Translating addiction, mental health research for the Chinese American population

Psychologist brings WAVES program to ASU


December 7, 2022

Jinni Su, an assistant professor in Arizona State University's Department of Psychology, knows the importance of scientific research in the fight against addiction, mental health problems and substance abuse. She conducts research on alcohol abuse within marginalized populations, with recent findings highlighting the link between racial discrimination and drinking, the protective role of personality and problem drinking, and the importance of parents during the transition to college during the pandemic

Su, a developmental psychologist with training in human development and statistical/molecular genetics, recently gave a presentation on behalf of the Wellness, Advocacy, Voices, Education and Support (WAVES) initiative from the organization United Chinese Americans. She spoke in Chinese about alcohol use, mental health and supporting adolescent Chinese Americans.  Portrait of ASU Assistant Professor Jinni Su. Jinni Su, an assistant professor in the ASU Department of Psychology, knows the importance of scientific research in the fight against addiction, mental health problems and substance abuse. Photo courtesy the ASU Department of Psychology Download Full Image

“I study adolescent and young adult mental health and alcohol use-related problems. I try to understand the risk and protective factors that influence mental health and alcohol use-related problems,” said Su. “One of my focuses is trying to understand these processes within racial and ethnic minority populations, because they face their own unique challenges and they are relatively underrepresented in research.”

Drinking as a coping mechanism for issues like the increased stress from the pandemic, inflation or to cope with discrimination can lead to long-term challenges. Over 3,500 people died from alcohol-related causes in Arizona in 2022, and 60% of those cases came from issues related to chronic overuse of alcohol, such as Alcohol Use Disorder. 

“My dream is, of course, to have my work be impactful and to be a change leader to inform practices, prevention and education programs that can actually help serve the people,” said Su. 

Over 305,851 Asian American/Pacific Islanders live in Maricopa County, and the population has experienced a growth rate of 138% since 2000. Many of them speak English as a second language, and so speaking about research in Chinese makes a difference in connecting with the community and preventing problems such as adolescent alcohol abuse.

According to the UCA WAVES, many Chinese American adolescents suffer mental health challenges in silence due to the stigma associated with seeking out treatment and may turn to alternative methods for coping with the challenges of bilingualism or discrimination. 

“It's really special to me that I have the opportunity to engage with people who are working on the front line of the WAVES program — a program that is interacting with my community members and serving them,” said Su, adding, “I hope I can get more and more involved and be able to contribute to promoting the mental health of Chinese American adolescents.” 

 

Video courtesy the ASU Department of Psychology

Related: ASU launches first online master’s degree in addiction psychology with in-person practicum

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology

480-727-5054

Hugh Downs School Dean's Medalist aims to make a difference by improving lives


December 7, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA with a double major is no easy feat, but somehow Nicole Webb made it look easy. She excelled not only in her studies, but also joined several clubs and organizations that allowed her to "make a difference in the community." Nicole Webb Hugh Downs School Dean's Medalist Nicole Webb Download Full Image

Webb became particularly interested in public service, focusing on the anti-human trafficking organization at the Next Generation Service Corps at ASU. The Next Generation Service Corps is a four-year leadership development program designed to augment students' studies and growth during their ASU experience. Webb says they planned events to raise awareness and money for anti-trafficking, as well as completed service hours and other leadership development events throughout the semester.

The fall 2022 Dean's Medalist for the  Hugh Downs School of Human Communication says she couldn't have done it without all the people and organizations that have supported her along the way.  

"At the encouragement of NGCS, I have also completed three internships in each sector (public, private and nonprofit). This is all done while taking courses on Cross-Sector Leadership for a certificate only available to NGSC students," she said.

After her first year at ASU, Webb also served an 18-month mission for her church, in Spain, and learned to teach and give public speeches in fluent Spanish. 

"Upon my return, I added a minor in family and human development, and later a major in justice studies," Webb said.

As a communication major, Webb also participated in the Association of Human Communication 

"I began as the secretary, carefully taking notes of all the grand plans we had while meeting other communication-affiliated students. This club was not only important for me socially, but professionally as well. I learned a lot about event planning and marketing for our annual Communication Career Days as well as the resume and interview workshops that came along with them. 

"I was promoted to vice president and began a more active role in the club. Now, I am the president of the club. Although I am graduating soon, I hope the ideas, plans and relationships I have built during my time can continue in the legacy of AHC. It has deeply enriched my studies and I hope it will continue to do the same for others," Webb said.

Here she talks about the lessons she took from ASU, her future plans and the advice she would give current students. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study communication?

Answer: When I decided to go to ASU, I was excited but at the same time completely overwhelmed by the number of majors available to me. One night, I decided to just narrow it down to a few options. I found a list of all the majors and just started crossing out the ones I was not interested in. I then realized that there was only one left — communication. I looked at the major map to see what classes I would take and was immediately interested in the variety available. The required class descriptions also sounded intriguing. I immediately declared my major and have enjoyed it ever since! In my junior year, I noticed I had some space left in my schedule but did not feel like graduating early was the right path for me. I began to explore different majors again. My passion for anti-human trafficking and human rights led me to add my justice studies major, which has enhanced my college experience overall.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you that changed your perspective?

A: I took a lot of interpersonal communication classes, as well as related courses that fit in my other major and minor. In high school, you don’t generally learn about your everyday life in an academic setting. That is what was so fascinating to me — classes like relational and nonverbal communication, parenting, women and sexuality, etc., made it so that my actual life was course material. My perspective changed from learning about things that felt separate from myself to being curious about how theory, knowledge and academia in general applied to me and the world immediately around me. This motivated me to keep studying and diving into what I was learning. I think about what I have learned in the ideas I learned in these classes every day of my life and that will stay with me even after graduation. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I come from a line of Sun Devils starting with my great-grandma in one of the first classes when ASU added a business school. I was even present as a baby when my mom spoke at her ASU West graduation in 2000, so I joke it was just in my destiny to come back to campus. In all seriousness, I wanted to make sure that it was truly the right fit for me. I went on a few trips to campus and was enticed by the sheer amount of opportunities available to me. During high school, I was nervous and stressed about college but thinking about going to ASU made me look forward to my next chapter in life. That and I knew I would not have to deal with the snow!

Q: What clubs or extracurricular activities did you participate in while studying at ASU, and how were they beneficial to your college experience or how did they help you with your career aspirations?

A: I was about to break down everything I have done individually, but there is just too much to say. All of my clubs, scholarships, organizations and working for Changemaker Central benefitted my college experience in so many ways! Firstly, I gained so many friends and got to meet a variety of people on campus. Sometimes it is easy to just get buried in schoolwork and stay in a small bubble. I loved that I was able to meet more people and I felt like I was able to learn something new from everyone I met. I also was able to learn more about myself, explore my passions and develop leadership skills. Some of my favorite memories of college are working on projects and planning events with club members and coworkers and seeing them come to life and benefit the community. Since we are focusing on communication, I do have to give a special shout out to the Association of Human Communication! 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My personal slogan was “just show up.” Of course, this does not always apply to mental or physical health struggles. But I feel like I was able to glean so much more out of my four short years at ASU because I would try to show up to as many of my commitments such as classes and club meetings as possible. This kept me dedicated and disciplined, even when I was tempted to slack off. But also, if there were social opportunities or just random campus events that arose and I had the time, I would just show up! Sometimes I found myself in the most random of situations, but I would always learn something new that I might never come across otherwise.

Nicole Webb

Nicole Webb on the ASU Tempe campus.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A:  My favorite spot on campus by far is the ASU Art Museum. The displays are always changing, so anytime I have family or friends visiting I make sure we stop there. Not only is it a fun time and a gorgeous place, but there is always an educational aspect or an exhibit that brings awareness to an important issue. Every time I go it is so thought-provoking and I feel so creative and inspired afterward. Of course, there is a bigger reason it is my favorite place on campus: My husband Jamie proposed to me by the fountain in the art museum courtyard!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A:  Just like when I was a senior in high school looking at all the majors, there are just so many options available to me. ASU prepared me to go in a variety of ways. Currently, I am applying to a wide variety of jobs, but they all have one thing in common: I want a profession where I can improve people’s lives and make a difference in the community. Life after graduation is not just about work, however. I plan to volunteer in my community, be involved in my church, travel and spend more time with my family, set new goals, find some hobbies and get back into reading for fun, not just textbooks and articles.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A:  During my time at ASU, I had the privilege of being on Next Generation Service Corps’ anti-human trafficking mission team as well as being a part of All Walks, another anti-trafficking club. I do not believe $40 million dollars would completely solve such a pervasive problem, but it would absolutely be wore number of survivors we could empower and the people we could prevent from entering the destructive practice.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

480-965-5676