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Jay and Kay Peters

Jay and Kay Peters Graduate Psychology Student Support Fund

Jay Peters has a deep love for teaching and although he calls Durham, North Carolina home, he believes his time at University of Michigan as a psychology undergraduate student helped shape his path.

A 1981 Psychology alum, he went on to receive his M.S. from UNC (Chapel Hill) in 2000 in Vocational Rehabilitation and Counseling. Jay spent some time working in a family services center before beginning teaching at Durham Tech Community College, where he taught primarily social, general, and developmental psychology.

With the help of his wife, Kay, they established the Towering Pines Foundation in the 1990’s as a way of giving back and making a difference in the lives of others. The foundation recently donated $10,000 to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to establish the Jay and Kay Peters Graduate Psychology Student Support Fund which will provide stipends for graduate students enrolled in the Department of Psychology.

They wished to improve the lives of psychology graduate students by reducing some financial stressors. “Students shouldn’t have to spend the next twenty years paying off their education. They should focus on their career, certification and it’s hard to do that with a huge debt load,” explains Jay.

The university’s commitment to diversity helped them make the decision and Jay says, “We need underrepresented populations reflected in our field. I’m impressed with the University of Michigan’s diversity and believe the proximity to Detroit will help address the shortage of minority counselors. There’s so many mental health and public policy issues in our country and we need social workers and counselors now more than ever, but we also need them to reflect the communities they serve.”

Jay still teaches and came across a name one day that seemed familiar. He still has his college notebooks and discovered the name was a former Michigan psychology professor, Dr. John Atkinson. He also remembers unique opportunities he was given as undergraduate student in Ann Arbor. “Back in the 70s, behavior modification was trending in psychology. U of M set me up with a client working one-on-one in an office teaching behavior modification skills. It was very innovative at the time to expose an undergraduate student to that kind of experience,” he recalls.

Jay has been very involved in the Durham community, specifically within mentorship programs/after school mentorship for middle school students. He serves on various non-profit boards in Durham and sees the impact they are making. Next Step Housing is a non-profit Jay works with that provides apartments for people with mental illnesses. “Those residents don't have to live on the street now. It’s making a difference for them, and for our whole community.”

Kay was an Economics major at Duke and currently serves on the board of Caring House- a home away from home for those receiving cancer treatments at Duke Medical Center. She hopes the donation eases the financial burden facing graduate students.

“It is important that psychology graduate students reach their career goals in the absence of excessive debt.  Hopefully, our initial gift will highlight the need and inspire others to give as well.”

2021 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Maira Areguin: I have dedicated much of my academic journey to investigating the experiences of farmworkers with the hope to bring attention to their plight. I have conducted surveys with farmworkers and recently published on their experiences with environmental microaggressions; and have submitted a paper on interviews I conducted with Latina farmworkers and their experiences with sexual harassment and discrimination.

Jieun Chang: I am studying mindfulness and the dignity of people, and how mindfulness can help improve the mental health of graduate students who experience dignity injury. In the future, I hope to implement mindfulness education, environmental education, and mental health education into a mandatory education, so that all the people and nature can enjoy our lives on this planet together.

Rebeca Maxon: I am a two-time University of Michigan graduate and second-year doctoral student studying Educational Psychology. As a Latinx scholar and photographer born and raised in Detroit, my research focuses on how racial/ethnic identity, culture, community, and grassroots educational frameworks play a role in the empowerment and motivation of disenfranchised communities. 

Jessica Montoro: My research primarily focuses on how cultural and socioeconomic factors inform Latinx youths’ identities and familial messages around ethnicity, race, and social class. As part of my dissertation, I am exploring how Latinx youth’s ethnic-racial and social class identities relate to their academic adjustment, as well as their overall college experience. 

Nadia Vossoughi: During my time at graduate school, I have worked on developing two related lines of research. In my first line of research, I examine how individual and situational factors converge to motivate (or demotivate) people to push for inclusion and equity. In my second line of research, I examine the consequences of exclusionary and inequitable environments on marginalized group members’ academic and professional experiences.

2020 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Kevin Constante, Xin Sun, Kelsie Thorne, Nick Waters