in the world, we can uplift minority voices and help find ways for the majority to learn from them. We need this learning to occur because we need allies willing to confront the systems that belittle minority voices.

What advice would you give to others who are considering getting involved with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?

It is an intensive effort, and it won’t all get done in one day. But people notice change. If there are inclusive initiatives, people will notice, which can bring them joy and cultivate a sense of belonging.


Kyshia Henderson

Social Psychology PhD Student

Describe your research in five words. 

How white Americans justify racism 

How do you think about issues of diversity and equity in your research? Please describe the work that you do in the community to advance equity.

I study racism, an issue that should not be researched without centering equity. I approach my research through the lens of social justice, which impacts not only the kinds of research questions I have, but also the way the research is written and disseminated. It is essential to begin and end the research process uplifting the voices and experiences of racially minoritized people when providing a scientific take on an issue that impacts their daily lives. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion? What motivates you to persist in the face of these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges is dealing with people that join diversity and equity efforts but do not actually care about diversity and equity. In some cases, having more people can allow for more tasks to get done. However, what can (and does) also happen is that these people hinder progress by delaying decisions and opposing initiatives because they are not fully on board or are not knowledgeable about the issues. We need more people doing this work, especially those from privileged backgrounds. But we also need them to learn about the issues we are addressing and engage thoughtfully. 

Why are you committed to excellence in diversity, equity, and inclusion? What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts?

As a Black woman and first generation college student, my time getting to, and being within academia, has been difficult. However, this journey is not equally difficult for everyone. I am committed because I personally understand how necessary these efforts are. My hope is that through diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the university, we can change the systems that maintain oppression and create spaces that are truly welcoming and supportive of marginalized people. Thinking about psychology more broadly, these efforts begin to address the harm done to marginalized communities and help to gain their trust. My hope is that we become a field that is worthy of that trust. 

What advice would you give to others who are considering getting involved with efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion?

This advice is specifically for historically marginalized people involved in these efforts. Prioritize yourself. Doing work to advance equity while also being on the receiving end of why these efforts are needed weighs heavy. Being in these conversations can get difficult. Step back when you need to, be selfish with your energy when you need to. It is not on you to do it all.


Noelle Hurd

Scully Family Discovery Associate Professor | DDI​

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION WITHIN THE PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT?

I have been involved with a number of initiatives in the approximately ten years that I have been here (a chunk of this time I have served as the department’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; a role I share with my colleague, Bethany Teachman). These initiatives have included efforts specifically focused on increasing the representation of underrepresented groups in our department as well as efforts to make our department more inclusive. Some efforts I have led or contributed to regarding increasing departmental diversity and representation include facilitating intensive summer research experiences and facilitating an annual visit day for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing graduate studies in psychology. I also have been serving as the faculty director for our department’s bridge to the doctorate program which is a program that provides additional coursework and research training to students from underrepresented backgrounds who have not had sufficient training and research experiences to prepare them for admission to doctoral programs. I have advocated for and led searches to hire faculty and post-doctoral fellows who conduct equity and justice focused research. Alongside Bethany Teachman and Alexis Stanton (our graduate student Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), I have worked to make our graduate admissions processes more equitable. We also have worked to build in more accountability for contributions to DEI in our graduate students’ and faculty members’ annual evaluations. This has included adding DEI questions to course evaluations. In addition, we have coordinated the work of a number of DEI departmental subcommittees comprised of faculty and graduate students. Through coordinated efforts, we collectively work to enhance equity and inclusion in our department. For example, some of our subcommittees are attending to the incorporation of more inclusive teaching practices in all courses offered through our department. Other subcommittees are working to increase the representation of students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in our major and to increase their participation in research (as research assistants in departmental labs). We also recently instituted annual awards in our department to recognize outstanding contributions to DEI made by graduate students and faculty. Additionally, we have compiled and maintain an expansive online repository of DEI resources for our faculty and graduate students. All of my departmental teaching (including guest lectures) centers issues of equity and justice. For example, I regularly teach courses on structural determinants of inequality and critical perspectives of psychological research. I have served as a Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellow where I wrote a number of op-ed pieces focused on issues of racial justice. I am the head of the Community Psychology program which is an area of psychology that explicitly centers social justice and equity. In my research, I employ a strengths-based approach to understand processes of risk and resilience among marginalized adolescents and I investigate opportunities to dismantle systems of oppression. I engage in this research alongside a team of diverse graduate and undergraduate students. I also direct an interdisciplinary doctoral fellowship training program that centers research on race and inequality in higher education.

WHY ARE YOU COMMITTED TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THROUGH YOUR EFFORTS?

Advancing DEI is a moral imperative. I have always had a deep personal commitment to equity and justice. My knowledge of historical and current injustices compels me to act. I understand that all of us need to step up and do our part to continue to work toward a more just and equitable society. It is a shared responsibility; yet each of us may have unique opportunities to advance equity and justice that can be tied to our own opportunities and where we are situated in societal power structures. I know that real change requires collective and sustained effort. I hope to be a part of that change.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS WHO ARE CONSIDERING GETTING INVOLVED WITH EFFORTS TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION?

It is okay to start with small steps and little changes if this feels overwhelming at first. For folks who are new to this space, try to do more listening and less talking to start. It is never too late to make changes and adjustments in the ways we have been doing things. If we really want a more just and equitable society, then we all have to do our part.


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