Perrotti takes leadership reins as new head of Department of Psychology

New department chair sets success of students, faculty as primary objective

Tuesday, Oct 10, 2023 • Gregory Pederson :

Linda Perrotti, professor and chair of the UTA Department of Psychology 

A highly respected University of Texas at Arlington professor of psychology is taking over the leadership reins of the department and wants to help guide it to new heights of academic and research excellence.

Linda Perrotti, who has been at UTA since 2006, assumed the role of Department of Psychology chair in August. She replaces Perry Fuchs, who had led the department since 2016.

Perrotti, who previously served as College of Science interim associate dean of graduate studies, is the first woman to head one of the College’s departments. Pamela Jansma served as College of Science dean from 2009-14, and there are numerous current and former female associate department chairs, but Perrotti is the College’s first female department chair.

“First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that having a woman in a chair's position within the College of Science is long overdue,” she said. “With that said, I consider it a tremendous privilege to hold this distinction. As the first female department chair in the College’s history, I recognize the significance of this role in paving the way for young women and girls to see themselves in leadership positions.

“The importance of having women in STEM leadership roles cannot be overstated. I firmly believe that representation matters, and my presence as the chair of the Psychology Department can serve as an inspiration for the next generation of STEM enthusiasts. It’s about demonstrating that women have a place at the forefront of scientific leadership and that their contributions are both valued and essential.

“Historically, women have been underrepresented in STEM leadership positions, and this trend often continues as one moves higher up the career ladder. This scarcity of female role models at senior levels impacts the visibility and accessibility of mentorship opportunities for aspiring women in STEM. As I assume this role, I’m committed to contributing to the reduction of gender disparities. Through this, I hope to inspire future generations of women to pursue their passion for STEM, break down barriers, and thrive in leadership roles, contributing to a more equitable and diverse scientific community.”

College of Science Dean Morteza Khaledi said Perrotti brings experience and enthusiasm to the position and said she is an excellent choice to lead the department.

“Dr. Perrotti did an outstanding job as interim associate dean, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role,” Khaledi said. “She knows the Department of Psychology well and has some exciting ideas which I’m sure will help make an excellent department even better.”

Perrotti said that her primary objectives as chair involve enhancing various facets of the department to cultivate a thriving academic community and to ensure the success of faculty members and students.

“By centering my efforts on these goals, my intention is to establish an environment that nurtures faculty excellence, empowers student achievement, and positions our department as a frontrunner in psychology education and research,” she said.

One initiative Perrotti wants to emphasize is to enhance faculty engagement, within the department but also across the College and University.

“By fostering an environment where faculty members feel esteemed, interconnected, and empowered, we can collectively contribute to the advancement and prosperity of the department, college, and university on a broader scale,” she said.

Another initiative is developing a branding identity for the department and its various programs.

“This branding will effectively communicate our mission, values, and strengths to prospective students, faculty, and stakeholders, thus reinforcing our unique identity within the academic landscape,” Perrotti said. 

A third initiative Perrotti has is to introduce new programs in order to enrich the department’s academic offerings.

“This includes establishing comprehensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs, which encompass a B.S. to M.S. track, a dedicated master’s program, and certificate options,” she said. “Additionally, we aim to launch an online master’s degree program in general psychology to expand accessibility and accommodate diverse learning preferences.”

A fourth initiative is to enhance students’ awareness of the variety of career options that comes with a degree in psychology.

“Recognizing the importance of preparing our students for future success, we will intensify efforts to raise awareness about the wide array of career opportunities available to them,” she said. “This proactive approach will empower our students to make informed choices and embark on fulfilling professional journeys.”

Perrotti said the department’s strengths lie in its dedication to a student-centered approach, high-quality research, its unique blend of basic and applied psychology, the accomplished and diverse faculty, and its commitment to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.

“These strengths provide a solid foundation upon which we can continue to excel, innovate, and make a meaningful impact within the field of psychology and beyond,” she said.

Perrotti’s own journey in psychology began during her undergraduate studies at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. She was initially interested in the clinical aspects of the field and considered a career path as a school psychologist. Her goals changed when she took a course in biological psychology and began to learn about the interplay between hormones and behavior.

Her professor, an expert in behavioral neuroscience, said that if she made an A in the class she could join his lab and conduct research over the summer. Perrotti earned the A and soon was immersed in research involving the influence of hormones on behavior. The experience helped her create a path to graduate school.

“It was during this time that I came to realize that my real passion was in academia and research,” she said. “The trajectory shifted from a clinical orientation to a path where I could contribute to the understanding of behavior and its underlying mechanisms through research and education.”

She received a B.S. in psychology from Montclair State in 1992 and went on to graduate school at the City University of New York. As a doctoral student, Perrotti worked with a faculty mentor whose research focused on discovering the intricate connections between sex differences and the neuroendocrine mechanisms of cocaine addiction.

“This early exposure to the fascinating world of addiction research kindled my interest and shaped my trajectory,” she said. “Upon nearing the completion of my doctoral studies and contemplating a postdoctoral fellowship, I chose to remain within the realm of addiction science.”

Perrotti earned a master’s in psychology with an emphasis in biopsychology in 1999 and received her Ph.D. in the same field in 2000. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from 2000-03 and was an assistant instructor and senior research scientist at UTSW between 2003-06. She joined the UTA Department of Psychology as an assistant professor in July 2006.

“As I embarked on my own research journey, the decision to continue investigating sex differences and neuroendocrine aspects of addiction was influenced by a couple of compelling factors,” she said. “Firstly, I recognized the significant gap in our understanding of women’s experiences from a biomedical standpoint. This realization underscored the importance of shedding light on the distinct responses to addiction in women, a topic that had been understudied and held considerable potential for discovery.

“Secondly, my connection to the study of addiction is deeply personal. Like many, I have witnessed the impact of this disease on close family members. This firsthand experience reinforced my commitment to delving into the complexities of addiction, with the aim of contributing to our understanding and ultimately improving the lives of those affected.”

Her research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Molecular Endocrinology and Journal of Molecular Biology, among other places, and has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD).

One of her current projects, funded by a three-year, $454,000 grant from NIDA, is a comparative study of how males and females respond to opiate withdrawal. The project is addressing a systemic deficiency of data related to female experiences of drug use, addiction, and recovery.

In her administrative role, Perrotti looks forward to the prospect of helping the department grow and thrive.

“Having been part of UTA’s psychology faculty since 2006, I have gained valuable insights into the possible avenues and positive transformations that the department could undertake over time,” she said. “Our faculty consists of a dynamic mix, including both long-standing members and newcomers, who I believe are prepared for optimistic shifts and fresh trajectories. Altogether, there is a palpable sense of anticipation among us for the promising future that lies ahead.”


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