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Image: Ford Foundation Fellowship Program

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s famous words of wisdom recently paid off for Texas A&M University clinical psychology student Robyn Douglas ’25, who is one of 88 scholars across the nation selected to receive a 2023 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship.

Offered through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program has been working since 1962 to improve the diversity of faculties in colleges and universities across the United States. The program seeks students like Douglas, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who show a dedication to pluralism and a passion for research in order to provide them with the necessary funding to advocate for changes and improvements worldwide.

Douglas says she plans to use her fellowship funding to further her work to help bridge the gaps between systemically impactful institutions and underserved communities.

“The Ford Foundation Fellowship particularly piqued my interest due to its commitment to providing merit-based funding to underrepresented students seeking graduate education and postdoctoral training,” Douglas said.

The first time Douglas applied for the fellowship during her senior year in college, submitting a lengthy package of a general application, three intensive essays and up to five letters of recommendation, her already impressive resume was denied. Instead of slowing her down, though, the rejection motivated her to work even harder and accomplish even more than she ever thought possible.

“While it was disheartening, I spent the next few years strengthening my research skills and putting together a more cohesive application package,” Douglas said. “I also found support in my community of scholars whom I met with weekly to work on our fellowship applications and receive feedback.”

Texas A&M psychology doctoral student Robyn Douglas
Robyn Douglas '25 | Image: Courtesy Photo

Douglas has been a member of the Texas A&M community since 2022, when she began her studies in clinical psychology. Since then, she has continued to dedicate her research to examining how community-oriented prosocial behaviors, such as volunteer service and neighborhood organizing, can serve as pathways toward mental-health healing for Black youth exposed to stressors such as community violence and racism.

“Research has suggested that when youth are empowered to be change makers, this can instill them with a greater sense of identity, mental wellness, increased awareness and ability to critique systems, and hopefulness for the future," Douglas said. "Throughout history, communalism has aided underserved communities by providing members — including youth — with social support, mutual aid, and protection from harm and violence.”

A part of Douglas’ passion for supporting disinvested communities stems from her personal experiences growing up in an economically disinvested and predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Witnessing the ingenuity and protective nature of her family and the resilience of her surrounding community provided her with the means to inspire change around the country through her doctoral research.

“My goal is to become a community-oriented researcher, educator and clinician and provide the same mentorship that I have received to help the next generation of scientists from historically disinvested groups,” Douglas said. “With the support of the Ford Foundation, I can ensure that my research projects are accessible not just within academia, but also with the communities I aim to serve.”

Douglas also has been able to find support within the Texas A&M community from her mentor, Dr. Noni Gaylord-Harden, a professor in Psychological and Brain Sciences.

“I am very grateful to attend a university that has hired and attracted incredible mentors such as Dr. Noni Gaylord-Harden,” Douglas said. “Working with her and my other colleagues in the clinical psychology department has consistently inspired me to continue my path.”

When it comes to inspiration, Gaylord-Harden says the feeling is mutual, noting that Douglas’ dedication to serving underrepresented communities will inspire and positively influence large groups of people around the world.

"I am so proud of Robyn and excited for her future as a Ford Fellow,” Gaylord-Harden said. “Robyn is a change agent, and the Ford Fellowship will provide her a unique opportunity to accelerate her research program and her commitment to improving mental health wellness in marginalized, minoritized and underserved communities."

With such a collectively diverse faculty surrounding her, Douglas says she hopes Texas A&M will continue to invest in the recruitment and training of scholars from various communities, regardless of where they come from or how they look.

“Opportunities such as the Ford Fellowship give me hope that our field can continue to expand its impact on the mental health and wellness of diverse communities through treatment, research and advocacy work.”

The Ford Foundation, an independent organization headquartered in New York, works to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.


Be Here is a comprehensive campaign throughout the 2023-24 academic year highlighting the students, faculty, staff, former students and donors in the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M University and their significant contributions to their college, campus and community as well as our state, nation and world. To learn more, visit