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Dr. Oscar Barbarin joins UMD as Chair of African American studies

By Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the University of Maryland
On September 7, 2015
Oscar Barbarin

Barbarin is a renowned scholar in African American,
Latino psychological disorders.

( – The African American Studies Department (AASD) at the University of Maryland (UMD) named Dr. Oscar Barbarin, a pioneering developer of culturally sensitive assessments of psychological disorders in African-American and Latino children, as its new chair. Selected after an extensive national search, Barbarin is a full professor in AASD with a joint appointment in the Department of Psychology.

The University System of Maryland also named Barbarin as the Wilson H. Elkins Professor, a distinguished professorship bestowed upon faculty who have demonstrated the ability to lead and inspire students at all levels, achieved excellence in their fields as well as in areas other than their traditional discipline, and passionately pursued scholarly endeavors beyond the University System of Maryland.

“As our African American Studies Department approaches 50, Dr. Barbarin will fortify its strong tradition of interdisciplinary research – one that he himself helped create,” said UMD President Wallace D. Loh. “He is a major addition to our faculty and academic leadership.”

Barbarin, a native of New Orleans, most recently served as the Lila L. and Douglas J. Hertz Endowed Chair in the Department of Psychology at Tulane University. He previously held academic appointments at the Universities of Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina. His arrival at Maryland is therefore a homecoming; from 1974 to 1979, he served as an assistant professor in the Clinical Psychology Program and as director of the Community Field Station in the Department of Psychology.

In his new role, Barbarin will continue his pioneering work examining educational interventions for achievement and social well-being, as well as the role of community and family in health risks and health threats. He also will take on administrative duties for a dynamic and rapidly growing department.

“I want to engage the faculty in developing a vision for the department that builds on its current strengths, integrates undergraduate teaching and research, reaches out to collaborate with other units – particularly those in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences – and applies its intellectual energies to understanding and solving the critical issues facing communities of color in the state of Maryland,” said Barbarin.

Barbarin is a clinical psychologist with post-doctoral training in social psychology. His scholarly work has focused on the emotional and academic development of children of color, particularly children growing up in poverty. He has served as principal investigator on a national evaluation of the quality of Pre-K programs and on a multi-state family-school intervention to strengthen social competence and academic skills in boys of color ranging from pre-K to 3rd grade. 

“Our entire community is excited to welcome a distinguished scholar such as Dr. Barbarin, who will provide outstanding leadership for our African American Studies Department,” said Dean Gregory F. Ball of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

“My scholarly pursuits and ambitions have largely been driven by intellectual curiosity about the resilience of children growing up in adverse conditions such as economic disadvantage and social stigma. Having grown up in poverty in a highly segregated New Orleans, these concern were personal and familial,” said Barbarin. “Over time, I have studied the academic and psychological well-being of children facing a variety of adversities including chronic and life-threatening illness, poverty, violence, racism, stigmatization and an academic achievement gap. A common goal in in the study each of these diverse phenomena must understand the impact of stressors on families and to elucidate how family functioning moderates the effects of adversity and stress in the lives of children.”

Barbarin earned a B.A. in philosophy from St. Joseph’s Seminary College, and an M.S. in psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Rutgers University. He was a post-doctoral fellow in Social Psychology at Stanford University.

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