On any given day, Kevin Nadal, PhD, might lead a workshop on microaggressions or present on Filipino-American health and well-being. Or he might teach a class or advise students in forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York (CUNY), where he is an Associate Professor of Psychology. Kevin also can be found managing the varied activities housed at the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies at the Graduate Center at CUNY, where he is Executive Director. A sought-after speaker, and a productive researcher across the fields of multicultural psychology, forensic psychology and LGBTQ studies – not to mention an author and comedian – Kevin is the epitome of a renaissance man.
A Professional Path that Touches Many Communities
A New Yorker for almost 13 years now, Kevin was born and raised in the Bay Area. He attended the University of California, Irvine, where he met the first of several mentors, whom he credits with “always looking out for me [and] pushing [me] forward.” This professor, Dr. Jeanett Castellanos, a Latina woman psychologist, helped open Kevin’s eyes to the pathway he would need to follow to become a psychologist. When she heard Kevin say that he would like to become psychologist after receiving his Bachelor’s degree, she told him that he would need to earn an advanced degree to achieve that goal. After graduating from UC Irvine, Kevin enrolled in the Masters in Counseling program at Michigan State University.
While at Michigan State, Kevin was influenced by another mentor, Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, a Black woman psychologist, who encouraged him to become more involved in research. So Kevin developed a research agenda focusing on identity and health in the Filipino community. His work was eventually published, which was a feather in his cap when he took the next step in his professional development and applied to doctoral programs. It was at this time that Kevin realized he wanted to become a psychologist and professor, since he was interested in research and teaching, as well as practice.
Kevin applied to several counseling psychology programs, and attended Teachers College, Columbia University, because of its emphasis on multiculturalism. At Columbia, Kevin worked with Dr. Derald Wing Sue, an influential Asian American psychologist in the fields of multicultural counseling and psychotherapy, race, and racism. He contributed to Professor Sue’s innovative research on racial microaggressions, which became one of Kevin’s areas of expertise.
While pursuing his PhD, Kevin continued to explore his own identity further, and began researching health disparities in the LGBT population. At first, he kept his LGBT work separate from his research on racial discrimination and microaggressions. But Kevin realized his research could benefit from the ways in which these areas intersected. He then merged his research agendas into the multifaceted platform from which he continues to work.
After finishing his doctoral program in 2008, Kevin obtained a position at John Jay College. At John Jay, he organized his research team, and became more involved in professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association and the Asian American Psychological Association (of which he is now President-elect). In 2009, he published his first book on Filipino American Psychology. These activities set Kevin up well for his next accomplishment: research funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through a collaboration between two of its national programs – Active Living Research (ALR) and New Connections.
Paying it Forward
Through his ALR-New Connections award in 2010, Kevin began exploring the physical activity and health of Filipino American youth. He described it as a “perfect” opportunity that helped bolster his professional identity by showing that 1) he could be funded and 2) people were interested in his work.
New Connections also enhanced Kevin’s confidence as an early career researcher with its various skill-building, professional development, and networking opportunities. Through his experiences at New Connections events, Kevin met peers who were involved in a diverse array of professions, such as consulting, government, philanthropy, research, and academia. He realized that he was not alone in exploring career opportunities across different sectors, and further embraced the idea that his “true niche” could exist at the intersection of several fields.
Along with appreciating the importance of mentors in his professional development, Kevin considers the New Connections program as a positive influence on his career. In fact, Kevin has taken what he has learned from New Connections and “paid it forward” by creating mentorship models of his own, like the LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network and the Filipino American Psychology Scholarship, both which he helped establish this year. By supporting his research agenda, and connecting him with a supportive community of colleagues, New Connections helped propel Kevin to make an impact in research, advocacy, and practice.