Fall 2020 Newsletter

Caren Rotello outside in a gardenWelcome from Department Chair Caren Rotello

Dear Friends,

The beginning of the fall semester feels quite a bit different in Amherst this year, as our students have returned to online classrooms and our faculty and staff are working remotely.  Despite these changes, we are excited to meet students who are new to UMass and to welcome the return of familiar faces to our labs and (virtual) classrooms. 

We’re excited to share with you research news from PBS about things that really matter in today’s world: new data on the importance of social connections to health outcomes, on the development of young children’s beliefs about race and social status, and on psychological and societal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’re also proud to celebrate the well-deserved awards our faculty and students have received, and to tell you about the successes of several of our alumni.  I do hope you’ll enjoy these stories.

Please take a moment to send us your news. Alumni, #MeetMeInTobin (virtually!) to tell us what you’re up to, or stop by our Alumni pages to tell us your stories and share your favorite UMass memories. Most importantly, please take care and stay well!


Caren Rotello


The age when children begin to think about stereotypes and possibly shape them into individual beliefs is a crucial moment in their social development. New research at UMass Amherst by Tara Mandalaywala is trying to uncover at what point stereotypical beliefs may emerge, and how they can evolve into prejudicial attitudes. Read full article

Determining where stigma exists and what effect it’s having on our communities is vital to learning what we can do to counteract its harmful consequences. Allecia Reid, social psychologist at UMass Amherst, is studying the impact of stigma on the health of communities and how to improve the efficacy of health-related interventions. Her work also considers how the social connections we make affect the health behaviors we choose, and how our thoughts and attitudes may incite changes in this behavior. Read full article

PBS scientists are exploring how COVID-19 has affected our society, including people's social and behavioral responses to the pandemic, anti-Asian prejudice, mental health, and online social support. Read project abstracts

Scientists find that motherhood causes changes in the brain to make the mother prioritize her baby above all, including drugs

New research from a team of scientists, including Mariana Pereira, suggests that having a baby causes a mother's brain to change to make the child her top priority. For mothers with drug addictions, this change in the brain can make them prioritize their baby over drugs. This research paves the way for future studies on postnatal mental health and substance abuse. Read full article

UMass alumni share how PBS prepared them for a successful career

Find out how these bright alumni found their calling!

Read spotlights

Research Highlights

Award Highlights

In the Media

New Faces

Annie WrightAnnie Wright
Postdoctoral Scholar, Rudd Adoption Research Program

Annie Wright's research interests broadly focus on the risk and resilience among children who have been separated from their parents. More specifically, Annie is interested in fostering positive development among children who have experienced institutional care, domestically and abroad. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of Vermont, where she began her interest in studying parenting dynamics and the effects on child outcomes. While completing her Clinical Psychology MS and PhD at Virginia Commonwealth University, she conducted clinical and research work with youth in foster care, youth in institutional care, and incarcerated parents who are actively involved in parenting, though separated from their children. Her dissertation illuminated the patterns of adjustment among children in institutional care in Ghana and compared patterns to youth in two-parent-homes in the same region. Additionally, the project included qualitative data collected from caregivers and teachers to help explain findings within the cultural context of Ghana. Looking forward, Annie hopes to apply her research to policy and intervention work in order to ensure the best care and outcomes for youth who experience parental separation.

Virtual Events

Rudd Adoption Research Program Virtual Conference 2020-2021

families hold hands with children

Adopted Adults: Connections Across Generations

Our program committee has been hard at work developing a re-imagined virtual version of the Rudd Adoption Research Program conference. We are committed to sharing the valuable content of the previously planned in-person program and are excited to share with you the vision of the virtual conference. 

The program, Adopted Adults: Connections Across Generations, will span the 2020-21 academic year and feature both personal and professional insights that are shaping the future of adoption research, drawing heavily on the insights and work of adult adoptees themselves. 

The fall 2020 portion of the program, Adopted and Fostered Adults and their Families: Intergenerational Relationships and Community Connectionswill feature a dynamic group of speakers with a broad range of backgrounds. Throughout the fall, sessions will include presentations, dialogues, opportunities for networking through break-out sessions, and visual performances. The series will kick-off with a session hosted by Dr. Hollee McGinnis, conference program chair and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, which will host a dialogue featuring Susan Cox, Vice President, Policy & External Affairs at Holt International, and recipient of this year’s Rudd Adoption Program Life Achievement Award. Susan will be discussing the creation and sustenance of community connections with Hollee McGinnis, our Program Chair, who herself is a researcher, clinician, and community builder. They will be joined by two young adult adoptees, Alex Gilbert and Grace O’Neil, who are themselves building the adoption community in new and innovative ways. 

Registration for the sessions is required to receive links to the content.

All events will be archived on the RuddAdoption YouTube channel and will be available on-demand at no charge, through the generosity of the speakers and conference sponsors. The spring 2021 series will focus on navigating adulthood and constructing a sense of identity. Notification of all events will be on the Rudd Adoption Research Program Facebook page and on the Rudd program website. For more information, follow our hashtag #RuddAdoption, or contact Program Manager Jen Dolan at jdolan@umass.edu.