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Published on December 8th, 2017 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Female Students of Color “Get Psyched”

Pictured ; MTC psychology instructor Eileen Price (left) and students A’Kiva Wright (center) and Shakeera Vail (right) study an exhibit on the contributions of American social psychologist Mamie Phillips Clark, one of the many pop-up exhibits on the national tour.

“The main conclusion was that children became aware of their own blackness very early…” Mamie Phipps Clark, American social psychologist 

(Irmo, S.C.) At first, Shakeera Vail, a Midlands Technical College (MTC) education major, thought she might have to change her hair in order to pursue a career in psychology. After attending the I Am Psyched! National Exhibit and Conference at MTC, she reconsidered.

“One of the presenters spoke about the struggles she had being a woman of color in the field,” said Vail. “Her hair was different, so she might have to change it. That stuck with me. Now I know as a woman of color, I should be able to wear my hair any way I want. It won’t have any effect on my job or being able to be a good psychologist.”

Midlands Technical College hosted the I am Psyched! National Tour this month. MTC is the first college in South Carolina and the first two-year college nationwide to host the tour. Almost 500 students and community members attended the exhibit at MTC.

The I am Psyched! National Tour, which launched at Howard University in Washington, D.C., is a multimedia pop-up exhibit that explores the history of contemporary contributions of women of color in psychology. It is designed to engage young women of color in the museum experience and show how psychology benefits daily life.

“This is the first time this American Psychological Association exhibit is at a two-year college,” said MTC Psychology instructor Eileen Price. “I am excited that two-year students have the opportunity to attend a conference that in the past has only been attended by four-year students.”

Price said the exhibit being at Midlands Technical College is an important breakthrough for two-year college students, not just students pursuing a degree in psychology, but for students in any program who have an interest in human interaction.

“We have students pursuing a variety of associate degrees who have voiced an interest in psychology,” Price said. “For them to actually be able to attend this conference and ask questions about graduate and undergraduate programs in the field of psychology is wonderful.”

A’Kiva Wright is an Associate in Science major at MTC, but after her classes exposed her to the field of psychology, she had a change of heart about her future. Wright originally wanted to become a neurosurgeon but soon realized she was more interested in how the brain works rather than the surgical aspect.

“I find (psychology) fascinating,” Wright said. “I’ve always been an artist who especially likes drawing people. In drawing them, I’d watch their behavior, start finding out how they think, and observe the subtle changes in their behavior based on what you might do.”

One of the many pop-up exhibits on the national tour was an exhibit on the contributions of American social psychologist Mamie Phillips Clark who did research in 1947. Clark tested more than 250 black children and found they found that by age seven, 87 percent of the children correctly self-identified by choosing the brown doll as the one who looked like them. However, in terms of racial preference, 67 percent of the black children chose the white doll as the doll they wanted to play with.

“The main conclusion was that children became aware of their own blackness very early,” wrote Clark in her research. Clark’s findings that black school children preferred playing with white dolls over black dolls brought light to racial segregation in schools, and it was highly influential to the “Brown vs. Board of Education” court case.

“It’s wonderful that we are able to show women of color and how they have made contributions in the field of psychology,” Price said. “We have women of diverse backgrounds here at the college as well as in the state. It’s important for them to see what women of color have done in the workplace and in society. It’s very inspiring to see the difference these women have made. It is very, very inspiring for women of color who want to go into the field of psychology.”

Vail, who said she is looking forward to not having to change her hair or anything else in order to succeed, said she hopes to make an impact on special-needs children.

“My psychology class has been so interesting,” she said. “I’m learning about how the brain works. Somehow, some way, psychology and special needs have to come together. I see things in my psychology class that strike me as so similar to things in my special needs class. Studying psychology will give me a better insight into how to deal with special needs children.”

Price said she is proud that a two-year college could become South Carolina’s stage for highlighting how women of color have made a major impact in the field of psychology. She said two-year colleges could be a great start for students with an interest in psychology who are still exploring their options.

“I enrolled at MTC to get a good feel for what college was like,” said Wright. “When you plan on getting a graduate degree or a doctorate degree, you might think you have to barrel straight through it. You have to know exactly what to do. Now. I know you can take your time and figure out exactly what you want and learn along the way. There are many different ways to go after it.”

Learn more about MTC’s psychology and other social and behavioral science courses at https://www.midlandstech.edu/learn/academics/academic-departments/social-and-behavioral-science-department.

 

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