Black History Month: AFS’s Chana Akins traces higher education advancement
By: Sandra Addo
Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) is proud to partner with the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to celebrate Black History Month. This month is a celebration of African American history and accomplishments. The holiday is observed annually in February in the United States. Although the month's history has roots dated back to the early 1900s, it wasn't until 1976 when United States' Presidents began to officially designate February as Black History Month. Today, an annual celebration of Black History Month is celebrated throughout the year by countries all over the world.
"As we go through Black History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of those who have graduated through our college," said Sandra Addo, CASNR's Administrator for Diversity & Graduate Student Recruitment. "This month, we highlight two influential alumni from our college."
Chana Akins is a recent American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow and a Professor at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Psychology. She has held numerous service positions within her Department and within the College of Arts & Sciences including Associate Chair, Behavioral Neuroscience & Psychopharmacology Area Coordinator, Chair of the Dean's Executive Committee, Co-chair of the Faculty-staff Collegiality Committee, and has served on the Promotion and Tenure Committee for the Social Sciences. Nationally, she served as Secretary and President of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 6 and Treasurer of Div. 28.
Her current research is focused on underlying learning and neurobiological mechanisms of substance abuse and alcoholism, and her research has been supported by several grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. She has served as Associate Editor of Psychology of Women's Quarterly and Learning & Behavior and has been the recipient of several teaching and mentoring awards including the Provost Outstanding Teacher Award, Great Teacher Award for Outstanding Teaching, and Faculty Mentor of the Year. Akins is a member of the inaugural class of the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology and a past participant of the Bluegrass Academic Leadership Academy and the Women in Executive Leadership Development Program at the University of Kentucky. After her fellowship year with the American Council on Education, she was appointed as Assistant Provost in the Office of Faculty Advancement at the University of Kentucky.
Below are Akins' answers to the alumni spotlight questions.
Where are you from?
Chicago, Illinois, born and raised in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago.
What made you decide to attend Texas Tech University?
I attended Michigan State University as a pre-vet major, and I was unhappy there. I wanted to go into an animal science program that was production oriented. I also had a friend at TTU who told me about the university and how affordable it was.
What year did you graduate from Texas Tech's Department of Animal and Food Sciences?
Twice, 1987 with BS and 1989 with MS.
What were your Major/Minor/Concentrations?
Animal science major
Have you pursued any additional schooling since leaving the university?
Yes, PhD in Psychology with an emphasis on Behavioral Neuroscience.
What is your favorite TTU memory?
My first experiment as an undergraduate required me to take a van out to the farm at the crack of dawn to observe the mating behavior of pigs. Once I got used to getting up so early, I enjoyed being in nature, watching the sun rise and natural observation. It also turned into a second author publication in the Texas Journal of Agriculture, my first publication.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. I fell in love with research as an undergraduate and it informed me that I wanted to be a professor at a research-oriented institution.
Where is your favorite place you've ever traveled?
South Africa, Costa Rica, and China but my all-time favorite place to visit is Kauai, Hawaii. Turks & Caicos is also a nice Caribbean beach place.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spend time with family, travel, golf, watch sports and hike.
What is your favorite movie?
Too many to name but such as Black Panther, Martian, and Argo; I also binge watch the series "This is Us" and "Walking Dead."
What's something most people don't know about you?
I am openly gay now. I got married to my childhood friend on March 1st, 2019. I did not feel comfortable expressing that part of me while at TTU. I hope there is more freedom and safety to do so there now.
What do you currently do for work?
Professor of Psychology and my research is on Psychopharmacology and how drugs of abuse affect behavior; also, I am an Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs.
How did you get involved in this field?
During a post-doctoral fellow here at the University of Kentucky.
What does "A Day in the Life" look like for you?
Depends on whether it is a teaching day, research day, assistant provost day or some combination. But basically, I wake up, check email for things that I need to address immediately and then try and meditate, if I have time before going into the office. There are typically meetings for my assistant provost role or meetings with students, grading papers or preparation for class, and when I can squeeze in research, I stay busy writing manuscripts.
What's the coolest project you've worked on?
A current one that is a collaboration with a colleague, Dr. Jim Pauly, in Pharmacy. The project involves using autoradiography to identify neurotransmitter transporter molecules in the quail brain. We have confirmed some other research that says that birds do not have dopamine transporters (DAT). More importantly, we have found evidence that birds may be using norepinephrine transporters (NET) in place of DAT.
What is your proudest achievement?
Attaining tenure in 2004.
What advice do you have for current students?
Find a good mentor and/or support network; networking is very important for your future. It is also important to find a mentor who can help you navigate through graduate school and also tell you what you need to be successful at the next level.
Finally, finish this sentence: In 10 years –
I will be a full-time administrator starting phase retirement but still trying to be a voice and support graduate students/postdocs/faculty of color and women to succeed. Some faculty wonder why I want to just be a voice for marginalized groups and not all faculty. It's because we still live in a world where the majority racial ethnicity and men are still making the rules and sitting at the table for major decisions of our institutions. We need more minority faculty and women sitting at the table and participating in these conversations and decisions. It takes everyone to contribute to these conversations but not everyone has been invited to the table.
CONTACT: Sandra Addo, Administrator for Diversity & Graduate Student Recruitment, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: To read more information about Texas Tech University and events related to Black History Month, visit the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website here
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