This year, De La Torre approached Melissa about co-hosting a free event that provides Pittsburgh-area women amputees with an opportunity for connection and education.
And so it was that on October 21, over 25 women came to the event at Chatham’s Eastside location where they met some Chatham physical therapy students and alumni, De La Torre staff, and—crucially—each other. The event allowed participants to assess their mobility challenges and to share their joys and struggles with fellow amputees.
Medicare, Medicaid, and many other health insurance companies determine an amputee’s eligibility for coverage of prosthetics based on that individual’s K-level. The K-level reflects the degree of (and potential for) the individual’s mobility, and is determined by a series of tasks often conducted by physical therapists.
The event was not to definitively determine the participants’ K-levels, but rather to provide some motivation, says Bednarek. “We took them through the tasks they’d need to do, and said ‘Okay, here’s what you’re scoring right now; if you’re looking to have a more expensive device covered, maybe think about these types of activities to help you improve your current level.’”
I had such a great time working with each participant and was honored to hear each of their stories! I was particularly inspired and humbled by their attitudes and outlook on their life’s path.” – Jill Claassen, DPT ’17
There was another goal, too: “sneaking in” some physical therapy, laughs Bednarek. “We wanted to give these women not just a chance to learn and connect, but also get them up and moving on a Saturday afternoon.”
The Chatham University Physical Therapy Program educates Doctors of Physical Therapy who will advance the quality of human life through excellence in clinical practice. The Program prepares professionals to meet the challenges of a dynamic health care environment and supports faculty scholarship that bridges science and practice.
At the All Star Code Summer Intensive, when a student fails, he proclaims it out loud. “I have failed!” he announces. And everyone cheers.
Needless to say, this isn’t your typical summer camp.
Founded in New York City, All Star Code is a nonprofit computer science education organization focused on bringing tech skills to Black and Latino young men. Chatham University was the proud host of the first-ever Pittsburgh Summer Intensive in 2017 as part of Chatham’s Music and Arts Day Camp program’s focus on lifelong learning. Chatham is the first university to host the program, aligning with our historic mission of extending education and opportunity to underserved populations.
In addition to the very real skills of coding and web development, the six-week program teaches students from all over Pittsburgh the ability to recognize setbacks as successes. Why celebrate failure? All Star Code’s Pittsburgh Area Director Sean Gray explains it this way:
Fear of failure is what keeps us from trying, from doing so many things. 72% of students in All Star Code don’t know coding or computer science. They dared greatly just to apply, to walk in the door. They understand the concept of failing and are taught to fear it outside. But in the classroom, we celebrate it, in the hopes that they dare greatly again.”
All Star Code places a strong emphasis on prepping students not only with technical skills, but also with interpersonal ones. These so-called “soft skills” like collaboration, networking, and professionalism help students gain a confident, entrepreneurial mindset that gives them tools for success beyond technical know-how.
When they’re not sharpening their networking skills or coding on Chatham’s campus, students have the chance to go on site visits to major Pittsburgh companies like Google, Shell Games, and BNY Melon.
“The site visits were my favorite part,” says Isaiah Massey, of Allderdice High School. “I think they’re interesting in that they give us a live aspect of what coding can do.”
We’re sitting outside Café Rachel on Chatham’s Shadyside campus, the July sun beaming. All Star students also receive small-group mentor sessions with area professionals who counsel them on college choice, productivity strategies, and professional networking. As Chatham’s Social Media Manager, I happily volunteered as a mentor.
“Google was amazing!” Concurs Marcus Jones, of Barack Obama Academy. “They showed us so much stuff, the different sections of the whole site and really explained it. All the site visits were great because they showed me who’s involved in the tech industry and helped me visualize what’s going on.”
That’s precisely the goal of All Star Code— to open access into the technology industry for under-represented population. Currently, there are no other national organizations fostering, exposing or educating young men of color for careers in tech. Though 75% of the students attending the Pittsburgh Summer Intensive are eligible for free lunch, students come from all different backgrounds, skill-levels, and familiarity with coding.
The students I mentored couldn’t be more different in personality. Isaiah is astute, witty, a lover of animals. Marcus has work ethic and business savvy in spades. Hasaan Ismaeli of Penn Hills High School is quiet, focused, an athlete. Darius Watts from Central Catholic High School approaches every topic with earnestness and wonder, always smiling. And Jayden Walker of Woodland Hills High School practically crackles with excitement when he talks about coding.
“I liked the overall learning experience here,” he said. “I’ve always liked coding and working with computers, learning how to manipulate what’s on the screen is kind of fun for me. Seeing the stuff I create come alive with this little text… it’s just satisfying.”
The satisfaction of a job well done culminates at Demo Day, where the students present collaborative group projects they’ve worked on for days. Demo Day certainly has the energy and excitement of a graduation ceremony. Parents, teachers, friends, and community members packed the first Demo Day in Pittsburgh, held in trendy co-working space Ascender in East Liberty. To plenty of applause and proud smiles, students shared their app ideas, small business pitches, and more.
Not all of these projects will make it into implementation, and not every All Star Code participant will go into tech. But the track record so far has been impressive:
100% of All Star alums are attending college, and 95% of them intend to major in computer science-related disciplines. What’s more, All Star Code’s emphasis on fostering an entrepreneurial mindset means that students leave the Summer Intensive with a new, more confident worldview.
Back at the sunny table with my mentor group, I ask them if the program has changed their way of thinking. Jayden immediately pipes up:
“It built work ethic. If it wasn’t for the camp… I wouldn’t…”
“I’d just hang around all day!” Darius finishes for him. Everyone laughs. They joke about video games, procrastination, and how they’ve spent summers past, before All Star Code. But then Darius get serious for a second, and says:
“It gives you something important to do.”
A summer making connections, daring greatly, with a purpose in sight… that’s a summer well spent indeed.
The Chatham Music and Arts Day Camp provides intensive music and art experiences to students Pre K – 9th grade. Campers also enjoy traditional summer camp activities such as swimming and sports to supplement the core art, theater and music curriculum.
When Rita Armstrong started researching online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, she did not see herself in Sweden presenting work on diabetic education and self-management to a global audience. “Never in my years did I think I’d be doing that,” she laughs.
Nor did she expect to be speaking at the same conference in Amsterdam in 2018, but she will. Those are just a couple of twists her life has taken since earning her DNP from Chatham in 2014.
Dr. Armstrong started her nursing career in 1994. She received her BSN in 2009, her MSN in 2013—and decided to continue her education. “I knew I didn’t want to do a PhD. I wanted something more in line with evidence-based training,” she says. “That’s the direction healthcare was moving in. I found Chatham online, and decided to apply.”
Dr. Armstrong enrolled in Chatham’s DNP program in January 2014 and graduated in December of that same year, studying full time and working full time.
“I really enjoyed it,” she says. “The first semester was a little strenuous, because I was getting used to studying and working full time, but I liked the way it was structured. It took you through the material in steps, so you weren’t trying to do everything at the last minute.” She has referred five people to the program.
The level of support from the faculty at Chatham really stuck out,” says Dr. Armstrong. “My instructors even initiated contact with me, just to make sure I was on the right track.”
Post-DNP, Dr. Armstrong was teaching nursing at a community college in San Antonia when she was approached to write a proposal for a nursing program at the University of Texas. While writing it, she accepted a position with the Dallas Nursing Institute, where she taught and served as the director of the RN to BSN program. Today, she is the Dean of Nursing at the Fortis College Nursing Program.
She has received the National Institute of Staff & Organizational Development (NISOD) for Excellence Award in Teaching. She is also the recipient of the Friends of Texas Award 2013 from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for her endless community service dedication and contributions.
In August, Dr. Armstrong spoke about communicating and interacting with people with dementia at the Geriatric Symposium in Austin, TX. “Nurses tend to be in a hurry a lot of the time—we’re very busy—but patients with dementia really need to take time to think about what we’re telling them or asking them. The way we present information really makes a difference,” she says.
In the future, she plans to start a free mobile clinic that will provide wellness checks to college students across Texas. “A lot of conditions like diabetes can be managed, but college students don’t always take care of themselves the way they should,” she says. “With some education and training, we can get them to pay more attention to their blood sugar and blood pressure.”
One of the things I love about having my DNP is that I get to see what’s out there in a way that I couldn’t with just my MSN, because I can teach in a graduate program. A DNP is also required for management positions. I consider myself a leader, very much so. Being able to do that, oh yes, that’s a plus.”
Chatham’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a 27-credit program offering meaningful, sequential courses that provide practical knowledge for the advanced practice RN. It’s one of the shortest-to-degree clinical doctorates in the market.
Dr. Tyra Good, assistant professor of education, knows a thing or two about culturally responsive education. In fact, she teaches it—courses with names like Teaching in Urban Schools, Issues of Poverty and Race in Education, and Diverse Family Community Partnerships.
Still, she’s the first to tell you that she views herself as a student as much as an educator. She had a wake-up call this summer, days before she was to leave for Haiti to take part in an educator training trip through Functional Literacy Ministry Haiti (FLM).
“(FLM board member and part-time university supervisor for Chatham University) Dr. Rhonda Taliaferro asked me if I had gotten my training materials translated. Translated! I hadn’t even thought of that, but of course, they had to be in French or in Haitian Creole,” she says.
With help from her network of friends and associates, Good was able to get the materials translated.
FLM was founded by Dr. Leon Pamphile, a Haitian who moved to the U.S. when he was 17. He received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and taught French in the Pittsburgh Public School District for 32 years. He was aware of the dismal literacy rate in his native country, and wanted to do something about it.
Good applied and was accepted to the program, and joined a team of twelve educators from across the country who arrived in Haiti to provide professional development to teachers from 19 schools across the small island nation. Good’s areas of expertise—partnerships between schools, families and communities—were very much in demand.
“To be a high school teacher in Haiti, you don’t need a college degree or even a certification,” says Good. “So they’re eager to learn not only strategies for classroom management, or how to support students who are excelling or falling behind, but also how they, as educators, can partner with others to create the best outcomes for their students.”
“Classrooms usually have about 60 students with one teacher,” says Good, noting that that’s about double the size of a U.S. classroom “They sit on long benches, with no space to keep schoolbooks or supplies.”
Good held workshops on how teachers and schools can partner with families and use community resources to support culturally relevant learning. And everyone showed up to hear—not just teachers, but also parents and community members. “Parents brought their kids too!” Good laughs.
“Even though I knew Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world,” says Good. “I don’t think I understood the extreme level of poverty that I would see. Homemade houses. Smokestacks from families burning garbage, because there’s nowhere to put it. In the U.S., when we take a shower, we let the water run. In some places in Haiti, you couldn’t do that. You pull the string down so a bucket of water can come down on you, you lather up, then you pull the string down again so you can rinse off.”
There were other surprises, too. “In the U.S., we say we put a high value on education, but in Haiti, they take it to another level,” says Good. “I asked the students to tell me something they really liked about school, and one thing they don’t. All they said was ‘I love to study, I love to study, I love to study!’ There’s a real sense that if they study, they can do anything they want to do.”
In addition to her teaching and research, Good serves as Chatham’s liaison to the Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps—a partnership with Propel Schools in which qualified students with an interest in social justice and educational equity can earn an Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Chatham for free and receive guaranteed employment teaching in Propel’s urban schools. “The Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps offers a teaching residency experience that you don’t get in traditional teacher preparation programs,” she says.
Good is currently looking into making FLM and Haiti an option for Chatham students. She envisions a Maymester course, with a week of lectures and speakers about the country’s history, tradition, and culture followed by time spent in the country.
“I feel that it’s so important to get that global experience and perspective before students become full-time educators in the classroom,” she says. “To understand the impact and power you have as an educator, and the reality of educational inequalities. What you can do with technology, and how you can still be creative when you don’t have it.” Students have already expressed interest.
Name: John J. Dubé
Title: Assistant Professor of Biology
Joined Chatham: August 2015
Born & Raised: Virginia
Interests: Cooking, home improvement
1. How did you develop an interest in the field in which you teach?
I’m an exercise physiologist by training, but I wanted to better understand how exercise affects the body. I started working in a laboratory doing some basic science experiments with rodents and loved the idea of being able to translate our findings to the human condition.
2. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My first real job was a sales person/technician in my grandmother’s paint store. I learned that in order to succeed, there must be a plan.
3. What aspect of your life before teaching best prepared you to do so?
I’ve always been teaching in some fashion. Many of my jobs have been in the fitness industry essentially teaching people how to exercise.
4. What is your favorite thing about working with Chatham students?
The ah-ha moments. Those moments when the link is made between theory and practice.
5. What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
Cook. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I can cook so many different things.
John Dube, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Chatham University’s Department of Biology. John enjoys cooking and home improvement.
Here’s a fun fact about Director of Multicultural Affairs Randi Congleton: She attended the oldest agricultural high school in the country (it’s called W.B. Saul High School, in Philadelphia). With dreams of becoming a veterinarian, she went on to Penn State University, where a series of opportunities began to refocus her goals toward working with college students.
One might say her epiphany arrived as she was working in Student Affairs for the first time while pursuing her Master’s degree in Community Services at Michigan State University. Working with college students, she “Fell. In. Love!” she laughs.
Dr. Congleton—whose background includes youth development as well as collegiate departments including Greek Life, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs—came to Chatham in spring 2017, after earning her PhD in Education and Organizational Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
As part of her work at Illinois, Dr. Congleton coordinated the summer pre-doctoral institute for new students of color. “We supported them in building community, conducting research, and professional development,” she says. “The strength lay in connecting students across disciplines, so that they had not only their cohort, but also this whole other community.”
“I’m very much about institutional responsibility. What can we do a bit differently? How can we think about our own biases, that may not be fully informed, but that get in the way of understanding challenges faced by students who do not come from generations of having gone to college, of having wealth?”
“The concern—and this is across higher education,” Dr. Congleton says, “is that we’ve been focusing too much on diversity (how many different students can we get in the room), and not enough on inclusion (are our institutions prepared to really support them when they arrive on our campuses).”
In addition to her position as director of Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Congleton is a member of Chatham’s Diversity and Inclusion Council. Asked to share some of their initiatives, she mentions that they’ve been considering a policy for institutional large-scale donations and naming of buildings, as a result of some student concerns around the naming of Sanger Hall. “If we’re considering putting a name on a building,” she says, “we need to do our due diligence into considering that person’s background and the extent to which it reflects Chatham’s ideals.”
“The college campus space is not normative for all communities. My concern—and my passion—is about how do we create equity on campus, and how do we listen to the voices and meet the needs of those students—men and women of color, who identify with the LGBTQIA community, or with disabilities—who may not have been traditionally heard? How does the system need to be different to help change the lives of the students who come here?”
Shortly after her arrival in March, Dr. Congleton was approached to co-sponsor a multicultural graduation ceremony, which she considered a smashing success. “We invited family and alumni. (Chatham) President Finegold said a welcome, and we held a brunch with a keynote speaker. The alumni put kente stoles (traditional Ghanaian garments often used in celebratory ceremonies for African-American students) on graduating students, and we worked with Academic Affairs to put together stoles for students who weren’t African American. We had serapes for students from Latin American cultures, and made a stole for a student from Laos with her country’s flag on it. It was a really nice way for alumni to welcome the graduates into the community of being a Chatham alum.”
This fall, Dr. Congleton is co-teaching a course along with Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology Jennifer Morse on facilitating intergroup dialogue around social justice issues. The course is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and next term, they will have the opportunity to facilitate a course for their peers who are discussing social justice issues—thus putting theory immediately into practice. The students will also have opportunities to lead workshops across campus for their peers.
It’s a good example of how Dr. Congleton sees the way forward. “I’m really looking at how we can engage folks across campus and build coalitions to do this kind of work,” she says. “It has to be done thoughtfully. We can do more harm than good if we are not intentional about how we talk to others about social justice issues.”
And she is optimistic. “There’ve been so many volunteers!” she says. “Not only students but also faculty and staff have stepped up to help, even if just to say ‘I’m nervous and don’t know what to do, but I think this is important and I want to be a part of it.’ Getting as many people invested as possible is how we’re going to make this work.”
Look, I love being a writer. I went to school for this stuff, three times. But that was before I knew that data science was a thing, how cool it is, and the kinds of job (and salary!) prospects that are out there for people who study it.
Amazon.com and other websites use data analytics to determine what products to recommend to you and even what to charge for them.
“Walmart is famous for knowing exactly what to ship to every store at every time, because they track everything—what comes in, what goes out, what the weather was like—whether people tend to buy hot dog buns when there’s a hurricane approaching in addition to toilet paper and bottled water. They know all of these things about collective behavior based on our purchases and demographics.”
Credit card fraud is identified using data science analytics “That’s why you’ll get a call as soon as one purchase is made that is out of character for you,” says Rosenthal. “They’ve developed models to see what your normal behavior is, so they can see what’s out of the ordinary—either because a lot of different people are suddenly buying something, or because you’re buying something that seems out of character. You get a phone call because someone did that math.”
“Your Google search results look different from mine because they’re based on what we’ve searched for in the past,” Rosenthal says.
If you see a rectangle drawn around your face in a photograph that you’re viewing on your phone or computer screen, that’s data analytics, too. “Someone has gone through and labeled faces and worked out how to detect them—in general, what they’re looking for is tone gradients, where the forehead, cheeks and chin are lighter than the eyes, nose, and mouth regions—and that’s just built into cameras today.”
“The traffic information you get from your GPS or your phone is possible because it collects data from other phones in cars—whether they’re moving or not. Some of the cool new research I’ve seen coming out of CMU figures out how to change the timing of traffic lights based on the number of cars that are waiting there, so when there is a lot of traffic coming, it can be pushed through faster.”
Voice recognition programs like Siri and Alexa are built using data analytics around natural language.
In general, says Rosenthal, data science and data analytics try to get information from data—analyzing patterns to come up with insights. What’s the difference between the two? “Very roughly,” she says, “I would say that data analytics is about running statistics on data, and data science is about collecting it, getting it in the right format, and visualizing it in ways that are productive. We’ll be doing both, which is why the major is called Applied Data Science Analytics.”
Data science and data analytics are some of the highest paying jobs in the job market today. People all want to make better use of their data. It’s not just Microsoft and Facebook and Google who are hiring those people; it’s also UPMC and Highmark, and marketing, travel companies, school systems, consulting firms. Our goal is to prepare students to be successful in any of those places.”
This fall, Rosenthal is teaching a research methods course and an introduction to programming course. “I learned to program a long time ago, from my gym teacher,” she says. “I wasn’t really taught why things work, just how to code. So my goal for the Intro to Programming course is to try to really give students insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
It’s a business that’s starting up; there’s no reason our students shouldn’t be able to help analyze what their business plan should look like,” she says.
Rosenthal plans to provide students with more hands-on experience by involving them in her own research, too. “I’m interested in how we can collect data more intelligently and also to teach data collection and research methods for effectively,” she says. She is developing a data collection platform to deploy on campus. Students in Rosenthal’s current classes are researching where it should be located, what it should do, and how it could be marketed. Once deployed, students in the Applied Data Science Analytics major will be able to use the data collected by the platform in their classes and also display their work for the campus to see.
Rosenthal is also interested in “producing English explanations of what data analytics say.” In computer security, for example, experts often monitor networks by hand, because of lack of trust that artificial intelligence would make the right decision. “We can help people trust systems better if we do a good job of explaining why they should,” she says.
Chatham’s Applied Data Science Analytics program teaches students to critically identify, communicate, and analyze challenging analytical problems, effectively organize and manage datasets, and develop robust solutions. They are also equipped to evaluate ethical, privacy, and security challenges in their fields of practice.
This spring, Chatham third-year student Maria Taylor was named a Newman Civic Fellow. The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.
Maria grew up in the foster care system right outside of Pittsburgh, and moved 11 times before college. She’s planning to graduate a year early and has a cumulative GPA of 3.51, but is quick to point out that she’s the exception. “Only three percent of foster youth graduate from college, compared to 38 percent of their peers,” she says. This discrepancy helped spark her interest in helping marginalized communities, both in and outside of school.
Maria’s civic engagement Maria believes that universities can help make it easier for foster youth to enter and stay in college. That’s why she developed (and chairs) Chatham’s Expanding Student Services Committee, which advocates for marginalized student populations, including groups like undocumented, former foster youth, food insecure, home insecure, and low-income students.
The Expanding Student Services Committee is part of Chatham Student Government. Maria ran for the executive board of CSG during her first year, and won. She next served as CSG’s Executive Vice President of Communications.
“We want to be as inclusive of these students as possible, and we want them to thrive here regardless of their background and what’s going on in their lives,” says Maria, who herself identifies as first-generation, home insecure and low-income.
Here’s one way that Maria thinks Chatham can help: the professional dress closet. “There’s the expectation that everyone here will do an internship, and that can be a burden for low-income students who don’t have appropriate clothes,” says Maria. “And in student government, there’s an expectation that you’ll wear business casual for the majority of the meetings—does that discourage people from attending, or from running? I met with Career Development, and we started taking donations of clothes and of money or gift cards. Now, when students come to Career Development, they’re told about the professional dress closet. They can take whatever they want and keep it, no questions asked.”
Maria also led a group of students who worked with the Office of Student Affairs to ensure Chatham’s sexual assault prevention policies were accessible, and is in the process of creating a food pantry on campus.
“There are so many reasons why we need this,” she says. “You might be an international student on campus during break when the dining halls are closed. Or you might be a low-income student who needs food and that’s cool. No one should be ashamed to use these services.”
Maria is also interested in starting a cohort for first-generation college students at Chatham. “First-generation students often have a series of difficulties that other students don’t face,” she says, adding that the program could be peer-led and mentor-based. “It would be great to partner with first-generation faculty and staff. How great would that be, for a first-gen student to see a first-gen faculty member with a PhD?”
Maria’s academic life Maria is pursuing a double major in political science and international studies, focusing on the Middle East. She’s studying Arabic. “The entire department of History, Political Science and International Studies is terrific,” says Maria. “The teachers are so caring toward their students. In high school, I had a 1.99 GPA at one point. I know what it is to be a struggling student, and I see that these teachers are willing to go the extra mile, and that means so much.” She mentions Women in Politics, History of Islam with Dr. Jean-Jacques Sene, and Turkey and the European Union as classes that she found especially inspiring.
This summer, Maria spent a couple of months in Morocco as part of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership. She took courses in geopolitical alliances and intermediate Arabic and working on a Women’s Development project. “It provides training for women refugees from Libya and low-income women in Morocco,” she says. “They learn skills that they can use to provide for themselves.”
After Chatham, Maria plans to attend law school, and is also considering applying to the Fulbright Scholar Program. “I like Chatham’s focus on women’s empowerment and strong history with women’s leadership,” she says. “That history is so irreplaceable. It made Chatham a really great home.”
To donate clothing, money, or gift cards to the professional dress closet, contact Career Development at email@example.com or 412-365-1209.
In September 2016, a troubling report was released. It begins:
“Until very recently, little public attention has been focused on understanding the ways Black girls and women experience institutional racism and sexism. Over the last year, the national conversation about the experiences of Black girls has gained momentum. This report is an attempt to share some troubling local data in order to support additional conversation and draw public attention to these issues. Among its findings:
Black girls are suspended from the Pittsburgh Public Schools at more than three times the rate of white girls.
Black girls are referred to juvenile court three times more often than white girls nationally. In Allegheny County, it’s 11 times more often.”
While black females are not incarcerated at the rate of black males, that’s not to say they fare better in schools. The phrase “pushout” is used to describe institutionalized racism and sexism that results in inequitable treatment of black girls in school, and the subsequent effects on their lives.
From this, it seems clear that furthering understanding of the girls’ lives—and of the girls themselves—is key to combatting institutionalized prejudice. And who better to tell you about that than, well—them?
“There’s a surge of research on African American girls right now, but we want to make sure that the body of research is informed by girls’ direct perspectives,” says Britney Brinkman, Ph.D., associate professor of counseling psychology and co-founder of Chatham’s Psychology of Gender Research Team.
In January 2017, Dr. Brinkman, along with the University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Sara Goodkind, launched a project as part of local non-profit Gwen’s Girls “See the Best in Me” campaign. “See the Best in Me” is an initiative focused on self-esteem, critical thinking, and advocacy skills that enable girls to better understand and express themselves about the issues that affect them daily.
The project involved about 80 girls, who participated in Gwen’s Girls after-school programs. They used a research method called photovoice to capture their experiences. “Rather than responding to questionnaires or focus group prompts, photovoice offers a broader way of expression, through photos but also drawing, poetry, and collage,” says team member Jeremy Holdorf, MSCP ’18.
For about six months, Dr. Brinkman, Holdorf, and the other members of the team met periodically with the girls to talk about how the photographing is going, bat around ideas, troubleshoot technology mishaps, and otherwise touch base.
The program culminated in a gallery exhibit at Chatham that ran from June 6-9. The exhibit displayed these photos by 26 girls, along with drawings and notecards from a workshop that included over 80 girls. The goal was to share the work with as many people as possible, to counteract negative stereotypes and get more positive messages out into the community.
“We wanted to help kids connect their individual experiences to group experience,” explains Dr. Brinkman. “To help them see that it’s not just them; that other black girls might be having similar experiences. It lets us not only learn from individual experiences, but also paint a bigger picture of what’s going on.”
Dr. Brinkman takes an individualized approach to mentoring research assistants. “Part of our mentoring is getting to know each student, their strengths and growth edges. Jeremy has an MFA in film and video, and we’ve worked on how to connect these skills to psychology. Another team member has worked at Gwen’s Girls, and with her, it’s like ‘You’ve worked with these girls the most, so tell us when we’re missing something, and we’ll help develop your competencies in research methods.’ I love it when our team members have different strengths and our team is collaborative.”
Yesterday an article was published on PublicSource.org by a recent Chatham graduate and Public Source intern that focused on self-injury policies and procedures at Chatham and other universities.
Due to the nature of the article, which involved three former Chatham students (whose names were changed for the article), Chatham chose not to comment in specifics in order to respect and comply with privacy requirements for these and other students at Chatham. After reviewing the article, the University believes that it contains information that has been taken out-of-context and mischaracterizes the environment at Chatham.
Mental health is an issue of great importance to me and to all of Chatham, including the staff and faculty across the University dedicated to our students’ safety and well-being. Our priority is, and continues to be, ensuring students get the help they need in a supportive and caring environment when dealing with self-injury and mental illness. Most importantly, I want to stress for those students who are dealing with mental health issues, please know that our Counseling Services department and response team are here to support and help you, not to discipline you. I hope that you will reach out to them at any time you feel the need.
In support of this priority, I have asked today for the creation of a task force to undertake a review of our current policy language and procedures to identify if there are areas where we can improve. The task force will include:
Deanna Hamilton, Assistant Professor in our Counseling Psychology Department;
Sharon Novalis, Assistant Professor in our Occupational Therapy Department, who led the campus-wide initiative to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention earlier this year;
Elsa Arce, Director for Counseling Services;
Zauyah Waite, VP of Student Affairs and Dean of Students;
Other key staff and department liaisons
This task force will build on Chatham’s ongoing efforts to support students including the hiring earlier this year of another licensed psychologist for Counseling Services and additional wellness and mental health resources available to students across campus. Following the review of the task force, we will communicate their findings and recommendations accordingly.