The Virginia Tech College of Science has named Associate Professor Roseanne Foti as chair of its Department of Psychology, taking over from Bob Stephens, who has held the position since 2006.

Foti begins her tenure as department leader on Aug. 10. Psychology is one of eight departments in the College of Science. Its clinical science doctoral program was named the Outstanding Training Program by the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in 2017. 

“Becoming the first female department chair in the history of the Department of Psychology is an exciting opportunity,” Foti said. “Female role models have been important to my development as a scientist. I am excited to continue to be a role model for others.”

She joined Virginia Tech in 1985 and focuses her research on leadership perceptions, including how leaders emerge in groups and teams, and leader–follower relationships. Her interests also lie in improving the effectiveness of interdisciplinary research teams within a university setting at both the faculty and graduate student levels.

“Roseanne’s interests align nicely with the direction that the university and College of Science are rapidly moving,” said Sally C. Morton, dean of the College of Science. “Her focus on improving the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teams – as well as the role model she can be for up-and-coming women psychologists – are welcome additions.”

Among Foti’s more recent grants are two awards from the U.S. Army Research Office. The first grant seeks to improve how leadership is measured within the Army. Leadership is typically evaluated by other people, either subordinates or superiors, and how these individuals retrieve leadership information from memory is an important aspect of measurement process, Foti said. The goal is to develop a prototype leadership behavior scale based on research results.

The second grant is called a Cooperative Agreement, which proposes involving 21 experienced leadership scholars based in the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Netherlands, Germany, and Italy to conduct research that advances leadership theory and methods, especially in the area of leader development, one of the six domains the Army has identified as particularly germane to its needs.  

Foti is a fellow of the Society for I/O Psychology (SIOP), as well as the recipient of Virginia Tech’s Alumni Teaching Award for 2005, the SIOP Distinguished Teaching Contributions for 2006, and the College of Science’s Outstanding Graduate School Mentor Award in 2018. 

At Virginia Tech, Foti has been heavily involved in AdvanceVT since its founding in 2003 with the goal of preparing, recruiting, and retaining high-quality and diverse faculty. There, Foti developed a program in leadership assessment, coaching, and development for senior women faculty. Her work will help reinforce the College of Science's effort to increase diversity and expand inclusiveness through such programs as the Women in the Sciences effort.

Foti earned a bachelor’s degree from Millersville State University in Pennsylvania in 1976, and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Akron in 1982 and 1984, respectively, all in psychology.

On what drew Foti to her field of study, she said, “I had always been interested in psychology, and at the beginning of my senior year of college discovered the field of industrial and organizational psychology ... I wanted to learn more about this field, so I persuaded the other 14 undergraduates in my capstone senior seminar that they too would benefit from a semester long course. During that semester, I learned what I desired in a career: understanding as well as application of knowledge, variety, and change.”

Stephens has led the Department of Psychology since 2006, having joined Virginia Tech in 1989. A licensed clinical psychologist, his research focuses on treatment and etiology of substance abuse and dependence. He serves as director of the department’s Addictions Lab.

“I’d like to thank Bob for his leadership of the Department of Psychology and his encouragement for the department and College of Science to engage in important outreach programs,” said Morton. “He has shown true dedication to supporting students, faculty, research, and the community around us.”

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