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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.”

2022 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Savannah Adams: My current research aims to identify potential differences in how people consider moral behaviors when making judgments about others in social settings. My work on this topic so far has led me to interrogate the existing research in the field of morality and push for a greater understanding of how we interpret and apply information about various types or domains of moral behaviors (e.g. helping family, helping one’s group, reciprocating an action, respecting someone else’s property etc.). 

Chayce Baldwin: Eighty-four percent of the world’s population identifies with a religious group, and in studies across the world, religious individuals are consistently happier and healthier. Religiousness can ease the psychological strains of uncertainty and poverty, and facilitate emotion regulation. Studies show that religious individuals even live longer. These findings suggest that religion is a potent intervention, yet, the psychological mechanisms that underlie its benefits are still unclear. My research aims to address this issue by testing novel mechanisms of religion’s benefit, using a multi-method approach. 

Silvia Navarro Hernandez: The US media and education system emphasizes the importance of studying hard so we ‘don’t end up flipping burgers for a living’. This perception is not isolated to food service, we see various forms of low-wage work that people have been socialized to view as unskilled, unimportant, and worth less recognition than higher-wage jobs. Given the rhetoric and perception that surrounds these jobs, my research focuses on the ways these views may impact the relationship between dignity and professional/psychological wellness moderated by social belongingness and union membership among low-wage workers.

Selena Tran: People constantly adapt to ongoing distractions. However, it is unclear what triggers the cognitive control processes necessary for this adaptation to occur. One view suggests that this process occurs continuously, where the greater the distraction, the greater the adaptation. Alternatively, adaptation may occur in a discrete, “all-or-none” manner. My proposed work aims to distinguish between these views of how people adapt to distraction. 

Wendy Guo: My dissertation focused on how an individual’s experience and knowledge of their native language can impact the development and processing of their second language, aka, the language transfer effect. I was also interested in the differences in language processing between nonnative and native speakers. The most interesting takeaway is that nonnative speakers tend to adopt a more analytical approach and focus more on individual words, while native speakers tend to process large chunks more holistically and not break down phrases into words when unnecessary.

2021 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Maira Areguin, Jieun Chang, Rebeca Maxon, Jessica Montoro, Nadia Vossoughi

2020 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Kevin Constante, Xin Sun, Kelsie Thorne, Nick Waters