Grant supports students from underrepresented backgrounds in clinical psychology Ph.D. program

Grant supports students from underrepresented backgrounds in clinical psychology Ph.D. program

Rowan University graduated the first cohort of students from its clinical psychology Ph.D. program in 2021. A new grant aims to increase student diversity.

A new federally funded grant program at Rowan University aims to dismantle obstacles that frequently keep students from underrepresented backgrounds from pursuing academic careers and contributing to research and teaching in the field of clinical psychology. 

“In both the clinical practice of psychology and research and academic pursuits in clinical psychology, there is a lack of representation,” said Dr. Jim A. Haugh, associate professor and director of clinical training for Rowan’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. “Traditionally, funding and access have been the biggest barriers to attaining doctoral education in clinical psychology and science more broadly, especially for students from underrepresented groups.”

Funded through the Department of Education, Rowan University and the College of Science & Mathematics, the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need grant program backs four doctoral students in Rowan’s clinical psychology program over the first two years of their studies. Students now interviewing to begin their doctoral program during the fall 2022 semester are eligible to apply. 

In addition to providing tuition, the grant will cover recipients’ fees in full and provide a generous stipend. Students may receive stipends of up to $34,000, depending on their demonstrated need. 

Applying for this grant was a collaborative effort between Haugh; now retired department head Dr. MaryLou Kerwin; Dr. Bethany Raiff, professor; Dr. Eve Sledjeski, assistant professor; and Dr. Sarah Diorio, lecturer in the Department of Psychology, with support from Dr. Suzanne Bausch, vice dean for the College of Science & Mathematics. 

“We applied for funding from the Department of Education out of a desire to increase representation in the field of clinical psychology, which has been an ongoing goal of our doctoral program since it launched in 2016,” Haugh said. 

“This grant program brings us closer to realizing Rowan's goals of becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university for everyone,” said Dr. Vojislava Pophristic, dean of the College of Science & Mathematics. “I'm pleased we are taking concrete action toward increasing graduation rates and decreasing student debt load for students who have been historically underrepresented in this critically important field.” 

Students who qualify for funding also receive support on how to succeed in both the research and teaching aspects of academia. 

Raiff, whose recent academic projects in behavioral economics have garnered funding from the National Institutes of Health, will provide extra support for students on how to be successful researchers. Sledjeski and Diorio will formally mentor grant recipients in everything from how to write a syllabus to how to grade fairly and equitably, with the goal of students becoming effective teachers. Most students in Rowan’s clinical psychology doctoral program teach at least one course during their studies, but this formal mentorship is a new opportunity developed specifically for grant recipients. 

“This funding is a very exciting opportunity that helps our goal, as a program, to recruit and retain underrepresented students and to make sure our students are successful all the way through the program,” said Haugh. “We want all of our students to be successful, so all doctoral students are paired with a research mentor, but our grant recipients will be given an extra layer of support, which is made possible by the funds from this grant.”