University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Visiting Scholars

Rachel Steele

Rachel received her Ph.D. in 2016. She also holds a Master’s in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Prior to joining the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at UMass she worked at the United States Institute of Peace for three years addressing governance and legal issues in Iraq and post-conflict justice and reconciliation in a variety of settings. She had also worked as a peace activist in Seattle and in the Philippines (with the Mennonite Central Committee) working alongside local peace-builders.

Currently, Rachel is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hampshire College (2016-2017) teaching social psychology courses. Rachel has conducted two integrated lines of research on emotional and cognitive responses to intergroup provocations and to attempts at intergroup reconciliation. For example, her research has examined responses to terrorism and to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Her dissertation research focused on beliefs of victim group members and perpetrator group members about reconciliation efforts made by the government (in Chile for political and racial violence and in the U.S. for a racial injustice). 

Özden Melis Ulug

With a BSc major in Psychology and a BA minor in Studies in Politics from Middle East Technical University in Turkey, Melis received her MSc degree in Political Psychology with distinction from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland in 2011 and her PhD degree in Psychology from Jacobs University Bremen in Germany in 2016. She focused on the socially shared conflict understandings among different segments of society (e.g., politicians, scholars and journalists, and lay people) in the context of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. She has also conducted follow-up studies in order to understand the role of intergroup contact in different status groups on conflict understandings and peace-related outcomes, such as attitudes toward reconciliation and peace.
In addition to intergroup conflict, reconciliation and peace, her research interests also include collective action and solidarity between disadvantaged groups. Melis has recently conducted both qualitative and quantitative studies on protestors’ motivations and their solidarity experiences in the context of Gezi Park protests in 2013 in Turkey. She expects to conduct more research on how disadvantaged groups such as women and Blacks experience contact with the advantaged groups in the context of protests and activism in the US.