On the Tenure Track: Danielle L. Beatty Moody (Ph.D. ’08, Psychology)

Danielle L. Beatty Moody (Photo courtesy of Danielle L. Beatty Moody)

Danielle L. Beatty Moody (Ph.D. ’08, Psychology) recently published her latest paper: a study of more than 1,900 residents of Baltimore that suggests that for African Americans, symptoms of depression appear to amplify the impact of discrimination in a way that is associated with a serious health effect: narrowing of the carotid arteries, which in turn can increase the risk of stroke.
 
Beatty Moody, who earned her degree in The Graduate Center’s Social/Personality Psychology subprogram with a health psychology concentration, has studied how unequal social status and treatment affect the health of African Americans since the start of her Graduate Center days. After earning her Ph.D., she went on to complete a postdoc in a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine program that draws on psychiatry, public health, and psychology. Now she directs her own 10-person lab, The Social Determinants of Health Inequities Lab, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where last year she was awarded tenure.
 
She recently spoke to The Graduate Center about her journey and her advice for students who are in the early stages of their own careers.
 
The Graduate Center: You were born in New York City, and grew up in Queens and North Carolina. What brought you back to the city and to The Graduate Center?
 
Beatty Moody: In the fall of 1995, I was in my first semester of college at North Carolina State University, having just moved down from New York. Two events happened during that time that brought me back to The Graduate Center. First, on my 18th birthday, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. Second, the University of North Carolina system wished to avert any potential lawsuits that might follow Proposition 209, and preemptively remove race as a consideration for admission but maintain alumni legacy. These events both created palpable racial tension, which I realized directly linked past racial injustices to contemporary racial issues that shaped opportunity, access, and inequity. For me, these events created a watershed moment about the enduring complexity of race, privilege, and class.
 
Following these events, I selected a minor in Africana Studies and completed a summer study abroad in Ghana. Together these experiences were quite salient in helping me to think about my career overall and graduate training goals, specifically. I was looking for a program that had an expressed commitment to diversity and inclusivity. And, I wanted a program that would help me understand how to appropriately pull together key theoretical, historical, and empirical linkages between environment, social context, demographic factors, and health.
 
GC: How did you find the program, once you were here?
 
Beatty Moody: My cohort was such a great cohort. We were very diverse and came from very different backgrounds in terms of our training, exposure, our demographics, research interests, and career goals.
 
And I felt like the faculty were really open and supportive of trainees. I’d met with Professor William E. Cross (now emeritus) before applying. He had an affinity for training students and seemed very interested in the questions I wanted to ask. The Social/Personality Program (now the Critical Social/Personality Psychology training area) was already doing work that spoke to these sorts of issues. They were training people who were doing cutting-edge work and theory development around these processes.
 
GC: What was your biggest challenge during those years?
 
Beatty Moody: I was working a lot outside of my graduate training to support myself. The faculty worked really hard to identify resources for us. Professor Tracey A. Revenson (GC/Hunter, Psychology) was integral to that process. She and others at The Graduate Center helped me apply for a grant with a professor at St. John’s University, and that funded me for the last two years of my training. That was my first major grant.
 
Dr. Revenson understood that while I was being trained in social psychology, I was also developing a love for the health psychology piece and for how these pieces fit together. She worked with me to identify small grants. I remember her explaining to me that grants can beget grants. You should apply, and do a good job in your applications, but keep looking for more opportunities.
 
GC: What is your advice for students who are now working on their Ph.D.s and planning the next stages of their careers?
 
Beatty Moody: First: Don’t personalize the process in a way that is damaging to you. You’re going to get feedback on your work. And you want to look at the feedback that you’re given as an opportunity.
 
We spend way too much time vacillating over what we perceive to be our deficiencies. When really, if we spent that time focusing and reframing it – instead of saying this is so much purple ink, which my mentor used to mark up work – say, She gave me lots of feedback. This is going to be a strong document. That’s a very different frame.
 
Second: Do not be deterred. Pursuing a degree at any level is going to be a challenge.

Less than 2 percent of Americans have a Ph.D. You should fully expect that there are going to be challenges and roadblocks. Accept that part of the process, and look for all the resources you can to manage and overcome them instead.
 
Third: Be determined. If one door doesn’t open, just keep trying, and be kind in the process.

Submitted on: FEB 13, 2020

Category: Alumni News | Diversity | GCstories | General GC News | Social Personality