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Stacy Frazier

Mentor Spotlight

Stacy Frazier was Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Clinical Science Program in Child and Adolescent Psychology, Department of Psychology, Florida International University.

We chose Dr. Frazier because of her really thoughtful and inspiring responses to the questions about mentorship, particularly her commitment to helping her students engage in “extraordinary science.” Her nominator wrote in very glowing terms about how she is a true role model who is deeply committed to teach, training, and mentoring.

In describing her research interests, she says that the ongoing depletion of mental health resources disproportionately affects youth in poverty and ethnic/racial minority families, who, despite greater needs, maintain the lowest rates of service utilization. My research seeks to strengthen organizational capacity of natural, neighborhood settings to build resilience and reduce risks for mental health problems among vulnerable youth and families. Through collaboration with community partners, my studies examine a model for public mental health promotion that adheres to the following principles: 1. Align mental health promotion with organizational goals. 2. Leverage without over-extending natural resources. 3. Prioritize skills that reflect risk and resilience pathways common to multiple outcomes.

For how long have you been a member of ABCT?

I don’t recall when I first joined ABCT, but I believe it was during graduate school! (I reinstated my full membership in 2015 following an unintentional lapse.). Later, she wrote with the corrected date, saying “2007 (I found my membership card!).”

When did you begin mentoring?

I began mentoring doctoral students when I arrived at FIU as an Associate Professor in fall 2011. I have graduated two Ph.D. students, and I am mentoring six students currently.

Do you have a mentorship philosophy?

During our program’s annual recruitment day last year, I had the pleasure of hearing my students describe my mentorship philosophy, both in regard to research and professional development. They highlighted first, the extent to which I encourage them to explore their own interests – to develop a conceptual model and corresponding set of empirical questions that reflect their individual research goals and training objectives; and second, the extensive time we spend outdoors over coffee discussing career trajectories; public skepticism of science; scientific communication; and strategies for navigating the complex and sometimes competing priorities of science and career advancement. Though a little unconventional, we don’t define our work by any particular diagnosis, age group, setting, or method, but rather by a shared vision for alleviating the mental health burden and promoting mental health equity for vulnerable families living in communities characterized by food and housing insecurity, neighborhood violence, and resource poverty. My philosophy is to encourage students to let the literature guide them toward urgent and critical questions, justified by the most compelling science, informed by local stakeholders, and driven by their unique talents and interests. Reflecting on Karl Popper’s seminal writing, I want my students to conduct extraordinary science! Even more I want my students to be healthy, happy, and balanced and to conduct their work with humility, integrity, and cultural mindfulness.

What practices do you engage in that foster your mentorship style?

My research mentorship focuses on community collaboration, workforce development, intervention implementation, and sustainability planning in settings with scarce resources. Toward these goals, I accompany my students to many meetings with their partnering community sites (I attend less often as their skills advance). I recommend students to invite collaboration from content experts (as needed), thus emphasizing the value of and modeling strategies for multidisciplinary collaboration with colleagues internal and external to FIU. Rigorous science and career advancement in clinical psychology necessitate skills in manuscript writing and grant preparation. Thus, all of my students participate in both lead-author and collaborative manuscript preparation, national conference presentations, and all of them submit NIH dissertation grant applications (F31 or R36). I encourage my students to collaborate with their peers, within and across teams, highlighting the value and pleasure associated with collaborative research and writing. Alongside research mentoring, I also remind my students often (and work hard to model) that self-care is a priority, and includes health behaviors (sleep, diet, exercise), friends and family time, hobbies and socializing, service and volunteerism, and opportunities to disconnect.

What are your strengths as a mentor?

I believe a strong mentor is also a strong role model. I collaborate with community partners in schools and after school programs, and with multidisciplinary colleagues in education, school psychology, computer science, social work, nutrition, and public health. I have ongoing federal funding from multiple agencies (NIH, IES, USDA), and my publications reflect collaborative thinking and writing with graduate students, colleagues, and community collaborators. I also have 2 children, ages 14 and 16, and I’m extremely committed to modeling and encouraging students to develop a healthy work-life balance. Data point to concerns about work-life balance contributing significantly to the disproportionately high rates at which women scientists leave academia. I am highly committed to modeling and talking explicitly about balance, and supporting students to develop routines that foster a healthy combination of professional and personal success.

Whom do you perceive to be your most influential mentors?

Marc Atkins remains my most influential mentor. I went to the Institute for Juvenile Research in 2000 for a postdoctoral opportunity with Marc because his work responded to the unmet mental health burden facing our most vulnerable communities. In his words, “When we have a 20-year gap between research and practice, that is not a problem with practice, that is a problem with research.” Here’s what I learned from Marc. He doesn’t seek fame. He doesn’t publish only in the highest impact journals. His goal is not to win awards. Marc prioritizes responsible, rigorous, public health relevant research over speed and volume demands of academia. I often heard his colleagues chide him for working in schools and communities where he’s “never going to show that his program works” – but that was never his goal – he used to say, “It’s not about me.” Marc is widely recognized within children’s mental health services research as a leader. He has an accomplished career and colleagues around the country rely on him for vision, leadership, and collaboration. His greatest strength lies in his willingness to prioritize teaching, training, and mentoring. I believe my strengths as a mentor come from his example – it suddenly strikes me I should be instead nominating him for this award!

What do you tend to look for in potential mentees?

I am looking for students who can balance skepticism with enthusiasm related to the pursuit of knowledge in child and adolescent clinical psychology; students who share our team’s overall commitment to health equity and social justice; students who value community voice and stakeholder contribution to the design and delivery of mental health practice; students that appreciate the unique strengths and common challenges faced by historically disenfranchised and underserved communities; students who value the journey of doctoral training, not just the destination; and students who understand why it’s critical for scientists to be skeptical, creative, responsible, collaborative, and especially, humble.

What advice would you give to other professionals in your field who are starting out as mentors?

This is a great question! I have three pieces of advice: 1. Listen more than talk (you may learn as much from your students as they will from you!); 2. Encourage students to develop their own questions (rather than answer yours); 3. Invite and integrate feedback (I invite my students to tell me candidly and explicitly about opportunities for growth in my mentorship approach – for instance, what may be interfering with their training or productivity. Their feedback informs my efforts to improve my mentorship systematically in ways that matter most for them, without over-promising to be perfect!)

What do you enjoy doing for fun/relaxation?

I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family (my husband of 23 years, 2 kids, and 2 dogs), and taking advantage of the south Florida sun – swimming, barbecuing, camping, zoos and gardens, hammock and everglades trails. I judge high school speech and debate tournaments (in support of my son’s passion for Lincoln-Douglas debate) and I love musical theatre with my daughter (in support of her passion for singing). I am always looking forward to our trips back to Ohio to spend time with our large extended family and our annual family vacations during which we all disconnect completely!