Black History Month faculty profile: Rhonda Lewis

Black History Month provides an opportunity for contemplation, learning and raising awareness about the extensive and varied history of the Black community. Wichita State is embracing the rich tapestry of history and heritage by highlighting some of the amazing Black educators who make a difference in students' lives every day.

Dr. Rhonda Lewis is a professor of psychology at Wichita State University. She says her identity as a Black individual has influenced everything she does in her work as an instructor and researcher.

Name, department and courses you teach: Dr. Rhonda K. Lewis, professor of Psychology. I teach Introduction to Community Psychology, Seminar in Prevention, and Professional Consultation and Leadership Course. 
Explain your background and journey to becoming a faculty member at Wichita State? I am from Wichita. I am a first-generation student. I am a proud Shocker — graduated in 1991 with a B.A. in Psychology, went to the University of Kansas, graduated in 1996 with a degree in Developmental and Child Psychology and a master's in public health from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. I was able to come back home and work at my alma mater. This is my 27th year. 
What are some memorable experiences or challenges you've faced as a Black educator? My most memorable experience is teaching undergraduate students and them developing a love for community psychology and applying that work in the community to become change agents ... coming back to me years later and saying, "Thank you for having me participate in service-learning — it helped me." 
My most challenging moment is having a student challenge my authority in one of my classes and me pulling that student to the side and telling them that Ph.D.s aren't just given away... I had to earn mine. The word got out really quickly that you don't mess with Dr. Rhonda K. Lewis.

How do you think your identity as a Black individual has influenced your teaching or research approach? It has influenced everything I do, including my research and the topics I cover in class. I was once told by a colleague that I wouldn't be able to publish my research if I didn't compare my results to the majority culture. My research area is health equity and adolescent health and development. I ignored his suggestion, published my research on African Americans, compared the results to a national sample of African Americans and published my results anyway. Health equity is about awareness of social problems in our society and shining the light on where resources are needed. I don't have to keep comparing African Americans/Blacks to the majority. There are enough differences within the group itself.

Have you encountered any specific initiatives or support systems at Wichita State that have been particularly helpful to you? I would say there are too many people to mention, but my department was very supportive of me when I began my career, not giving me too much service and allowing me to focus my time on research. I appreciate my mentors, Ms. Deltha Q. Colvin, my parents — Martha Lewis and the late Rev. Dr. Wilbert L. Lewis — my family, my community partners, and my campus community for always supporting me.
What advice would you give to college students? Stay positive, do not get distracted, limit your screen time and walk in nature to give yourself time to think. 
Lastly, what does Black History Month mean to you? Thank goodness for Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Although Black history can be celebrated all year long because of the many accomplishments of African people, it is nice to set aside time to celebrate and embrace the many contributions that African Americans have made to American history. Black History Month means everything to me.

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling more than 23,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

Follow Wichita State on social media:

Read more stories like this