WMU News

Alvero is first WMU student awarded Ford fellowship

June 5, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Alicia Alvero, a Western Michigan University doctoral student in psychology, is the first WMU graduate student ever to earn a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for Minorities, one of two dissertation fellowships she was granted this year.

Alvero, of Miami Springs, Fla., received one of only 40 Ford Foundation Dissertation fellowships awarded nationally in an annual competition administered by the National Research Council of the National Academies on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The fellowships are designed to bring diversity to the academic realm by providing aid and mentorship to underrepresented students who have demonstrated outstanding academic performance and potential as future contributors to institutions of higher education.

"An award like this one is outstanding for the student's future benefit, as well as for our own. This is a real honor for Alicia and for us, as it reflects really well upon the University," says Kevin Vichcales, coordinator of graduate student financial assistance for WMU's Graduate College.

The Ford Foundation awards its dissertation fellows a stipend of $24,000, to be dispersed over a 12-month period, and the opportunity to attend three Conferences of Ford Fellows with all expenses paid. These conferences include presentations by some of the nation's most outstanding scholars and offer many networking possibilities.

"I never imagined I'd receive the Ford Fellowship," says Alvero, the mother of a 17-month old daughter. "The requirements were the same as they were for other programs that I had been applying to, so I tried."

Dr. John Austin, WMU associate professor of psychology and Alvero's faculty advisor, encouraged her to apply for the Ford fellowship. "She is clearly a natural at science, and at writing and thinking logically," Austin says of his student.

In addition to the Ford fellowship, Alvero received a second dissertation fellowship from WMU. Awarded to four graduate students each fiscal year, the Western Michigan University Dissertation Fellowship provides a stipend of $17, 242 to each scholar chosen.

"Alicia was unanimously chosen as the number one recipient of the WMU Dissertation Fellowship," Vichcales says. "She is an excellent student with excellent research potential, and we are very proud of her."

Alvero is studying applied behavior analysis with a concentration in the field of organizational behavior management. Her dissertation project focuses on behavioral-based safety processes and ways to decrease at-risk behaviors in organizations. While earlier studies have labeled feedback as being the single most important factor in making the work environment safer, Alvero has found evidence supporting the theory that observation is equally critical to creating a safe environment. Alvero will use her fellowships to launch explanatory studies to describe the importance of the observational process.

"I came to Western because it is one of the best universities for organizational behavior management. WMU is internationally known for its focus on behavioral psychology and it stresses both research and applied learning," says Alvero.

Alvero is the daughter of Juan and Josefina Gonzalez of Miami Springs.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, 269 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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