Dr. Maryam Kia-Keating of UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School has won the 2022 Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Scholarship Award from the American Arab, Middle Eastern, North African Psychological Association (AMENA-Psy). The award recognizes scholars whose research exemplifies innovation, rigor, and has significant impact for Arab and MENA populations in North America. The association presented her the award on September 24, 2022 at the annual AMENA-Psy Research Conference. This year’s conference focused on bringing a spotlight to the shared experiences among Arab/MENA individuals in the U.S. because of systemic racialization, exclusion, and continued legal invisibility, and highlighted how various intersecting identities lead to unique lived experiences.
Kia-Keating is a professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology where she oversees the Trauma & Adversity, Resilience & Prevention (TARP) research program. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist, and founder of the Power of Drishti meditations. Kia-Keating is a nationally recognized expert and leader in resilience and wellness. Alongside co-authors Drs. Germine Awad and Mona Amer, she put forward a conceptual model of cumulative racial trauma affecting mental health among MENA populations published in a 2019 special issue of the American Psychologist on Racial Trauma. This seminal work highlights the invisibility of MENA communities, and the importance of attending to micro- and macro-level factors, including structural racism, in health and mental health research.
Since the outset of her career, Dr. Kia-Keating has been dedicated to refugee and immigrant communities, including those from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo and around the globe. She co-edited a special 2022 issue of the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology (CDEMP) on "Collaborative and Participatory Research to Promote Engagement, Empowerment, and Resilience for Immigrant and Refugee Youth, Families, and Communities," in which she and Dr. Linda Juang made a powerful, and urgent call to decolonize methodologies and utilize participatory approaches.
“It is so incredibly meaningful for me to receive this honor,” Kia-Keating says. “I know firsthand about forced displacement and its profound losses. AMENA-psy has created a community where scholars, clinicians, and activists have converged to acknowledge and address health disparities, and to stand up for social justice and equity. I am so grateful to AMENA-psy for the recognition of this award for distinguished contributions. It inspires me to continue in my work to bring light to dark spaces.”
Kia-Keating’s research has been funded by NIMH and NICHD to use participatory and human-centered design approaches, working in partnership with communities to find innovative solutions to complex needs. Her research and interviews have been featured in various outlets including The Washington Post, ABC News, Conde Nast Traveler, Self-Magazine, and CNN. She provides consultation on child development, mental health, and authentic representation for children’s media, and writes for Psychology Today. She serves as a Consulting Editor to Child Development, and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.
AMENA-Psy is one of six ethnic minority psychology associations officially recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA). AMENA-Psy’s mission is to build a supportive network that enhances the professional development of the American Arab/MENA psychological workforce, as well as to promote the wellbeing of Arab/MENA communities in North America through research, education, advocacy, and the advancement of ethical practice. The word “amena” comes from the Arabic root a-ma-na which relates to honesty, fairness, faithfulness, safety, and peace.