When Notre Dame Counseling Psychology doctoral student Raé Lundy was an undergraduate at New Orleans’ Xavier University of Louisiana, she had what she calls a “defining moment.” In her apartment on the morning of August 29, 2005 — the day Hurricane Katrina struck — “I awoke terrified of losing it all — personal belongings, the opportunity to complete my undergraduate studies, friends, even, perhaps, my life. At the same time, part of my brain was riveted on analyzing the effects of this horrific natural disaster on people’s psyches. As confusing and terrifying as that day was, I had a moment of clarity: ‘I have an instinctive passion for the study of psychology.’”
Hurricane Katrina had a profound effect on Lundy. First, she was among the four Xavier students to be welcomed into classes by Notre Dame a few weeks into the Fall 2005 semester. The transition was somewhat smoothed by the fact that Lundy had already worked at Notre Dame the preceding summer as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. Then, under the direction of Prof. George Howard, she had conducted a study on ethnic identity and its role as a predictor of “face”—perceptions of saving it and losing it—in both African Americans and European Americans. When Lundy returned to campus unexpectedly that fall, in addition to taking classes, she volunteered at the Notre Dame’s Center for Children and Families as well as with the Logan Center’s Autistic Treatment Facility, thus continuing her prior work with autistic children in New Orleans.
Living through a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina influenced the kind of psychology Lundy chose to study and what she hopes to accomplish eventually in practice. She explains: “The hurricane and its political and social effects shaped my desire to be an advocate for the underrepresented in our society.”
Now in her final year of doctoral studies, Lundy works under the direction of Prof. Alexandra Corning. Her dissertation involves the effects of perceived racial discrimination on African Americans’ mental health. “Contemporary discrimination is often subtle, disguised, or indirect—in other words, ambiguous. Using 12 everyday situations in which the presence of discrimination is ambiguous, I’m testing Notre Dame African American students on the centrality of their racial identity and then analyzing how the students function psychologically in terms of self esteem, anxiety, and depression.”
Lundy’s research is informed as well by her work as an intern in Notre Dame’s Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS). As the first MSPS graduate student intern, she coordinates the Breaking Through Barriers Initiative (BTB). The purpose of BTB is to assist students in attaining the skills necessary to secure internship positions, employment, or placement within professional school. She is also working to establish relationships between MSPS, the Graduate School, and underrepresented students pursing post-baccalaureate degrees.
Lundy’s ultimate goal is to work in higher education—either as a staff psychologist or as an administrator in student affairs. To complete her graduate degree in counseling psychology, she must certify completion of 3,000 hours of counseling. After extensive interviews this winter, she has accepted a position for next year at Texas State University, San Marcos and will begin there shortly after defending her dissertation this coming August.
In looking back on her life, Lundy says, “I wouldn’t be who I am apart from the tragedy of the hurricane. While I lost all my possessions, I discovered that I am resilient and able to handle unexpected obstacles. How one emerges intact—and even better—from misfortune takes an entire range of skills I hope one day to impart to my own clients.”