Murry named University Professor

Velma McBride Murry (Vanderbilt University)
Velma McBride Murry (Vanderbilt University)

Velma McBride Murry, who holds the Lois Autrey Betts Chair in Education and Human Development, has been named University Professor of Human and Organizational Development and University Professor of Health Policy.

A University Professor is a faculty member whose work extends beyond traditional academic fields and disciplinary lines and who brings together diverse segments of the university in both research and teaching. A University Professor holds primary appointments in at least two schools at Vanderbilt—in Murry’s case, Peabody College of education and human development and the School of Medicine—and has full-status appointments in each, participating in the teaching, research and service missions of each school.

Murry is the first Peabody College professor, the third woman, and the first person of color to be named a University Professor. She is one of only eight faculty members at Vanderbilt who currently have this title.

“Professor Murry is one of the nation’s leading researchers of issues affecting African American parents and youth,” said Camilla Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development at Peabody College. “I congratulate her on this appointment, which celebrates her truly outstanding contributions to the scholarship and teaching in this vital field.”

Murry has conducted research on African American families and youth for more than a decade, identifying the factors that deter emotional problems and risk engagement in youth. She has studied the implications of racism on family functioning; the dynamic effects of racism in African Americans’ daily lives; and family and community protective characteristics that dissuade youth from high-risk behavior, identifying processes that can be translated into preventive interventions to foster positive developmental outcomes among African American youth, including delaying early sexual onset and the initiation of alcohol and drug use. Murry characterizes her work as “harnessing the strengths and cultural assets of African American families.”

Based on her longitudinal research, Murry designed and implemented two randomized control-trial, family-based preventive intervention programs: the Strong African American Families program, and Pathways for African American Success. Both have demonstrated effectiveness in the enhancement of parenting and family processes as well as youths’ intrapersonal protective processes that, in turn, dissuaded youths from engaging in health-compromising behaviors.

“Professor Murry’s leading-edge scholarship will greatly contribute to our department’s goal of developing health policy solutions that have an impact on society,” said Melinda Buntin, who holds the Mike Curb Chair for Health Policy and serves as chair of the Department of Health Policy in the School of Medicine. “Her appointment bolsters our objective of bringing together critical research and innovative thinking to guide health policy and to help policymakers understand the implications of research.”

The overarching goal of Murry’s work is to disseminate her evidence-based preventive intervention programs for uptake in community-based organizations, as well as in schools, primary health care settings and faith-based organizations, and to examine their effectiveness in real-world settings.

Murry received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2008.

Her teaching has included Diverse Populations, a graduate course to promote awareness of ways in which social injustice imposed on subpopulations of individuals, families and communities perpetuates disadvantage and disparities; and Human Development and Prevention Science, designed to provide an interdisciplinary overview of prevention theories, research and practice, as well as expand students’ understanding of the interconnectedness of context and human development to the design, development and implementation of preventive intervention programs.

Murry has served as co-chair of the chancellor-appointed Mental Health and Well-Being Strategic Planning Committee and on the Peabody Faculty Council, and serves on several advisory boards and governing councils, including for the National Academy of Medicine and the Society for Research on Child Development. She also serves on numerous editorial boards, including for the Journal of Child Development, Journal of Developmental Psychology, Journal of Applied Developmental Science, Journal of Family Psychology and Journal of Prevention Science.

Murry was named president-elect of the Society for Research on Adolescents (SRA) in 2018 and will assume the role of president beginning March 2020. SRA serves approximately 1,500 members representing 30 countries worldwide. She also serves as associate director of the Clinical Translational Science Award Community Engagement Core.

Other Vanderbilt faculty members with the University Professor title are James Blumstein, University Professor of Constitutional Law and Health Law and Policy; John Gore, University Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy; Amy-Jill Levine, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies; Craig Lindsley, University Professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Chemistry; Lawrence Marnett, University Professor of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Pharmacology; Edward Rubin, University Professor of Law and Political Science; and John Wikswo, Gordon A. Cain University Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.