The Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color (PNMGC) is honoring UNM Psychology Professor Steven Verney for his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in New Mexico and the Albuquerque community.  

verney at podium give thanks

Verney, an Alaska Native (Tsimshian) was selected as the recipient of the “All-Around Support Award” at the annual Faculty of Color Awards (FoCA) on April 18, 2024, at the University Club. 

I am honored and humbled to be nominated by graduate students. Rewards in Academia are few and far between, so I am thrilled to receive this award! I would like to thank our graduate students of color and allies who have worked so hard to make a difference. It has been an honor and rewarding to work with such a strong group of students during my tenure here,” Verney said.  

Verney would also like to thank his family and indigenous Tsimshian relatives and ancestors who have given him strength and a sense of equity and justice. That includes his parents parents Edward (deceased) and Joyce, siblings Darrel, Jayne, and Jann, partner Cecille, son and daughter in-law, Ryan and Cristina, granddaughters Eleanor and Laura, and grand-dog Seymour.  

Verney easily encompasses the ideals of this award. He is one of the Multiple Principal Investigators of the Transdisciplinary Research, Equity and Engagement (TREE) Center for Advancing Behavioral Health. That center focuses on community-engaged research within New Mexico and advancing underrepresented minority leadership to reduce behavioral health inequities. He has also worked with Community Advisory Boards composed of Native Elders on multiple research projects. 

“American Indian and Alaska Native communities are woefully underserved and under-represented in research and experience some of the highest mental and physical health inequities. They also suffer structural inequalities, yet, Native peoples have rich cultural tradition, sense of community and environment, and unique strength and resilience,” Verney said. “Research can identify strength-based and community-engaged approaches to identify inequities and work towards culturally-appropriate, sustainable, and ethical interventions."

In addition to his culture-based research process, Verney is just as an inclusive, supportive instructor at UNM. He works hard to implement that understanding of background in culture in each Lobo in his classroom. 

“I take a holistic mentoring approach to consider all challenges that may affect a student’s well-being in addition to academic mentoring, including personal, family, and cultural challenges,” he said. “I recognize that students of color experience various barriers within the academic environment and I try to validate their experiences and increase their successes.” 

His teaching repertoire includes both graduate and undergraduate courses of cultural psychology, health disparities, research with diverse populations and psychology of prejudice. Verney takes a culture-oriented approach to teaching in order to showcase the importance of recognizing sociocultural context and background.    

“In working with students from New Mexico, I consider our unique sociocultural context and that students may be coming from educationally underserved and under-resourced communities,” he said. 

Verney says his UNM colleagues, although not recipients of this award, are just as dedicated to advancing research based on equality.  

“It is critically important to recognize efforts towards equity and well-being of our diverse communities.  I am one of many who are deserving of PNMGC awards including faculty, staff, and students who are passionate and dedicated towards reducing inequities and increasing health and well-being in our communities,” he said.  

He considers his position at UNM and UNM’s larger role to be key in advancing solutions for health inequities in Native populations, sociocultural factors that underlie group differences, and culturally appropriate and community-engaged research with underserved populations.  

“Our New Mexico communities experience high levels in behavioral health inequities compared to national statistics and have endured various historical traumas that affect well-being today. New Mexico is a relatively poor state rendering marginalized communities more marginalized. Yet, our culture is rich and deserves to be honored,” Verney said.   

The PNMGC is a student program that is working to build community among historically underrepresented students at the University of New Mexico. PNMGC was founded during the 2002 to 2003 academic year by a group of UNM graduate students of color who recognized the need for an organization that could provide them with various forms of academic, cultural, and leadership support.