Deborah (Debbie) O'Donnell

Student involvement in my research

Group gathers for a mealStudents are actively involved in my research in a number of capacities. Some students do research in the form of St. Mary’s Projects, others complete for-credit Directed Research, some volunteer in my research lab, and some are paid research assistants. Two of my former St. Mary’s Project students won prestigious college-wide SMP awards. Many of my students, especially those who study abroad, conduct field research in the communities and cultures in which they live.

A number of students who carry out research with me present their findings at national and regional scientific meetings, including the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting, the Association for Psychological Science Annual Meeting, and the Eastern Psychological Association Annual Meeting. This provides very valuable experience for graduate school and post-college jobs.

Map of The Gambia

If you are interested in pursuing psychology directed research in The Gambia, you can e-mail me to talk more about the many fascinating possibilities.

Psychology in West Africa
Summer 2016
7 weeks of experiential learning


Here are examples of some recent student conference presentations. Student names are in bold.


Hogan, C. & O'Donnell, D.A. (August 2014). "There is a devil in my neighborhood": The study of Gambian spiritual beliefs and treatments. Poster presented at the 2014 American Psychological Association Convention, Washington, DC. 

Sari, C. & O'Donnell, D. A. (April 2014). Application of problem behavior theory to senior secondary school students in The Gambia. Poster presented at the 2014 L. Starling Reid Undergraduate Psychology Conference, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. 

Binns, G., Woods, S., & O'Donnell, D.A. (March 2012). Beliefs about HIV/AIDS among senior secondary school students in The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa. Poster presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Baltimore, MD. 

Hughes, C., Roth, J., & O'Donnell, D. A. (March 2012). Perceptions of school climate and school safety among senior secondary school students in The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa. Poster presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Baltimore, MD. 

O'Donnell, D.A., Dueker, A., Schwab-Stone, M., & Jatta, N. (May 2009). Adversity and hope in a rapidly changing culture: A case study of violence exposure among school-going youth in The Gambia, West Africa. Symposium paper presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research, Washington, DC. 


Debbie with kids "Going to The Gambia taught me many things, but the most important thing I learned was what it means to be a person of service. From watching doctors in the emergency room to learning the importance of greetings to sharing a meal with Gambians, I learned that service to others doesn't mean you have to change the world everyday. It means giving what you can, whether that be time, rice, or a friendly greeting". 
- Erin Harvey '15