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University of Dayton psychologist inducted into Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship, selected for award for local contributions to address homelessness

By Carolyn Kroupa '22

The Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship inducted University of Dayton psychologist Roger Reeb as a member for his collaborative leadership among academic and community peers in addressing significant community issues such as homelessness.

Reeb, who has incorporated service-learning pedagogy in his curriculum for more than 25 years to support community-based research, was one of the 25 new members inducted this year from across the globe.

“It’s an honor to get this award, and it reflects acknowledgement of my work at the local, regional and national levels and provides more opportunities to contribute at the international level,” Reeb said. “I’m happy to have an opportunity to have some influence on community engagement becoming even more prominent at UD and other universities.”

The academy’s mission is to provide expertise to policymakers, higher education institutions and organizations, community leaders and national and international entities interested in addressing complex societal issues through the effective engagement of higher education with community members and organizations.

Reeb, professor of psychology, was inducted into the academy in January during a virtual ceremony. In November 2021, he was selected for Montgomery County’s inaugural Homeless Solutionary Award, which will be presented in March at the 2022 Continuum of Care meeting in Dayton. The Homeless Solutions Policy Board notes that "a homeless solutionary is a person who is motivated by compassion and social justice to use creativity, critical thinking and collaboration to end homelessness, its root causes and interconnected problems." In 2019, he was named a fellow of the Midwestern Psychology Association.

One of Reeb’s specializations is behavioral activation research, which shows that engaging in productive activities leads to a sense of reward or reinforcement, which results in an increase in productive activities, as well as improvements in mood and cognition. As part of his research and teaching, Reeb’s graduate and undergraduate students work at homeless shelters associated with St. Vincent de Paul to support shelter residents as they work to overcome personal challenges as well as obstacles associated with homelessness.

Incorporating service learning pedagogy into the curriculum “enhances students’ learning and civil development,” Reeb said.

When Reeb’s students work at a homeless shelter, they interact with and support people in various activities. For example, students help with computer work, job searches and resumes. Students also assist with stress management, interventions to enhance coping and social support. They employ an array of strategies that often incorporate contributions from Reeb’s many community partners.

“Students have an opportunity to develop an expertise within this project and, to some extent, become a ‘jack of all trades’ to fill in the gaps in addressing needs,” Reeb said. “This requires additional training for students, as well as constant supervision, which is facilitated by the collaboration between graduate and undergraduate students.”Alumna Jennifer Zicka ’18 worked with Reeb at homeless shelters doing behavioral activation research. He served as a mentor for her independent research capstone project.

“When I came to Dr. Reeb with the idea of teaching ASL (American Sign Language) at the shelters, he immediately wanted to help me implement my project,” Zicka said. “This allowed me to gain a sense of self-efficacy as a leader and as a server to the community.”

Zicka felt supported by Reeb throughout her research project. “He helped me overcome every barrier I faced and made me feel like what I was doing was not only important for my academic career, but also for the shelter residents.”

Zicka received the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean Leonard A. Mann, S.M., Award of Excellence in 2019 and is pursuing a doctoral degree in audiology at Utah State University.

Katey Gibbins ’19, who holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University, played a major role in the behavioral activation project by helping to establish a relationship with the Ohio State Extension program to build a farm at the men's shelter to assess the psychological benefits for those who helped build the farm. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Wayne State University.

“Working with Dr. Reeb helped me find my niche in the world of psychology and helped develop my views about my role as a future clinical-community psychologist,” Gibbins said. “Dr. Reeb taught me that it is our job as community psychologists to get out in the community, work to implement change and advocate for the communities we serve.”

Reeb’s research has shown that students who participate in the behavioral activation project have demonstrated improvements in community service self-efficacy, fewer stigmatizing attitudes and increased awareness of privilege and oppression compared to students who did not participate. 

His research also has found that as shelter residents participate in behavioral activation over the course of their shelter stay, they experience a multitude of benefits including feeling more hopeful and empowered, experiencing a higher quality of life, and a greater purpose and meaning in life.

“Community engagement, such as the behavioral activation project in homeless shelters, encourages students to transcend the so-called ‘UD bubble,’” Reeb said. “It provides them with real-life illustrations of concepts learned in the classroom and textbooks.”More than 300 undergraduate students across different majors have assisted with the behavioral activation project.

Undergraduate students benefit from this because it gives them a chance to work with and advocate for a population that's in need, according to Lee Dixon, Department of Psychology chair. It also benefits graduate students as they learn about research methodology and engage with the community in helpful ways that are informed by research.

Reeb’s induction into the academy is “external recognition for the important work that we already realize in the psychology department that Roger does for the students and community,” Dixon said. “It’s validation for what we already see.

“Dr. Reeb has one of the strongest work ethics I know. His devotion to our students is unparalleled,” Dixon said.

For more information, visit the Department of Psychology website.

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