Andrea Craft, graduate student in clinical psychology, has been awarded a three-year Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. The foundation’s mission states, “Through its fellowship programs, the Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.”
Factors in Craft’s selection included the demonstration of significant academic achievement, commitment to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, sustained personal engagement with communities, and being well-prepared to use the diversity of human experience as an educational resource in teaching and scholarship.
Additionally, all Ford Fellows are invited to attend the annual fall meeting where sessions on professional development are provided as well as opportunities to speak with publishers, gain professional insights and advice, and network with other current and former Ford Fellows.
Craft’s independent research builds off of a pilot study being conducted by the Work and Family Transitions Project directed by Maureen Perry-Jenkins, professor of psychological and brain sciences. This study tests an intervention designed to reduce prenatal parental stress and strengthen the co-parenting relationship very early in pregnancy among a low-income sample of new parents. This funded project is a collaboration between UMass Amherst, UMass Medial School and a community, home visiting program in Springfield, MA.
Craft’s research focuses on assessing both maternal, paternal and infant stress biomarkers across the perinatal period. Jerry Meyer, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences, is working with the team on this pilot study. He designed the original process for assessing cortisol in hair and has recently developed a new procedure to assess cortisol in fingernails. Craft’s project adds a novel approach to assessing infant stress, via fingernail clippings, a much more feasible approach since all new parents must clip their infant’s nails. The ability to link social stressors (e.g., poverty) and self-reported stress and depression to stress biomarkers in both parents and infants across the perinatal period will make a significant contribution to the current research base.