Alumni in Action

1 August 2014 met with Fulbright alumni Professor Triliva from the University of Crete and Professor Ghafoori for California State University, and discussed their recent Fulbright collaboration through the Specialist program on Global /Public Health.

Professor Ghafoori and Professor Triliva, can you tell us a few words about yourselves? What is your work on?

Ghafoori: I am a Professor of Counseling Psychology at California State University Long Beach (CSULB). My area of expertise is on the understanding and treatment of traumatic stress reactions in diverse populations, cultural conceptualizations of traumatic events, and health disparities in trauma-exposed groups. My research is currently focused on access to mental health care and efficacy of services for victims of crime and violence. I serve as the Diversity Chair for the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, which is aligned with my research and scholarly interests. I am also currently serving as the Director of the Masters Degree program in Counseling and as the Director of the newly funded CSULB Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center. In my role as the Director of the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center, I oversee trauma services, the educational training program for graduate students, and research. At CSULB, my responsibilities include curriculum development, admissions, mentoring of faculty/staff, advising, and teaching courses for graduate students.

Triliva: I am an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Crete. My tenure in the Department began in 1990 after a yearlong visit to Greece on a Fulbright Scholarship. My research at that time focused on identity and relatedness in adolescence living in rural and urban Greece. Upon completion of my dissertation, I stayed in Greece primarily because Psychology as a distinct discipline was just beginning to be established in the country and it was an exciting time. All of my research since then has been based in Greece and its focus has been identity and mental health promotion in community contexts. With the advent of the multiple and complicated socioeconomic crises that have taken hold in Greece my work has focused on the interplay of factors that have been impacting people's health in such a turbulent context.

Can you talk to us about your Fulbright collaboration and the Specialist program on Global /Public Health?

Ghafoori: Our Fulbright Collaboration was focused on public mental health. In order to understand mental health needs and issues in Greece, Dr. Triliva and I decided to co-teach a workshop and seminar course focused on public mental health research. We assisted students in designing and implementing research projects that are relevant and pertinent to the social situation in Greece today. The product of our course includes at least 4 research projects that are currently in the data collection phase. Dr. Triliva and I will continue to work with the students and assist them to disseminate their work at conferences. We also assisted students in enhancing their scholar-practitioner capacities by introducing practitioner skills and engaging in discussions of how their research may inform practice in clinical health psychology. In addition, Dr. Triliva arranged for me to provide consultation to the Psychology Department's faculty regarding restructuring the curriculum in applied health psychology so that it more closely aligns with the current needs of students and the current Greek context. I was able to meet with many faculty and students and engage in exchange synergies that enhanced my knowledge of mental health, disparities, austerity, and cultural conceptualizations regarding these issues.

Triliva: Dr. Ghafoori's Fulbright specialist visit came at such an opportune time; a time of reflection in our Department regarding our Graduate program in Health Psychology. She helped us delineate and consider the current social exigencies within the country, issues of training mental health professionals to meet the needs of a populace that has been gravely impacted by constant change in health care and severe austerity, and the capacities of our faculty, students, and community. Her manner, learned and insightful observations lead to in-depth dialogue regarding graduate training in psychology within the Greek context.

Moreover, the workshop- seminar course that we co-taught focused on health promotion within the community and several professionals attended the course and became involved in the research on community needs in trauma, debt psychology, stigma, suicidality, and empowerment. Apart from the community mental health professionals that attended the course, three members of a newly founded network aiming to support, engender solidarity, and create change regarding bankruptcy practices came to one of the lectures seeking assistance in both developing understandings of the mental health needs of the network's members and in providing assistance. One of our students and the Mental Health Professionals working in our local public hospital are now working with them. It was obvious from all that transpired in the course and in the follow up that Dr. Ghafoori and I have been doing that there is great need for assistance regarding health and mental health issues in Greece at the moment and that carefully conducted research and intervention initiatives can be of great service. The Fulbright Specialist Program facilitated the collaborations needed in order to advance the knowledge base for the interventions which are sorely needed.

What is next for both of you?

Ghafoori: Dr. Triliva and I plan to continue our collaborative work together by co-teaching an Advanced Family Systems Interventions hybrid course for graduate students at both CSULB and the University of Crete. This course will include a component in which my students and I will travel to the University of Crete and engage in a series of seminar courses with Dr. Triliva and her students. The development of this course was approved by CSULB, the University of Crete Provost, and the University of Crete faculty. We also plan to continue to assist our students to complete their research projects and disseminate their work at conferences and through publications. I have developed a wonderful professional and personal relationship with Dr. Triliva, and I look forward to our continued work together.

Triliva: Dr. Ghafoori's helped me personally, the students in the Department of Psychology, the University of Crete, and Mental Health Professionals working in Rethymno build bridges with the California State University in Long Beach and with an extremely accomplished, learned, and giving researcher that Bita is. The hyperconnecton of our respective classrooms and the seminars that we are planning to continue on Crete will further fortify the structures built and yield academic interchange, trans-cultural dialogue, and knowledge that is transformative at both the personal and academic levels.

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