Two photos of women from the shoulders up next to each other.
Kim Case, Ph.D., and Heather Jones, Ph.D., professors in the Department of Psychology, have each been recognized by national academic societies for their contributions to diversity. (Photos provided by Kim Case and Heather Jones)

Two VCU psychology professors earn national awards for dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion

Kim Case and Heather Jones are recognized by American Psychological Association divisions for their career-long commitment.

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Two professors in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences have earned national recognition for their commitment to diversity.

Kim Case, Ph.D., has been named the 2024 recipient of the Promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Award by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and Heather Jones, Ph.D., has been named the 2024 recipient of the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Diversity by the Society of Pediatric Psychology. Both societies are divisions of the American Psychological Association.

“We're so excited to celebrate the recognition of Drs. Case and Jones for their considerable efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in the teaching, professional training and research in psychology,” said Kevin Allison, Ph.D., a professor and chair in the Department of Psychology. “Both Dr. Jones and Case have grounded their work in a fundamental commitment to equity and social justice. They have each made so many contributions to enhance the teaching in psychology and in higher education overall.”

Jones, an associate professor and co-chair of the national Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology Training Council, said the award, which honors a pediatric psychologist who promotes understanding and respect for diversity in research, policy or practice within their field, is a highlight of her career.

“Much of the work that faculty do around diversity, equity and inclusion is invisible or not always valued in traditional academia,” she said. “I am humbled by this recognition of my almost 20 years of scholarship, mentoring and service – all centered in some way on DEI.”

Jones’ research and work focuses primarily on Black children, their families and maternal mental health, as well as training the next generation of health service psychologists. She serves as co-director of VCU’s Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative, which provides free behavioral and mental health services to underserved populations in safety net primary care settings in the Richmond area and rural Virginia.

Case, a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies, said she has long felt responsible for changes even beyond the classroom, making belonging and justice a priority. She hopes her award, which recognizes psychology educators who promote and prioritize DEI values through teaching and mentoring, will bring attention to the commitment of the Department of Psychology to infusing an intersectional equity lens into its entire mission.

Between 2019 and 2023, Case served as director of faculty success in VCU’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence before returning to the psychology faculty this past August. In that role, she introduced DEI and anti-racist teaching practices throughout faculty development programs and initiatives. Her current teaching duties include a study abroad trip with over 20 VCU students to Italy this summer and an upper-level undergraduate psychology of women course cross-listed with the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

“This award feels significant to me because it recognizes my work supporting faculty colleagues throughout the discipline of psychology and across other disciplines in their own development of intersectional, anti-racist, and social justice teaching approaches,” Case said. “Sometimes this type of work can feel lonely and you are not sure if you are making a difference, [but] this feels full circle because my faculty colleagues in the field of psychology are making a statement that my contributions matter.”