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Jay & Kay Peters

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.”

2020 Jay and Kay Peters Award Recipients  

Kevin Constante: My research focuses on how youth develop their sense of identity regarding their ethnic-racial group membership and its implication on their adjustment. My current work considers possible ways brain networks may be organized when youth have thought about what it means to belong to their ethnic-racial group or have engaged in ethnic-racial identity-defining experiences.

Xin Sun: I am interested in the influence of bilingualism on children’s literacy development. My dissertation specifically looks at how Chinese-English bilingual and English monolingual children learn to read in different ways through behavioral as well as neuroimaging methods.  

Kelsie M. Thorne: I am a doctoral candidate in the Personality and Social Contexts area. My research interests focus primarily on marginalized groups' experiences with authenticity and discrimination in the workplace. Within this context, I explore how concepts such as mentoring, spirituality, vigilance, and stress impact psychological and professional well-being.

Nick Waters: My research focuses on identifying factors that underlie associations between socioeconomic factors and children’s academic success. Specifically, I aim to understand the contextual (e.g., parenting and the home environment) and cognitive (e.g., self-regulation skills) pathways that contribute to variation in children’s academic achievement. The goal of my research is to ultimately inform policy and practice aimed at boosting the educational opportunities of students at risk for academic difficulty.