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Dr. John Chaney

American Indian psychology program wins renewed $1.2 million grant

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The renewal of a five-year $1.2 million federal grant means more American Indian students at Oklahoma State University will have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees in the mental health field.

OSU has graduated around 35 clinical psychology doctoral students, thanks to continuous funding of its American Indians Into Psychology program through the Indian Health Service since 1997.

“Why is that significant?” OSU psychology regents professor and AIIP program director Dr. John Chaney asked rhetorically. “In 2018, we graduated three Ph.D.’s in clinical psychology — and we led the nation. There are so few Native American clinical psychologists that for us to have supported 35 is pretty good.”

With funding in place into 2024, Chaney will continue to look for ways to inspire and provide opportunities for future students.

One way he tries to do that is through a five-week summer enrichment program, which is aimed at Native American psychology majors who just finished their freshman year.

Participants conduct and present research, learn from faculty members about what they may face as clinical psychologists and travel the state to see what the health care delivery system looks like in urban and tribal clinics.

“Those that excel or show interest in research are connected with a research mentor and could end up with three years of undergraduate research experience,” Chaney said. “We try to nurture and develop local talent.”

OSU junior Sky Triece, a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, attended the summer camp in 2019.

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“The experience was like no other,” he said. “As a Native American and person of color that grew up in a small town in northeast Oklahoma, there weren’t many people that I could identify with. It almost feels as if the AIIP program was specifically for me. Being able to interact with people I could relate with on such a personal level was amazing. Not only did I learn that there are people I can relate within my field of study, but I learned that there are a plethora of career options available to me. One of the most important things I learned from the program is that the road ahead of me is not simple, but it will be worth it to have the ability to aid those in need and make an impact on a unique level.”

Triece plans to become a therapist or counselor and work with children in the foster care system.

First-year clinical psychology doctoral student Clayton Edwards, a member of the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, plans to work in a children’s hospital after completing his degree.

He credits the AIIP program with helping him tremendously as an undergraduate and now graduate student.

 “The funding that I received from the AIIP program as an undergraduate was a life-changer and truly provided a means for me to finish out my undergraduate career,” Edwards said. “Not only did the scholarship provide me with the ability to continue my education, but this program gave my education even more direction. The skills that I developed during the program helped me transition into my work as a research assistant in a Pediatric Clinical Psychology lab here on campus. I truly believe that I would not be where I am today without the American Indians Into Psychology program.”

Sky Triece
Sky Triece


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