Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Psych Prof Advocates

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Psych Prof Advocates

Article excerpt

Dr. Matthew Lee's career path in academia has been largely influenced by what he calls "a deep sense of social justice."

As an assistant professor of psychology at James Madison University, Lee heads the Cultural and Racial Diversity Studies Lab, which examines areas related to racism, sexism and transphobia, or the fear or hatred against the transgender community.

Lee, who has a Ph.D. in clinical/community psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specifically focuses on the psychology of minority status and the effects of diversity-related coursework on improving attitudes among students. He discusses his cutting-edge scholarship and research not just as an academician, but as an activist.

"Political psychology is my background, and as I was learning diagnosis and treatment, I was thinking, professionally, how can I be an agent of change in the system and use the skill that I have to improve some outcome in the community?"

That outcome, Lee says, may be reducing depression or anxiety within the Asian American community or in other communities.

"I really thought my skill base was best suited for the classroom, so I wanted to develop a study where I could build a classroom intervention to see if it could benefit any student ... who took that class," explains Lee.

While in graduate school, Lee worked in student affairs as a graduate assistant, responsible for developing programs that would promote and empower Asian American students. He noticed that they were overlooked and underrepresented in student leadership positions. That led to his dissertation research on how educational interventions can improve and foster more positive identity.

"I constructed and designed a classroom study open to Asian American and non-Asian American college students."

The goal, says Lee, was to identity what kinds of psychological outcomes could be derived from participating in such coursework. The findings included enhanced cross-cultural communication and an improved ability among students to make friends. Lee says his findings were consistent with other research.

"Maybe other instructors at other universities could find out about this work and try to replicate similar kinds of classroom intervention," says Lee, adding that other published works in the last 10 years show that these kinds of classes are beneficial.

In April, Lee attended a conference at SUNY Farmingdale, where he conducted a workshop on the topic "Teaching About Transgender Issues in Psychology Classes. …

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