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Distinguished Alumni Impact Awards

Distinguished Alumni Impact Awards recognize one alum from each psychology program (undergraduate, masters, doctoral) who, in their careers after Loyola, have used their psychology education and training to make significant contributions to their community or profession in a way in which is consistent with Loyola’s Jesuit mission and the department’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. The awards were presented at the Psychology Department’s 50th Anniversary Dinner, held this past fall!

Undergraduate Alumni

Ashley Biggs
Ashley Biggs, '08 Finalist
Chief of Staff at Paterson Habitat for Humanity
Nayena Blankson
A. Nayena Blankson, '01 Award Winner

Full Professor of Psychology at Spelman College
Dr. A. Nayena Blankson is a Full Professor in the psychology department at Spelman College. She is originally from Winneba, Ghana. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in psychology and minor in mathematical sciences from Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland) in 2001. She earned her Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from the University of Southern California. Her primary advisor was the late Dr. John L. Horn. She also worked with Dr. Rand Wilcox. After completing her Ph.D., Dr. Blankson spent two years as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she specialized in child development research.

Dr. Blankson joined the faculty at Spelman College in 2009. She was promoted to Associate Professor, with tenure, in 2015. Dr. Blankson was promoted to Full Professor in 2019 (before age 40!) and is among the ranks of the very few Black women Full Professors in the US.

Dr. Blankson is the recipient of several grants to support her research and grants to support training of students, including grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Blankson is the director of the Cognition and Temperament (CAT) Lab at Spelman (Research funded by NIH R15HD077511, NSF Award #1832090, and NIH R01MD016085); and she is the Director of the INSPIRE U2 summer REU site (NSF Award #1852056). Since 2018, Dr. Blankson has served as Program Director of the Spelman RISE Program (NIH 5R25GM060566), joining Dr. Dolores Bradley Brennan.

Dr. Blankson's research has been published in journals such as Child Development, Early Education and Development, and Learning and Instruction, among others. Dr. Blankson has won awards for her teaching and research, including the Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award in 2012 and Spelman's Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship in 2014. She is an elected member of the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology. Dr. Blankson is a 2022 recipient of the Spencer Mentor Award from the Spencer Foundation, and an invited Full Member of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. She is a consultant or advisory board member for several grants and organizations, and she is a certified Data Carpentries instructor. Her computer skills include Mplus, SPSS, R, and Microsoft Office, among others.

Dr. Blankson's quantitative interests include psychometrics, multivariate methods, moderated mediation, the design of psychological research, and structural equation modeling. Her substantive research is focused on cognition, emotion regulation, and classroom experiences as moderators and mediators of early academic achievement. She has consulted on research examining pubertal development, college student friendship formation, dyadic relationships among couples, and maternal depression, among other projects. She is available for speaking or consulting engagements.

Robert Cramer
Robert J. Cramer, '04 Finalist
Associate Professor and Irwin Belk Distinguished Scholar at UNC Charlotte

Masters Alumni

Courtney Bancroft
Courtney Bancroft, M.A. '09, Psy.D. Finalist
Director of Digital Behavioral Health at Northwell Health
Janine Domingues
Janine Domingues, M.S. '07. Ph.D. Finalist
Clinical Psychologist at the Child Mind Institute
Leah Rubin
Leah H. Rubin, '02 Award Winner

Associate Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Leah H. Rubin completed her Bachelors degree at Franklin and Marshall College, Masters in Clinical Psychology at Loyola University, and Ph.D. and Masters of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently a full-time, tenure-track Associate Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Dr. Rubin’s work is dedicated to improving the cognitive and mental health of a number of vulnerable populations including people with HIV, serious mental illness, aging, dementia, and traumatic brain injury. Since arriving to JHU in July 2017, Dr. Rubin has established a highly productive, cutting-edge National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded program of interdisciplinary, clinical translational research centered in the Johns Hopkins Brain Health Program, which she co-founded and directs. The broad goal of her research is to advance scientific understanding, policies and practices to optimize brain health in these vulnerable populations nationally and internationally.

She has been continuously funded by the NIH since 2007, and currently has over 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts (many in top-tiered journals) that have been cited over 4300 times since 2017 (h-index 38 and i10-index is 108). As seen in the NIH Reporter, Dr. Rubin currently leads four Principal Investigator (PI) or Multi-PI (MPI) NIH-R01 level grants, and is MPI on the JHU NIMH-funded P30 in neuroHIV, co-Director of the Clinical Core within our Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

Dr. Rubin’s collegiality, motivation, and exemplary work ethic have led her to be elected into national and international leadership positions within the HIV arena including co-chair of the neuropsychiatric scientific working group in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS)/ Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) Combined Cohort Study (MWCCS), the largest prospective cohort study of the natural and treated history of men and women living with HIV. Through these leadership positions and the JH-Brain Health Program, she works to mentor the next generation of neuroHIV researchers from around the country and engages in research capacity building internationally.

Doctoral Alumni

Judith Green
Judith Green, Psy.D. '00 Finalist
Director of Counseling and Health Services at Ramapo College
Rich Moore
Rich Moore, Psy.D. '13 Finalist
Director of Psychological Health, U.S. Army
Shreya Hessler
Shreya Patel Hessler, Doctoral Class of '03 Award Winner

Owner, The MINDset Center
Dr. Shreya Hessler is a member of the 2003’s Doctoral Class. She fully believes that every achievement as a clinician, educator, leader, author, and program developer was born from the richness of Loyola University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, its outstanding curriculum, and a supportive faculty of lifters and mentors. Since her start at Loyola, she took advantage of the program’s bold steps to cultivate conversation about the mental health needs of underserved communities and minority populations. Her foundation in South Asian help seeking research led her to teach undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education courses with a focus on diversity. She held a visiting faculty position at Towson University for several years and also taught several courses at Loyola. When she sought experiences in advocating for psychologists, Dr. Hessler became active in the Maryland Psychological Association where she served first as a committee member and eventually on its Board of Directors. In 2018 she was elected to the Presidency of the Association and was the youngest and first woman of color to hold the position. During her term, she endeavored to invite early career psychologists of diverse representation to take on leadership roles. During her tenure, a Legislative Leadership Academy was launched to train the next generation of advocates for the profession. 

Dr. Hessler’s clinical practice also has strong roots in the mission of serving communities in need. During her training, she was tasked to connect discharging inpatients with mental health care in their hometowns and often found that counties north of the Baltimore area had high need but few clinicians. When she identified that there was a dearth of clinicians in Harford County, she built a practice there to improve access to care. Since then, her practice, The MINDset Center, has grown to a group of multiple clinicians who deliver quality empirically validated treatment to children and adults. Over her career, she provided services through the Pro Bono Counseling Project, deliberately serving communities such as the Eastern Shore, where there is limited access to mental health care. Her advocacy earned her the Governor’s Award for Victims’ Assistance in 2011. In 2019, she was awarded the Maryland’s Top 100 Women award for efforts to have minority voices heard on issues related to health care. In recent years, drawing on her experiences in all of these roles, she authored a children’s book on anxiety, Bianca Finds Her Bounce, mindfully depicting characters of color, so that young readers of many identities could see themselves when understanding their struggles. Finally, her present work as the program creator of Person Before Player, was birthed from the trends seen in the mental health of youth athletes in our nation, which is yet another community where there is a lack of necessary dialogue about seeing athletes as people before they are players.

Over the past nineteen years, Dr. Hessler has returned to Loyola to teach, supervise in the Clinical Centers, and serve on the Alumni Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences, having a front row seat to the evolution of the department where her former faculty, classmates, and students have become colleagues and lifelong friends. She gratefully shares this journey with the love and support of her husband Jason and three children Isabella, Bianca, and Jai.