Scyatta A. Wallace, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

Psychology Professor Wins National Award for Outstanding Contributions

Drawn to St. John’s mission of serving those who are marginalized, Scyatta A. Wallace, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, has found the perfect environment to fulfill her work and interests.

Since joining the University’s well-regarded Psychology faculty four years ago, Dr. Wallace has earned recognition for producing major research studies, inspiring students and garnering many academic and professional honors. 

This year, Dr. Wallace received the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Carolyn Payton Early Career Award for “Gold Diggers, Video Vixens, and Jezebels: Stereotype Images and Substance Use Among Urban African American Girls,” a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. She was presented with the honor in August at the association’s annual convention in Orlando, FL.

Dr. Wallace also was awarded a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), effective October 1, 2012. The grant will fund her continuing research on the HIV/AIDS risk among young, formerly incarcerated African-American males.

Grateful for both honors, Dr. Wallace especially appreciates the APA recognition for her work on African-American women. “Getting such a positive reception for my first formal foray into researching issues that impact young black females gave me confirmation to do further studies like this one,” she said.

Her winning paper examines the link between gender, race and substance abuse. Essence magazine chose to tap her expertise for a recent article on skin color and self-image issues among American women.

“The research Dr. Wallace conducts is on the cutting edge in gender and risk behavior studies in populations that are usually ignored,” said Beverly Greene, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, who nominated her colleague for the award. “The University is very lucky to have her.” 

Dr. Wallace’s students agree. “I never anticipated having such a special relationship with a professor,” said Paola Ogando ’12C. “She has taught me so much about psychology and life — she has become my role model.”  Paola was one of 22 students who have served as research lab assistants for Dr. Wallace.  

Born in Liberia, West Africa, Dr. Wallace relocated to the United States when she was 12 years old. “My family — like most immigrant families — arrived here with practically nothing,” she said. “Their support and encouragement helped me to excel in school.” She still remembers the day she received a postcard from Yale University, encouraging her to apply. “This was the first time I thought that I might actually do great things some day.” 

Accepted to Yale, she entered college planning to study medicine. It was a stint tutoring girls in New Haven who lived in poverty and violence stricken areas that spurred Dr. Wallace’s interest in developmental psychology. “I felt I could contribute to society by finding ways to overcome risk-taking behavior,” she said. “I am particularly drawn to helping youth.”

A member of the Ozanam Scholars Faculty Research Advisory Committee and the Liberal Arts Faculty Council, Dr. Wallace also was asked to take part in the 2011 Summer Writing Institute in Paris, France.

She has participated as well in a multitude of professional activities that include service on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Black Psychology and Applied Developmental Science. In addition, she is a member of the African American Scholars Working Group of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and has chaired the APA Committee on Psychology and AIDS. Under her tenure, the APA adopted a resolution combining behavioral approaches with biomedical advances in the treatment of HIV. 

Dr. Wallace finds time to appear on NY1 and other media outlets to speak about challenges and issues that face African-American youth. She also contributes to health education panels on HIV prevention that Black Entertainment Television (BET) runs at high schools and colleges.

Above all, Dr. Wallace is committed to opening doors for her students. “She has helped me expand my research skills and afforded me the opportunity to get involved in a high-level training program run by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta,” said Rebecca Elliason ’14G, who chose Dr. Wallace as her dissertation mentor and has been her doctoral fellow since entering graduate school. “She has been my mentor throughout my studies.”