Assistant Professor of Psychology
Research Areas: 

Dr. Leath’s research uses interdisciplinary approaches to understand and address issues related to the holistic development of Black girls and women in the context of families, schools, and communities. Using a resilience framework, she considers the role of social identity development on the academic and psychosocial growth and well-being of African American young adults. Specifically, her work has focused on 1) examining how racial identity influences the academic attitudes and performance of Black students, 2) better understanding how race and gender identity beliefs support psychological resilience among Black girls, and 3) exploring the influence of discrimination and stigma on a variety of outcomes among Black girls and women (e.g., academic curiosity, academic satisfaction, autonomy, self-acceptance). Currently, she is using qualitative methods to investigate how adolescent socialization experiences around race and gender inform Black women’s identity beliefs about sexual agency and body image. She is also developing a survey study that will examine individual and contextual factors that inhibit or support self-care (e.g., exercising, eating well, sleeping) and community-care behaviors (e.g., volunteering, giving aid to a neighbor, serving in church) among adult Black women. In the near future, she will extend her research on academic motivation and persistence with Black college women attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs), to Black college women at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). She runs the F.H.I.RE (Fostering Healthy Identities and REsilience) Lab at the University of Virginia. Dr. Leath is currently accepting applications for PhD students for the Community Psychology Program. She is also looking to recruit highly motivated undergraduate students for the PHIRE Lab in the Spring of 2020. She encourages interested students to contact her directly at sl4xz@virginia.edu.


Selected Publications:


Hurley, E., Leath, S., & Hurley, S. (2019, in press). Culture vs. Race/Ethnicity: Which predicts the best fit between students and learning contexts? Or is it both?. Urban Education. 


Leath, S., Mathews, C., Harrison, A., & Chavous, T. (2018, in press). Racial identity, racial discrimination, and classroom engagement outcomes among Black girls and boys. American Educational Research Journal, 1-33. doi: 10.3102/000283121881616955  


Leath, S., & Chavous, T. (2018). Black women’s experiences of campus racial climate and stigma at predominantly White institutions: Insights from a comparative and within-group approach for STEM and Non-STEM majors. The Journal of Negro Education, 87(2), 125-139. doi: 10.7709/jnegroeducation.87.2.0125


Chavous, T., Richardson, B., Webb, F., Fonseca-Bolorin, G., & Leath, S. (2018). Shifting contexts and shifting identities: Campus race-related experiences, racial identity, and academic motivation among Black students during the transition to college. Race and Social Problems, 1-18. doi: 10.1007/s45885-017-9218-9


Butler-Barnes, S., Lea, C., & Leath, S. (2018). Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Program: Examining Black girls’ experiences at a predominantly White school. The Urban Review, 1-28. doi: 10.1007/s11256-018-0464-y


Carter, R., Mustafaa, M., Leath, S., & Butler-Barnes, S. (2018). Teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations and girls’ pubertal timing: Does the classroom learning environment matter? Social Psychology of Education: An International Journal, 1-28. doi: 10.1007/s11218-018-9450-1


Butler-Barnes, Cook, S., Leath, S., & Caldwell, C. (2018). Teacher-based discrimination: The role of racial pride and religiosity among African American and Caribbean Black adolescents. Race and Social Problems, 1-12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-017-9222-0


Leath, S., & Chavous, T. (2017). “We really protested…I felt like I was in a movement”: The influence of sociopolitical beliefs, political self-efficacy, and campus racial climate on civic engagement among Black college students attending PWIs. The Journal of Negro Education, 86(3), 220-237. doi: 10.7709/jnegroeducation/86.3.0220


Carter, R., Leath, S., Butler-Barnes, S., Byrd, C., Chavous, T., Caldwell, C., & Jackson, J. (2017). Comparing associations between perceived puberty, same-race friends, and same-race peers, and psychosocial outcomes among African American and Caribbean Black girls. Journal of Black Psychology, 43(8), 836-862. doi: 10.1177/0095798417711024


Carter, R., Mustaafa, F., & Leath, S. (2017). Teachers’ expectations of girls’ classroom performance and behavior: Effects of girls’ race and pubertal timing. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 1-23. doi: 10.1177/0272431617699947


Butler-Barnes, S., Leath, S., Carter, R., Williams, A., & Chavous, T. (2017). Promoting resilience among African American girls: Racial identity as a protective factor. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdeb.12995


Chavous, T., Drotar, S., Fonseca-Bolorin, G., Leath, S., F., Lyons, D., & Mustafaa, F. (2016). Identity, motivation, and resilience: The example of Black college students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In J. DeCuir-Gunby and P. Schutz (Eds.) Researching Race and Ethnicity in the Study of Learning and Motivation in Social and Cultural Contexts, (pp. 3-15). New York: Routledge.


Chavous, T., Leath, S., & Richardson, B. (2015). African American racial identity as promoting academic achievement and excellence: Resisting stereotypes and the myth of ‘Acting White.’ In V. Berry, A. Fleming-Rife, and A. Dayo (Eds.) Black Culture and Experience: Contemporary Issues, (pp. 21-36). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.