A Broader Perspective on Psychology

Peony Fhagen, associate professor of psychology and chair of psychology department, has been teaching multicultural psychology at Wheaton for 11 years and runs the Self Development Lab. She currently is working on a multicultural psychology textbook to fill a void in the field and improve the information available to students.

“Multicultural psychology is a new field that really only became prominent in the 1990s,” said Fhagen. “Because this is a newer area, there is a lot of research being produced but it is not necessarily collected in a more thorough way in a textbook…I hope to offer a textbook that is more thorough and expansive in covering the research that has been done in the last 40 years.”

Her student research assistants—seniors Tyler Hicks, Patricia Vazquez and Maria Rios Brache—have been collaborating with her, helping to explore related literature and make decisions about what information is most important to include. And they are learning a lot along the way.

“They are having their research skills reinforced, they are having their critical thinking skills reinforced. They are also—especially last semester—engaging in analysis of current events,” said Fhagen. “They also are gaining an understanding of how they want to proceed in their future career as it pertains to having a positive impact on the way culture—either positively or negatively—influences human behavior, feeling and thinking.”

Professor Fhagen’s own experiences as an undergraduate inspired her to undertake this project.

“When I was majoring in psychology I felt that the voices of people who look like me and other ethic minorities were missing in the concepts and the theories that I was learning about…That has compelled me to be continually interested and passionate about multicultural psychology because it is the area of psychology that constantly pushes psychologists to take seriously the impact of culture—whether it be race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious, physical and mental disability—and how it impacts how we think and feel and behave.”