THE VOICES PROJECT: MENTAL HEALTH COMING APRIL, 2017
What is The Voices Project and how did it get started? Check out Alicia Nordstrom's TEDxLancaster talk on "The Fallacy of Normal and Beauty of Difference" (September, 2017) to learn more:
The Voices Project (TVP) has received several awards by teaching, community and social justice societies:
- 2014 Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Speaker Award at the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology
- Electric City/Diamond City Best Theater Production of 2012 for The Voices Project: Disability
- 2012 Innovative Teaching Award (Honorable Mention) by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
- 2011 Action Teaching Award (Honorable Mention) by the Social Psychology Network
The Voices Project: Mental Health is the next chapter of a psychology project that explores society’s attitudes towards individuals considered “different.” Fifty-five college students interviewed over 60 people and family members of those with mental health conditions to learn about their lives. This theatrical program shares these stories with a focus on anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, suicide, eating disorders, alcoholism, substance abuse, Tourette's Syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, intellectual disability, and Alzheimers/dementia. Find out what you don't know about mental health. The stigma ends...now.
THE VOICES PROJECT: REAL STORIES, REAL PEOPLE, REAL LIVES
In Fall of 2009, Psychology instructor Dr. Alicia Nordstrom developed an experiential, service-learning diversity assignment for her Intro to Psychology course that was intended to enhance students' critical thinking and cultural competency, reduce stereotypes and prejudice towards victimized and misunderstood groups, and increase empathy and perspective taking. This assignment--called The Voices Project (TVP)--was designed with the understanding that students often have negative attitudes toward people from unfamiliar groups. In the absence of personal experience, people will form their opinions based upon society's stereotypes, media's portrayals of those groups, or things they hear from family or friends. The methodology of this project was based on the principle of "the power of one." That is, if students could form a positive relationship with one person from a group with whom they are unfamiliar or toward whom they have a pre-existing negative attitude, than the new information gained from that relationship can provide students with real information that can be used to examine and potentially revise their attitudes. To achieve this goal, students interviewed a person from a "group of difference" (as defined by a group considered by society to be outside the 'social norm') and gather information about their interviewee's life (e.g., what is it like to be them?).
Another component of the project was to help students develop empathy and expand their ability to understand perspectives outside of their own. Toward this end, students wrote a 5 page memoir for their interviewee's life from the first person perspective so that the student adopted the identity of their interviewee. Students reviewed the information that they collected during the interviews and identified 3-5 major themes that emerged in the person's story. Students wrote these memoirs using the word "I" to represent the perspectives of their interviewees.
Having a collection of life stories of people who are typically misunderstood, devalued, and/or ignored in society seemed like possessing a special gem that needs to be shared with others. Dr. Nordstrom commissed a writing team of faculty from other departments--including Dr. Allan Austin (History), Dr. Patrick Hamilton (English), and Dr. Rebecca Steinberger (English)--to excerpt and integrate the stories so that they formed a cohesive, monologue-style staged reading program. This program was presented at the end of each semester to a crowd of hundreds in Lemmond Auditorium from the campus and community.
For Dr. Nordstrom and most of her students, The Voices Project is a transformative learning experience. "If we have made just one person be more thoughtful, more willing to be accepting of someone they see as different than themselves, then our efforts have been successful," said Dr. Nordstrom. TVP was part of a larger pedagogical study created so that Dr. Nordstrom could examine whether the project succeeded in achieving its learning goals. Her data shows that students who completed TVP assignment had a reduction in negative attitudes toward the focus groups of the project, as well as an increase in critical thinking and cultural competency.
Due to the efficacy of the project, Dr. Nordstrom launched a second chapter focusing on the theme of "disability" in Spring, 2012. For more details and information on each chapter of TVP, click on the corresponding links on the left hand side of the page.
The Voices Project: Disability
Click the following link to check out The Voices Project: Disability Video:
Disability is the second chapter of a psychology project that explores society's attitudes toward individuals considered "different". Fifteen Teacher Education Department (TED) majors interviewed teenagers, college students, and adults with disabilities--and their family members--to learn about how having a disability has affected their lives. The individuals who were interviewed had conditions including deafness, blindness, stroke, spinal cord injury, stuttering, spina bifida, dwarfism, arthrogryposis, femoral hypoplasia, cerebral palsy, and more. Students wrote stories of the lives of their interviewees which were integrated into a staged reading program presented by 24 readers in the Lemmond Auditorium of Misericordia University on April 26, 2012 to an audience of over 400 people. Dr. Melissa Sgroi, a faculty member in the Communications Department, joined the previous writing team of faculty.
"What the project conveys is that, for the most part, the greatest limitations experienced by people with disabilities are not due to the disability itself. They don't see themselves as disabled. The label and limitations come from the social and emotional barriers placed on them by people in society and the constraints of the physical environment," Dr. Nordstrom reported.
The stories were so powerful that the program was picked up by WVIA-TV, a local affiliate of the Public Broadcasting System that broadcasts to a 17-county radius of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The program was video recorded live on August 18, 2012 at WVIA Studios and will be aired through November, December and January on the WVIA station. The first four broadcast dates will be Monday, Nov. 19 (7:00 pm), Thanksgiving Day-Nov. 22 (8:00 pm), Sunday, Nov. 25 (3:00 pm), and Monday, December 10 (7:00 pm).
THE VOICES PROJECT: DIVERSITY
The Voices Project began in the fall of 2009 as a method for students to examine the question: what is it like to be "different"? Students in a psychology course interviewed people from different races, religions, nationalities, ethnicities, social classes, health conditions, and lifestyles to find out if the stereotypes we typically hear about these groups are true.
The following are excerpts from stories written by students as part of this project:
Man with AIDS
"If my softball friends said anything discriminating about AIDS, they did not say it to my face. Although they probably talked about my disease behind my back, I'm glad that they never said anything to me directly. I would not have wanted to know how they really felt. A year after I was diagnosed, I was hanging out with a friend of mine... We were listening to the radio, and a commercial for an AIDS walk came on. After the commercial, my friend's band member said, 'We should just take all the homosexuals and people with AIDS and put them on an island and just blow it up. That would solve this problem.' He had no idea that a man with AIDS was standing right next to him."
Muslim College Student
"I also have a job just like any other college student; I work at a clothing store. This is where I experienced my first form of discrimination. One day while the store was very busy, I was helping a customer when I heard a man yell, 'Hey, why don't you take that tablecloth off your head so you can hear me!' I simply turned to the man and calmly responded, 'No thank you, I would rather keep it on.' After an older woman heard the man say this to me, she walked over, looked me in the face, and said, 'I think you look beautiful!' While the man was leaving the store, I saw a look of embarrassment come across his son's face. I didn't let it get to me because it doesn't matter to me what others think about my hijab or my religion; it is my decision, nobody else's."
Nineteen readers--including students, faculty, deans, and community members--read the stories of the interviewees on November 5, 2009. Over 325 people attended this performance to hear the real life stories of people considered by society as “different” to learn about how their culture and experiences have affected their lives.
Voices Project Materials
|Chapter 1 Diversity||TVP Chapters 1 & 2|
|Chapter 2 Disability||US/UK Voices Project|
|US/UK Voices Project|
Preparing for Interviews
Memoir Grading Rubric
|Interviewing Adolescents & Adults||TVP Grading Rubric Chapters 1 & 2|
|Chapter 1 Diversity|
|Chapter 2 Disability|
SURVEYS FOR SPECIFIC SOCIAL GROUPS
|Name of Measure||Subscales||Citation|
|Asians/Asian Americans||Attitudes towards |
Dinh, K. T., Weinstein, T. L., Nemon, M., & Rondeau, S. (2008). The effects of contact with Asians and Asian Americans on White American college students: Attitudes, awareness of racial discrimination, and psychological adjustment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 42(2), 298-308. doi: 10.1007/s10464-008-9202-z
|Blacks||Modern Racism |
McConahay, J. B. (1986). Modern racism, ambivalence, and the Modern Racism Scale. In J. F. Dovidio, & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 91-125). San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press.
|Whites' Racial Consciousness||Oklahoma Racial |
|- Conflictive racial justice|
-Reactive racial justice
Vandiver, B. J., & Leach, M. M. (2005). Oklahoma Racial Attitudes Scale-Revised. Unpublished scale.
Wolff, K. E., & Munley, P. H. (2012). Exploring the relationships between White racial consciousness, feminist identity development and family environment for White undergraduate women. College Student Journal, 46(2), 283–307.
Lee, S. A., Gibbons, J. A., Thompson, J. M., & Timani, H.S. (2009). The Islamophobia Scale: Instrument development and initial validation. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 19, 92-105.
about the Causes
|- Poverty: indivdualism|
Smith, K. B., & Stone, L. H. (1989). Rags, riches, and bootstraps: Beliefs about the causes of wealth and poverty. The Sociological Quarterly, 30(1), 93-107.
|Antifat||Antifat Attitudes Question-|
|- Dislike toward overweight people|
-Concerns about weight
-Beliefs about willpower and controllability of weight
Crandall, C. S. (1994). Prejudice against fat people: Ideology and self-interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(5), 882-894. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
Scale of Ageism-Revised
Rupp, D. E., Vodanovich, S. J., & Crede, M. (2005). The multidimensional nature of ageism: Construct validity and group differences. Journal of Social Psychology, 145(3), 335-362. doi: 10.3200/SOCP.145.3.335-362
|People with AIDS||Generic |
Froman, R. D., & Owen, S. V. (2001). Measuring attitudes towards Persons with AIDS: The AAS-G as an alternate form of the AAS. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 15(2), 161-174.
|Sexism||Ambivalent Sexism Inventory||- Benevolent sexism|
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The Ambivalent Sexism Inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(3), 491-512. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1681
Morrison, T. G., Parriag, A. V., & Morrison, M. A. (1999). The psychometric properties of the Homonegativity Scale. Journal of Homosexuality, 37(4), 111-126. doi: 10.1300/J082v37n04_07
TVP: Other Schools
The project is intended to be shared by other instructors, community members, diversity educators, and/or social justice proponents to help others gain new perspectives of groups that are stigmatized or misunderstood.
A list of academic publications can be found on the Research page.
Elizabeth Weiss, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
The Ohio State University Newark
"I incorporated the Voices Project into my Stereotyping and Prejudice class. This class is an upper-level psychology elective, taken mainly by psychology majors. Before we met as a class, I asked students to complete a brief survey regarding groups of difference. I had them indicate which groups they were most and least comfortable with/knowledgeable about. Then, at the beginning of the course, I assigned each student three groups of difference and they chose one to work on. Throughout the semester, they studied qualitative research, made contacts with community groups to find interviewees, drafted interview questions, and actually conducted interviews. It was a lot of work for them and for me, but we all had such a wonderful time with this project. Several students mentioned that it was the single best learning experience they had had as a college student. It was certainly one of the most gratifying experiences I have had as a teacher!"
Enhancing Students' Cultural Competence through Interviews with Muslim and non-Muslim British Students
In 2013 and 2014, The Voices Project went international as students from Misericordia University and Blackburn College in Lancashire, England used The Voices Project framework to interview each other. One Misericordia student from an upper-level psychology course was paired with two students from Blackburn College (one Muslim and one non-Muslim student) and the pairs interviewed each other using email, Facebook, and/or Skype. The British students wrote memoirs of the lives of the American students and the American students wrote essays comparing the life experiences of the British students with their own. These stories are being compiled into an iBook for dissemination.