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Explore the innovative projects that have made an impact on our Palo Alto University community.


Academic Excellence

Chatbot Lab Tech Support
Eduardo Bunge, Donna Sheperis and Blanca Pineda

The Chatbot Lab was initiated last year thanks to a 22-23 AY Strategic Initiative Grant. It provided Master Students (MS and MA) and Doctoral students with the opportunity to do quantitative research, and user experience research to all of them. This grant will be used to continue to work on cutting-edge technology research that will focus on the development and testing of artificial intelligence-based chatbots. The funding from this grant will also support the software developers that will develop the AI-bot so that students can continue to do research on it.

Psychological Test Technician Project – Curriculum Grant
Rayna Hirst and Marion Minor

In 2022, a pilot Psychological Testing Technician Certificate program previously proposed and approved intended to provide PAU bachelor’s and master’s students and alumni didactic training, with the goal of becoming Psychological Testing Technicians (PTTs) registered in California. This grant would be used to compensate psychometrists and neuropsychologists in training for time spent contributing to the curriculum of the didactic portion of the training program.

Enhancing the Study of Interpersonal Dynamics in Simulated Clinical Interviews using Eye-Tracking Technology
Shreya Vaishnav and Mikael Rubin

Drs. Vaishnav and Rubin will utilize wearable eye-tracking technology to gain insights into the dynamics surrounding the experience of microaggressions and implicit bias during training interactions. Using this technology they will examine how these factors influence the therapeutic alliance, with the ultimate goal of devising effective methods to derive actionable insights for addressing these issues. This grant will be used to fund participants and further the study initiatives.

Advancing Equity, Belonging, and Opportunities for AANHPI Community
Darlene Chen, Carlie Belmodis, Shreya Vaishnav, Lina La and Janessa Rozal Chin

Last year marked the establishment of the AANAHPI Task Force at PAU, now WAVES (Weaving AANAHPI Values, Education, and Services), with the support of the 22-23 AY strategic initiative grant. This year, WAVES plans to use this grant to continue its mission by providing essential professional development opportunities, cultural events, inviting AANAHPI speakers, academic resources, and mental health support services for the entire PAU community.

Financial Strength

From Admit to Alum: Summer Receptions
Alaina Dunn and Chloe Corcoran

From Admit to Alum: Summer Receptions is an opportunity for Admissions and Alumni Relations to collaborate on Admitted Students/Alumni Receptions towards the goals of addressing summer melt in admitted students and continuing alumni engagement efforts, by hosting targeted receptions in key locations during July 2024. This streamlined approach prioritizes quality interactions over quantity, with weekends chosen to maximize attendance and host participation. Through this initiative, we seek to forge lasting connections that extend from admission to alumni status, enriching the university community at every stage.

Student Success

PAU Age Inclusion Follow Up Study
Rowena Gomez, Stephanie Storms and Mary Haesloop

In 2020-2021, Dr. Gomez and two students from her lab, funded by the Gerontological Society of America, conducted an age inclusion study at PAU. Now, they aim to conduct a follow-up needs assessment, focusing on perceived biases, specific needs, and potential programs to foster inclusion for older PAU members. This grant will be used to develop a strategic plan to address the needs that students, faculty, and staff have highlighted including enhancement of ongoing communication across programs.

First Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP)
Ana Castrillo, Mary Anderson, Alaina Dunn, Robert Randolph and Nora Marquez

The creation of a First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP) to support enrolled first-generation students. The program includes tailored sessions addressing common barriers and acquainting mentees with academic and community resources. The FGPMP will also aim to cultivate a strong support network, promoting a mutually beneficial relationship between mentors and mentees. This grant will be used to fund student assistants, speakers and operational needs.

PAU Mini Market Pop-Up Calendar
Chanel A. Ortiz and Ana Castrillo

This grant will expand on the Mini Market, facilitating a total of 6 "pop-up" shopping events during the 2023-2024 academic year. The Mini Market functions as a cost-free resource, providing canned and shelf-stable foods to the entire PAU campus community, irrespective of financial need, for both undergraduate and graduate students. This project aims to actively engage students from all academic programs and matriculations with the overarching objective to propose a sustainable framework for this pilot resource, ensuring consistency and long-term stability in addressing food and basic needs for the student population. This grant will be used to fund the cost-free resources.

Self-Compassion for Counseling and Psychology Graduate Students: Evaluating the Impact of Post-Admission Groups for Retention
Regina Moro and Susan Branco

Drs. Moro and Branco will utilize this grant to implement an 8-week structured psychoeducational group experience focused on self-compassion for newly admitted graduate students at PAU. This group experience will be grounded in self-compassion to increase graduate students' internal self-compassion skills and support students’ successful enrollment and completion of their first quarter of graduate school at PAU.


Promoting Black Excellence and Awareness
Jammela Ali, Erika Lambert-Shelton and Lnet Smith

This grant will fund the establishment of a comprehensive initiative aimed at promoting Black excellence and raising awareness about Black culture, history, and contributions within PAU. With a focus on empowering Black individuals, raising cultural consciousness, and building community, the initiative encompasses scholarships, cultural events, and the formation of a dedicated Black Task Force in the upcoming academic year.

Operational Excellence

Profile Enhancement Initiative: Elevating Engagement and Efficiency
Melanie Morrison, Carlie Belmodis, Jammela Ali, Amber Watkins, Lori Thomas and Jodette Yohana

This initiative will fund the evaluation and enhancement of PAU's current employee profile software options, including Pingboard and ADP, with the aim of fostering greater engagement and establishing a shared knowledge repository outlining individual roles within the institution. The primary goal is to modernize the existing employee profiles, merging them into a cohesive platform that integrates essential information. Moreover, the team is dedicated to maximizing the efficiency of the chosen system for improved operational performance.

Development of Licensure Search Tool
Jennifer Lehner, Patty Zapf, Kelly Coker and Genevieve Arnaut

Licensure data is essential to multiple of our mandatory annual reports. This grant will fund the development of a tool that can automatically search individual state licensure websites to
confirm whether individual PAU alumni have achieved licensure, then combine that
search data with other licensure data sources maintained by PAU (alumni surveys, APA
Professional Activities surveys, etc) ultimately create a comprehensive list of all PAU
alumni who have achieved licensure after graduation. This tool will increase effectiveness and reduce time-consumption at PAU.


2022 - 2023

Bilingual Certification 
Karen Roller and Darlene Chen

Development of an online bilingual certificate for students and clinicians to enhance Spanish and Mandarin clinical language proficiency, enhance multicultural awareness within the language group, and apply culturally responsive counseling skills when working with Spanish and Mandarin speaking populations.

Psychological Test Technician Project – Didactic Component
Rayna Hirst and Marion Minor

Establishment of a PAU task force to develop the didactic component of a pilot Psychological Testing Technician Certificate program.

Psychological Test Technician Project – Experiential Component
Rayna Hirst and Marion Minor

Establishment of a PAU task force to develop the experiential component of a pilot Psychological Testing Technician Certificate program.

Center for Global Mental Health Research and Training
Sita Patel

Development of a Center for Global Mental Health Research and Training (Center for GMH), to elevate the research, clinical service, advocacy, teaching and training that our faculty and students engage in across the university.

Engaging Community and Centering Community as a Source of Healing: “Breathing Black” Screening
Amanda Fanniff

Funding to pay for a screening of the documentary “Breathing Black” by director Tina Canady. They are also willing to offer a zoom Q&A for students after the screening.

Contextual analysis to inform use of traditional practitioners to prevent gender-based violence against women in Kenya
Sita Patel

Support to develop and submit an external grant application to conduct research on the use of traditional practitioners to prevent gender-based violence against women in Kenya.

AANAHPI Task Force
Darlene ChenCarlie Belmodis, Janessa Rozal Chin, Lina La and Shreya Vaishnav

Creation of a governing body that advocates and highlights AANAHPI community successes and concerns with all PAU units.

Developing a DASA Guidebook
Janessa Rozal Chin and Carlie Belmodis

Creation and development of a DASA guidebook to serve as a centralized resource, with visuals, a glossary of commonly used terms and FAQs of each office.

Learning in Bursts: Enhancing Learning and Retention Through Microlearning
Sarah Everley

Creation and development of microcourses for MA Counseling students who are in practicum and internship. Creating these courses will provide our students with highly focused, short, and quick learning modules that are byte sized content (single objective lesson, no longer than 10 minutes).

PAU Positive Period and Plumbing Project
Charlotte Beard, Fernando Galeano and Ruby McCoy

Funding will provide menstruation products in our Calvin Campus restrooms to ensure gender equity and working with facilities to reduce inappropriate flushing of menstrual products.

AANAHPI Task Force Initiatives: Facilitating Culturally and Linguistic Specific Training
Darlene Chen and Karen Roller

Development of a cross-listed elective online course titled Counseling Mandarin-Speaking Families and in collaboration with the PAU Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA) invite guest speakers involved in AANAHPI mental health support and research to share their clinical and research experiences working with AANAHPI populations with the PAU Community.

First-Generation Peer Mentor Program (FGPMP)
Ana CastrilloMary Anderson and Alaina Dunn

Launching of a First-Generation Peer Mentorship Program (FGPMP) at PAU. This peer mentorship program is aimed to provide first-generation students with a partner who will help them navigate unique academic challenges, provide support, and increase feelings of inclusivity and belonging.

Talking Mental Health Careers Podcast
Amber WatkinsKatherine Gardner and Tasha Prinkey

Development of an educational podcast series tentatively titled, Talking Mental Health Careers. The podcast's purpose is to provide career introductions to various specialties within the mental health field, with a focus on new and emerging areas of practice that address pressing needs in society.

Chatbot Lab
Eduardo Bunge

Creation of the Chatbot lab will give MS students a chance to gain research experience and publications. Students will learn how to develop chatbots that can be used for the current projects or projects of other faculty.

PAU eClinic: Community Mental Health Care App Initiative
Donna Sheperis, Anupam Khandelwal, Victoria Guinn and Roshni Joseph

Development of an app for the PAU eClinic that will allow clients to interface with their care team; receive assessment notifications; appointment reminders; and access to a curated selection of digital therapeutics. The ultimate goal is to provide a secure platform for clients to engage in digital therapeutics in addition to the video based therapy services currently provided in the eClinic.

PAU eClinic Website Development
Donna Sheperis, eClinic Advisor Board and Lee Vacarro

Development of a PAU eClinic website that reflects the cutting edge capabilities of a digital therapeutics training clinic; is HIPAA compliant; and engages PAU community stakeholders.

2021 - 2022

Extended Summer Bridge Program
Rowena Gomez & Tilman Schulte

Proposed an Extended Summer Bridge Program (ESBP) that includes a 4-week
summer workshop for incoming Undergraduate (UG) transfer students and provides mentoring support throughout the first year in our University’s 2-year completion UG Program.

DASA Internal Communications
Kristel NazzalSamiyah Wright, Janessa Rozal Chin

The project will focus on developing a communication map of the student lifecycle, from admissions to graduation and everything in between. This will enable us to identify the gaps and overlap in communications amongst all offices involved with student life at the
institution and to present recommendations to leadership. This process centers the student experience and will be focused and collaborative.

Understanding the Development of Emotional Regulation in a Population Cohort of South African Children & their Caregivers Followed Longitudinally from Birth through the first 10 Years of Life
Joan Christodoulou

Grant to prepare a NIH R21 grant with my collaborators aimed at examining, for the first time with both behavioral and neural measures, emotional regulation and attachment among South African mothers and children in field settings in Cape Town’s townships.

Virtual Reality in the Counseling Classroom: Experiences of Innovative Technology for Counselors-In-Training
Cristen WathenShreya Vaishnav, and Kelly Coker

The project aims to incorporate Virtual Reality (VR) technology into the counseling department's curriculum, specifically in the Diagnosis (COUN 634) and Counseling Skills (CLIN 615) courses, starting in Summer 2022. By purchasing VR headsets and a therapy platform, students will have the opportunity to experience VR therapy modules through demonstrations, role plays, and assignments. The goal is to enhance students' training by strengthening their skills in assessment, empathy, case conceptualization, diagnosis, and treatment planning. Additionally, the project intends to analyze the effectiveness of integrating VR into counseling and psychology training, potentially leading to research opportunities and partnerships. The impact will be assessed through pre and post surveys, assignments, and a qualitative focus group, providing valuable insights for future implementation and collaboration.

University Wide Technology Mental Health Emphasis at PAU
Eduardo Bunge

Project aims to expand the ongoing efforts to develop technology-based training at Palo Alto University.