Psychology student examines historical trauma and ethnic identity - The University of Tulsa
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Psychology student examines historical trauma and ethnic identity

Adrian Melton
Adrian Melton

Senior psychology major Adrian Melton has always had a special interest in Black history, but after learning about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and living through the Black Lives Matter movement, she realized the societal changes she could make, especially in the field of psychology.

At The University of Tulsa, she chose to write about the Tulsa Race Massacre for her psychology lab SPARTA (Study of the Prevention, Adjustment and Resilience to Trauma and Adversity). Studying the massacre through this lens transformed Melton’s interest into a passion to learn more about African American historical trauma and ethnic identity and how it can influence psychological symptoms.

This passion would lead Melton to apply for the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC), where she would research African American historical and racial trauma, focusing on colorism, microaggressions, PTSD and ethnic identity.

“Getting into TURC gave me an opportunity to hone my research skills and knowledge,” she said.

Her advisers – Associate Professor of Psychology Lisa Cromer, History Department Chair Kristen Oertel, and graduate student Aviva Johns – helped guide her through the research process.

“Doing interdisciplinary work with the psychology and history departments was amazing and challenging, but this work is important and much needed,” Melton said. “I get to learn so much about my ancestors – and not only the ways they persevered, but how they have continued to lift up generations of people.”

Throughout years of racial and historical trauma, the African American community never sat idle in oppression. “At every point in the history of slavery in the Americas, Black people were resisting, that resistance is resilience,” Melton stated. That resilience, and all the ways the Black community has resisted oppression, has pushed her to become a greater student and researcher.

Melton plans to continue researching how ethnic identity influences reactions to historical trauma in the fall and spring of her senior year, with goals to eventually apply to social or clinical psychology graduate programs with a focus on African American racial trauma.

“I would love to get into other aspects of Black racial trauma and potentially even create measures further down the line.”