When Adaora Aguoji entered St. John’s in the fall of 2011, she had several major goals. Looking back now, she realizes how many she has already accomplished. She wanted to work in a...
Elissa Brown, Ph.D.
Award –Winning Psychology Professor Wears Many University Hats
With the award of a $1million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Elissa Brown, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of St. John’s PARTNERS Program, has added yet another arrow in the quiver of her academic achievements.
PARTNERS is a St. John’s program dedicated to providing free mental health services to the Queens community. The coveted, four-year stipend will enable PARTNERS to treat Latino and African/Caribbean American children who are victims of violence. The program will use therapies developed by Dr. Brown and her colleagues.
“With this federal grant,” said Dr. Brown, “PARTNERS will not only be able to serve hundreds of children who we were not able to reach previously, but we also will be able to gain an understanding of which treatments are most effective in helping them.”
“Our goal is to extend the reach of our services and create a therapeutic model that can be easily adapted to help multi-cultural families who may be hesitant about therapy,” said Dr. Brown.
Under Dr. Brown’s leadership, PARTNERS has raised more than $4.2 million in external funding from such organizations as the National Institutes of Health, NYS Office of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Justice and private foundations.
Tracing the arc of her journey and the decision to join St. John’s in 2004, Dr. Brown explained that after working as a psychologist in well-known medical centers, she was ready to join an academic institution. She chose St. John’s because it offered a first-class doctoral program in clinical psychology that emphasized student mentoring. She was also drawn by the multi-cultural makeup of the University’s student body as well as of the Queens community. In addition, she found St. John’s commitment to the Vincentian mission compelling.
Dr. Brown is especially proud that several of her mentees have taken what they learned at PARTNERS into new arenas. “I encourage my students to use their experience to create their own special-interest programs,” she said. Dr. Brown cited mentees who are beginning careers linking trauma to the treatment of HIV, eating disorders and human trafficking survivors. “I take great joy in seeing my students apply what they learned with me to fulfill their own social justice passions,” she stated.
“I owe my own success to good mentoring and knowing what a difference it can make, I feel a responsibility to give back,” she said. Consequently, she has assembled a student team at PARTNERS that consists of ten graduate students who receive fellowships, three Ozanam Scholars who volunteer their services and externs from schools other than St. John’s.
Dr. Brown has found her niche at St. John’s. “I get to wear a lot of hats here,” she noted. “I’m a full-time psychology professor, the executive director of a non-profit organization and member of the Vincentian Institute of Social Action (VISA) Faculty Research Consortium.”
She praises the University’s supportive environment that has enabled her to realize all of her personal and professional dreams. In addition, she stated, “ I also get sustenance from collaborating with a Vincentian university. It is a blessing to be able to work with an institution that serves the underserved, which has always been one of my goals.”