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Kelly M. Lewis

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2004


Empowerment implementation research, program design, implementation, evaluation and consultation, health and educational disparities, cultural/heritage knowledge, diaspora literacy, emancipatory pedagogy, global education, social change, multi-cultural mental health, cross cultural psychology.


Research & Community Interests

My broad research and community interests lie in empowerment implementation research with organizations and initiatives that aim to promote the health, psychological, educational, and behavioral wellbeing of African Americans and other under-served populations in the US, Africa, and Caribbean.  In particular, I conduct programmatic research and consulting that drives the effective design, implementation, evaluation, capacity building, and sustainability of programs within school, business, and public health systems.  In every case, this involves examining the role of cultural/heritage knowledge, Diaspora literacy, emancipatory pedagogy and global education in impacting individual and systemic change. This work is conducted through my Empowerment Implementation Research Lab (EIRL) in the Urban Life building at GSU.

One of my current projects focuses on the replication and scale up of a school-based emancipatory intervention entitled Project EXCEL (Ensuring eXcellence through Communalism, African Education, and Leadership) originally designed, implemented, and experimental evaluated to promote the psychological and behavioral well-being of African American adolescents in U.S. traditional mainstream schools using a promising emancipatory education framework drawn from elements of East African Ujamaa philosophy and practice.  My team and I are currently investigating the feasibility of developing and preliminarily assessing a teacher professional education component of Project EXCEL entitled Teachers EXCEL.   This research is being done jointly with Dr. Joyce King, Benjamin E. Mays Chair in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, College of Education at GSU.

A second major interest of mine involves the psychology of skin bleaching as well as the design, implementation, and evaluation of emancipatory programming that educates the community about the health risks of engaging in such practices.  Over the last few years, I have specifically, been involved in (a) investigating the psychological factors driving the preservation of skin bleaching in Tanzania East Africa, and (b) designing a culturally sensitive emancipatory education dissemination structure that could begin to inform the Tanzanian community about the psychological and health related risks of preserving skin bleaching in Tanzania.  This research has been done in partnership with the Tanzania Food and Drug Authority in Tanzania.

Clinical Interests

My clinical interests match my research interests, in that I specialize in multi-cultural mental health using empowerment and psycho-education approaches to psycho-therapy.  My theoretical orientation is primarily systems-based with roots in interpersonal and multicultural approaches.  I believe strongly in facilitating individual and systems level change simultaneously within a context that is empowering, culturally sensitive, interpersonal, strength-based and supportive of the cultural world view of those I work with.

Study Abroad Program in Tanzania-Zanzibar

I direct a summer maymester study abroad program entitled: “The Psychology of Skin Bleaching in Tanzania: From Slavery to Colonization to Contemporary Motivations (1827-Today).” Come join us on this first GSU psychology sponsored study abroad program in Africa!! This program will take place during May term 2010 and will feature exciting week-long stays in Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo, Arusha and Zanzibar, with short day trips to surrounding areas. Students will have the opportunity to participate in experiential learning within a variety of community contexts including: (1) visits to numerous historical sites, monuments and museums (e.g., slave market, slave caravan, colonial buildings); (2) visits to contemporary sites that sell and market skin bleaching creams and treat skin bleaching conditions; (3) discussions and lectures with experts on skin bleaching products and practices and its linkages to East African history and psychology; (4) safaris in some of the most popular game drives in Africa and visits to some of the most pristine beaches in the world; and (5) after-hours enjoyment in local restaurants and entertainment venues. Experiential learning, lectures, and discussion will focus on Tanzania’s transition from slavery to colonization to skin bleaching, with classes taught by faculty from Georgia State University and University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and/or the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS). This program is open to anyone (undergrad/grad students in good standing from any discipline as well as non-students) who can enroll in the program for class credit. This is a 3 credit class: PSYC 4030 (Cross Cultural Psychology) for undergraduate students and PSYC 6030 (Cross Cultural Psychology) for graduate students. ($4,000; airfare included). To learn more about the program, please review the program brochure or contact me at


Select Papers, Books, Book Chapters, and Newspaper Articles

Lewis, K., Robkin, N., Gaska, K., Njoki, L.C., Andrews, E., Jetha, K. (In Press). The Tanzanian Response to Dangerous Skin Bleaching Products & The Gendered Politics Involved: A Critical Analysis

Lewis, K.M., Young, S., Njoki, C., Andrews, E., Younge, L. (In Press). The Case of Skin Bleaching in Tanzania: Who does it?

Lewis, K., Robkin, N., & Njoki, L.C. (Under Review). Investigating the Motivations for Skin Bleaching in Tanzania.

Lewis, K.M., Thomas, O.N., & King, J.E. (2009). America, a Nation of Cowards? Schools, a Source of Courage: A Commentary, The Community Psychologist, 42 (2), 31-35.

Lesesne, C.A., Lewis, K.M., Green, D.C., Poindexter White, C., Wandersman, A., and Duffy, J. (2008).  Promoting Science-based Approaches to Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Engaging the Three Systems of the Interactive Systems Framework, American Journal of Community Psychology

Wandersman, A., Lesesne, C.A., Lewis, K.M., Green, D.C., Poindexter White, C., and Duffy, J. (In press).  Using the Interactive Systems Framework to Research the Gap between Science and Practice, Extended Abstract in American Journal of Evaluation

Lewis, K.M., Sullivan, C., & Bybee, D. (2006).  An experimental evaluation of a school-based emancipatory intervention to promote African American well-being & youth leadership, The Journal of Black Psychology,  32, 3-28.

Lewis, K.M., & Lambert, M.C. (2006).  Measuring social change preferences in African-American adolescents: Development of the measure for social change for adolescents (MOSC-A).  Assessment, 13(4), 406-416.  DOI: 10.1177/1073191106289032.

Lewis, K.M. (2004). The need for rigorously evaluated emancipatory education for Black youth in public schools.  The Community Psychologist, 37(2), 46-49.

Lewis, K.M. (2004).  Black students in public education: Outsiders in their own classroom.  Psych Discourse, 35(11), 8-9.

Lesesne, C., Lewis, K., Wandersman, A., Green, D., Moore, C., Schauer, M. (In Press).  Promoting Science Based Approaches Using Getting to Outcomes.  Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lambert, M.C., Francois-Bellas, V., Lewis, K.M., Puig, M., Lyubansky, M., Rowan, G.T., & Lancaster, K.E. (2001) Behavior and emotional problems of clinic-referred Black youth.  In C.C. Newman, C.J. Liberton, K. Kutash, & R.M. Friedman (Eds.). A system of care for children’s mental health: Expanding the research base (pp. 231-234).  Tampa, FL: Research and Training Center for Children’s Mental Health, Department of Child and Family Studies, University of South Florida.

Mtambalike, K. (2006).  Bleaching Craze Not Receding In Daily News. February 20. ISSN 0856-3812, No. 8966. Cover page.

Beyadi, A. (2006).  Bleaching Cream Users Reluctant to Drop In Daily Times.  February 20.  ISSN 0856-8791, No 0617.  p.2.

Tambwe, M. (2006).  And the Nobel Goes to Dr. Kelly Lewis In Sunday News Leisure Magazine.  February 26.  ISSN 0856-3811, No 31750, p. 4.

Lewis, K. (2006).  Kujichubua in Tanzania: Fading Beauty.  Documentary Produced by Omni Studios, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Select Conference Presentations

Lesesne, C., Lewis, K., & Wandersman, A. (2007).  Building Prevention Capacity Using Getting To Outcomes: Successes And ChallengesPanel Presented at the Society for Community Research and Action, Pasadena, California

Lewis, K., Lesesne, C., Wandersman, A., Moore, C., Green, D., Schauer, M. (2007).  Promoting Science-Based Approaches To Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Getting To Outcomes, Panel Presented at the Society for Community Research and Action Conference, Pasadena, California

Wandersman, A., Lesesne, C.A., Lewis, K.M., Green, D.C., Poindexter White, C., and Duffy, J. (March, 2007).  Using the Interactive Systems Framework to Research the Gap between Science and Practice, Paper Presented at What’s it Going to Take? Extending the Research Base to Improve Teen Pregnancy Prevention” Research meeting Conference, Washington, DC.

Lewis, K., Jetha, K., Essel, K. (November 2005).  Back to the Future.  Paper/Poster Presented at the American Anthropological Association Conference, Washington DC

Lewis, K., Jetha, K., Essel, K. (November 2005).  Bleaching to be Beautiful.  Panel Discussion presented at the African Studies Association Conference, Washington, DC

Lewis, K. (October, 2003).  The Bleaching Syndrome: Neo-Colonialism in Africa.  Paper/Poster Presented at the African Studies Association Conference, Boston, MA.

Lewis, K. (August, 2003).  Education for Liberation: An Emancipatory School-Based Intervention for African American Youth in Public Schools.  Poster presented at the Association of Black Psychologists Conference, New Orleans.

Green, R.L., Griffore, R.J., Schweitzer, J.H., Phenice, L.A., Hall, R.E., Lewis, K.M., Livingston, J. (August, 2003).  Community Coalition to Improve Academic Achievement: Parents and Educators Working Together for Positive Youth Outcomes.  Paper presented at the Association of Black Psychologists Conference, New Orleans.

Green, R.L., Griffore, R.J., Schweitzer, J.H., Phenice, L.A., Hall, R.E., Lewis, K.M., Martin, P.P. (April, 2002).  The Ecology of School Improvement.  Round-Table Discussion presented at the Paolucci/SHE (Society for Human Ecology) Conference, Lansing, MI.

Lewis, K.M. (2002, March).   Education for Self-Reliance: Revisited in the 21st Century. Paper presented at the 7th Annual Midwest Graduate Student Conference in African Studies, Ann Arbor, MI.

Lewis, K.M., Lambert, M. (1999, March). The Michigan Youth Project: Culturally Specific Instrument Development for African American Populations.  Television Appearance on Metro Live, TCI Cablevision, Lansing, MI.