Two San Francisco Students Awarded a $10,000 Scholarship from the American Psychological Foundation

Two San Francisco Students Awarded a $10,000 Scholarship from the American Psychological Foundation

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — May 6, 2013 — Congratulations to students in Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) clinical psychology PsyD program in San Francisco Melody Schaff and Goldie VanHeel who have been awarded the 2012 Scott and Paul Pearsall Scholarship from the American Psychological Foundation (APF).

Their research will be conducted under the auspices of Alliant’s Institute on Disability and Health Psychology and supervised by Dr. Rhoda Olkin, director of the Institute, a distinguished professor and CSPP core faculty member in San Francisco.

The $10,000 in funding from the Pearsall Scholarship is awarded to support graduate work aimed at increasing the public’s understanding of the psychological pain and stigma experienced by adults who live with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.

Schaff and VanHeel plan to use the APF funding to study the effects of microaggression on women with physical disabilities as well as another minority status, such as being LGBT or women of color. Negative attitudes, false assumptions and interpersonal stigma are often manifested in microaggressions, which are brief, commonplace communications that are verbal, behavioral or environmental and contain a hostile message, derogatory meaning, negative slights, invalidation or insults.

They will conduct this research for their tandem dissertation project, “How Women with Visible and Invisible Disabilities Manage Microaggressions, Stigma and Multiple Identities.”

Schaff is a first year student in the clinical psychology PsyD program. She received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA and is currently a practicum trainee at Through the Looking Glass in Berkeley, CA, where she works with families with disabilities. She is also working under Dr. Pearl Werfel and Dr. Rhoda Olkin, as a research assistant on a project entitled “Stress and Pain Management for People Who are Living with Multiple Sclerosis.” Because she is living with multiple sclerosis herself, she brings a first-hand point of view to disability research. In addition to disabilities, her primary research interests are health psychology, spirituality and stress management.

VanHeel is a third year student on the Social Justice Track in the clinical psychology PsyD program and is also a member of the Rockway Queer Alliance. In addition to earning her PsyD, she is also working to complete the LGBT Human Services and Mental Health Certificate through CSPP’s Rockway Institute. She is currently in practicum at Conard House serving the severely mentally ill with dual diagnosis and substance abuse. This has ignited her passion for community mental health care and has furthered her interest in disability research. VanHeel’s current interest in disability research and the intersectionality of sexual orientation and disability comes from her own experience of being a lesbian who has been living with multiple sclerosis for the last 12 years.