Engaged Scholars: Scott Graves

News — August 28, 2023

Engaged Scholars: Scott Graves

August 2023

Engaged Scholars is a series highlighting Ohio State faculty who have made an impact in our communities through their community-engaged research and teaching.


Front from left: Scott Graves; Dr. Danita Thornton, Supervisor of Psychological Services; Dr. Mikki Nelson, Executive Director Office of Accelerated and Extended Learning

Rear from left: Ms. Erin Stoliker, Supervisor of Psychological Services, Mr. John Cook, Supervisor of Psychological Services; Dr. Robyn Floyd, Manager Medicaid and Psychological Services

Scott L. Graves Jr.
College of Education and Human Ecology/School Psychology Program

In order for students to reach their full potential, access to evidence-based programing that facilitates optimal development is essential. Unfortunately for Black youth, there are significant opportunity gaps that exist that have made this difficult. Accordingly, my research agenda can be broadly categorized as understanding protective factors that lead to positive youth development. These interests have led my research program to focus on interpersonal strengths and how youth from racially diverse backgrounds, particularly African American children who are successful in their academic and social development differ from their less successful peers. I seek to gain a better understanding of how constructs such as parent involvement, teacher-child relationships, racial socialization, school quality and culturally related strengths serve as protective factors in relation to positive outcomes. In order to further the study of optimal youth development I focus on two research initiatives that focused on community-engaged scholarship: 1) Developing, implementing and evaluating school-based interventions that focus on children's strengths and 2) Improving the service delivery for children at-risk by understanding specific factors related to improved school psychological services.

Why is it important to engage the community in your research and teaching?

In my experience as a licensed psychologist, community engagement is the most effective way to improve social-emotional and academic outcomes for students. Professors do not have the only source of knowledge. Communities also have valuable experiences that can enrich research and teaching. My focus is on Black communities and they are disproportionately affected by educational opportunity gaps. By engaging with communities, Professors can help create a more just and equitable society and help to improve their quality of research and teaching.

What led you to the path of engaged scholarship? How did you get started?

I am blessed to be a 4th-generation college graduate. My great grandmother Martha Froe graduated from Bluefield State University (then Bluefield Colored Institute) in 1903 and my great grandfather Saunders Moon graduated from Virginia State University (then Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute) in 1898. My family instilled in me the value of education as a great equalizer. I experienced this first-hand growing up in southern West Virginia, where community organizations such as churches (e.g., Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church) and Divine 9 organizations (e.g., Alpha Kappa Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi) used their resources to support community members.

So my engaged scholarship as a professor was a natural extension of my upbringing in southern West Virginia. I was fortunate to have Dr. Lynda Brown Wright as my mentor and graduate advisor at the University of Kentucky and she helped to provide me with practicum experiences working in under-resourced schools. During this time I was able to implement academic and behavioral interventions with a focus on Black children. As such, my engaged scholarship started when I was a graduate student.

How has your scholarship benefited from engaging with community partners?

Working in academic settings requires a different skill and mindset than schools and communities. So my research has maintained authenticity by partnering with school stakeholders by getting input on how university resources can be used to improve student outcomes. This has ensured that my research has stayed grounded and relevant to the communities that I want to provide service to. My role as an engaged scholar has also allowed my advisees to obtain faculty positions, become leaders in school districts and to understand how to become good colleagues and leaders in the field of psychology by being able to work in a respectable way with community partners. Being an engaged scholar has also helped my teaching by allowing me to gain different perspectives that I can bring into the classroom, which can help students to better understand the concepts they are learning.

What has been a highlight of your community engagement experience?

The entire process has been rewarding; however, I received a $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant will allow me to reach approximately 4,500 children per year in the Columbus City School district. The grant will allow me to expand access to mental health services for children in the Columbus City School district by training and hiring 44 preservice school psychologists. The overall goals of this grant are to: a) To increase the number of highly qualified school psychologists to provide mental health services in schools with high need; b) to improve the quality and quantity of mental health services accessed for students in these schools and c) to increase the number of underrepresented school psychologists.

What advice would you give to faculty and students who are interested in engaging the community in their scholarship?

Humble yourself and develop authentic relationships. Many universities have problematic relationships with communities because of the frequent extraction of resources (e.g., gathering research data and survey administration) without tangible benefits to school districts. This type of exploitation has been seen frequently in communities and school districts with large Black populations. As such, there can be a level of distrust among communities and schools when developing school-university partnerships.

Sample Engaged Scholarship

Aston, C., Graves, S., McGoey, K., Townsend, T., & Lovelace, T. (2018). Promoting sisterhood: The impact of a culturally focused program to address verbally aggressive behaviors in Black girls. Psychology in the Schools, 55, 50-62. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22089

*Note: This is a school-based intervention

Graves, S., & Aston C. (2018). A mixed-methods study of a social emotional curriculum for Black male success: A school-based pilot study of the Brothers of Ujima. Psychology in the Schools, 55, 76-84. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22088

*Note: This is a school-based intervention

Graves, S. L., Jr., Herndon-Sobalvarro, A., Nichols, K., Aston, C., Ryan, A., Blefari, A., Schutte, K., Schachner, A., Vicoria, L., & Prier, D. (2017). Examining the effectiveness of a culturally adapted social-emotional intervention for African American males in an urban setting. School Psychology Quarterly, 32(1), 6274. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000145

*Note: This is a school-based intervention

Graves, S., Smith, L.V. & Nichols, K.D. (2021) Is the WISC-V a Fair Test for Black Children: Factor Structure in an Urban public school Sample. Contemporary School Psychology, 25(2), 157-169 https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-020-00306-9

*Note: This a project that uses intelligence testing data from a school district

Phillips, T., Graves Jr, S. L., & McCallum, E. (2022). The effect of video self-modeling for Black boys with challenging behaviors in an urban setting. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 38(3), 205-222. https://doi.org/10.1080/15377903.2021.1941469

*Note: This is a school-based intervention