Adolescent Connectedness & Empowerment Lab

The Adolescent Connectedness and Empowerment Lab aims to identify, develop, and evaluate effective strategies to foster healthy developmental outcomes during adolescence and the transition to adulthood, particularly among marginalized populations.

We are broadly interested in positive youth development approaches, with an emphasis on interventions that leverage the power of mentoring relationships and networks of support. We recently were awarded 3 years of funding from the William T Grant Foundation to conduct an evaluation of an intervention designed to teach first-generation college students to cultivate mentoring relationships and social capital during the transition to college. More generally, we are interested in school and community-based programming and social emotional learning. For example, in collaboration with the Center for Restorative Justice at Suffolk, we are investigating restorative justice practices among system-involved youth and families as well as in school settings. Additional research topics include youth activism, school-based mental health services, and out-of-school learning.

Sarah Schwartz, PhD

To learn more about Dr. Sarah Schwartz and her work, please visit her faculty page.

Current Graduate Students

Laura Austin

I am a first year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, I moved westward for college, graduating from Stanford University in 2016 with a B.A. in Human Biology, and a concentration on The Scientific and Social Aspects of Mental Illness. My research interests center on adolescence and ways in which we can support healthy developmental trajectories and positive mental health in today’s youth. Specifically, I am interested in how school- and community-based interventions and prevention programs, including youth mentoring, can affect socio-emotional development, the development of psychopathology, mental health stigma, and help-seeking behaviors in adolescence.

Research Interests: Adolescent socio-emotional development; developmental psychopathology; school- and community-based interventions; mental health stigma in adolescence; youth mentoring

McKenna Parnes

I am currently a doctoral student in Suffolk University's Clinical Psychology PhD program. I received an MSEd in Counseling and Mental Health from the University of Pennsylvania. My clinical and research interests are related to supporting positive development in underserved youth and developing interventions to promote youth access to social support. My current research focuses on youth mentoring relationships and identity development. I also have experience working clinically with youth and adults who have experienced trauma.

References and Materials

On this page you will find a list of selected publications. Please feel free to contact Sarah Schwartz for copies of articles and materials.

Selected Publications

Schwartz, S., Kanchewa, S., Rhodes, J., Gowdy, G., Stark, A., Horn, J. P., Parnes, M., Spencer, R. (in press). "I'm having a little struggle with this, can you help me out?": Examining impacts and processes of a social capital intervention for first-generation college students. American Journal of Community Psychology.

Schwartz, S., Rhodes, J. (2016). From treatment to empowerment: New approaches to youth mentoring. American Journal of Community Psychology, 58, 150-157.

Schwartz, S., Kanchewa, S., Rhodes, J., Cutler, E., Cunningham, J. L. (2016). “I didn’t know you could just ask:” Empowering underrepresented college-bound students to recruit academic and career mentors. Children and Youth Services Review, 64, 51-59.

Suyemoto, K. L., Day, S., Schwartz, S. (2015). Exploring effects of social justice youth programming on racial and ethnic identities and activism for Asian American youth. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 6(2), 125.

Schwartz, S. E. O., Rhodes, J. E., Liang, B., Sánchez, B., Spencer, R., Kremer, S., & Kanchewa, S. (2014). Mentoring in the digital age: Social media use in adult-youth relationships. Children and Youth Services Review, 47, 205-213.

Millenky, M., Schwartz, S., Rhodes, J. (2014). Supporting the transition to adulthood among high school dropouts: An impact study of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Prevention Science, 15(4), 448–459.

Schwartz, S., Chan, C., Rhodes, J., Scales, P. (2013). Community developmental assets and positive youth development: The role of natural mentors. Research in Human Development, 10(2), 141–162.

Schwartz, S., Suyemoto, K. (2013). Creating change from the inside: Youth development within a youth community organizing program. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(3), 341–358.

Schwartz, S., Rhodes, J., Spencer, R., Grossman, J. (2013). Youth initiated mentoring: Investigating a new approach to working with vulnerable adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(1-2), 155–169

Schwartz, S., Rhodes, J., Chan, C., Herrera, C. (2011). The impact of school-based mentoring on youths with different relational profiles. Developmental Psychology, 47(2), 450.

Book Chapters

Schwartz, S. E. O., Kanchewa, S. S., & Rhodes, J. E. (2017). Mentoring. In K. Peppler (Ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Out-of-School Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Kanchewa, S. S., Schwartz, S. E. O., & Rhodes, J. E. (2017). Mentoring disadvantaged youth. In D.A. Clutterbuck, F.K. Kochan, L. G., Lunsford, N. Dominguez, & J. Haddock-Millar (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rhodes, J., Lowe, S., & Schwartz, S. E. O. (2011). Youth mentoring. In B. Brown & M. Prinstein (Eds), The Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Elsevier.

Interested in Joining the Lab?

Potential Graduate Students

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I find out whether Dr. Schwartz intends to take a student for the upcoming year?
A list of faculty accepting students is available on our departmental admission webpage.

Should I contact Dr. Schwartz directly to express my interest?
There is no need to contact me in advance of submitting your application to our graduate program. Unfortunately, given the volume of applicants to our program, I am unable to correspond with everyone who is interested.

What type of applicant are you looking for?
Generally, I am looking for students with strong academic credentials, outstanding letters of recommendation, solid research experience, and a personal statement that clearly articulates the way in which your specific interests match with my areas of expertise. In the context of current funded projects, I am especially interested in students who identify as or express an interest in research related to the experiences of underrepresented or first-generation college students, although I am open to all strong applicants.

How can I find out more about the doctoral program?
We keep a tremendous amount of very useful information on our public webpage. I encourage you to read over our resources and manuals.

Suffolk Undergraduates Interested in Becoming Involved in Research

Psychology majors who are juniors or seniors and who have successfully completed the course in research methods can apply to take an Independent Study Course (PSYCH-510) for 1-4 credits. As part of this course, students become involved in ongoing research in the lab, thus, projects and responsibilities vary each semester. Please contact Dr. Schwartz if you are interested in exploring this possibility.