Position title: Lab Director
Dr. Alvin Thomas is a clinically trained assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he explores positive youth development and father involvement especially among Black families. He earned his BA from Morehouse College, including a semester exchange with St. John’s University (MN), where he conducted research on male identity construction in the Caribbean. Upon graduation, he co-directed an undergraduate research team in India and Nepal working among Buddhist monks at the Dalai Lama’s monastery.
Dr. Thomas received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His dissertation, Bad Boys or Bad Odds? Race, Context, and Social Influence: An Investigation of Youth Violence in African-American Boys, encapsulates his focus on positive youth development in Black youth and their families. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry in the Child and Adolescent Outpatient Unit, with special rotations in trauma, community mental health, and underserved populations.
Dr. Thomas’s research and clinical work explore risk and protective factors for Black boys in conditions that imperil them toward negative outcomes. The role of neighborhood/context, family, parenting practices, fathers (nonresident fathers specifically), and youths’ individual strengths as contributors to positive youth development are key elements to his work. He investigates resilience, youth violence and exposure to violence, mood problems, suicide-related outcomes, and academic performance as outcomes of social and developmental processes.
Dr. Thomas is an alumni fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, among other honor societies. He has won numerous awards, including the University of Michigan’s Rackham International Student Fellowship, Patricia Gurin Research Award, and Center for the Education of Women scholarship (the first male to win an award from the center). He also won the Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant, which he used to pilot an intervention to address the mental health needs of juveniles in state custody in a Caribbean island. In 2010, Dr. Thomas won the Assembly of Scientist/Practitioner Psychologists (ASPP) Learning American Psychological Association (APA) Governance Award and was invited to attend APA’s general meeting in Washington, D.C., an honor bestowed annually on one trainee. Dr. Thomas has presented his research at conferences across the U.S., the Bahamas, Switzerland, and Germany.