APA’s Early Career Psychologist Achievement Award Names MSU Psychology Alumna

October 20, 2022 - Shelly DeJong

Danielle King has received the American Psychological Association (APA) Achievement Award for Early Career Psychologists. Dr. King, who earned a doctorate in organizational psychology at MSU, is an assistant professor at Rice University and studies resilience and identity. 

“I'm excited to receive this award, especially as someone researching resilience and race. Historically in our field, those haven’t been the scholars who have been selected for these awards. So, I'm grateful and I think it's a positive step,” said Dr. King.  

The award distinguishes psychologists who received their doctorate within the last ten years and who are making significant impacts on psychology and providing outstanding service, advocacy, scholarly contributions, education, or practice. Three awards of $2,000 are presented annually.  

“We are so proud of Danielle and all of her achievements,” said former advisor Dr. Ann Marie Ryan. “She was a standout grad student here at MSU and continues to do high-quality research that makes a difference in the working lives of many.”  


Rooted in Race & Resiliency    

Dr. King’s lab at Rice University focuses on resiliency, but she also is interested in identity, like race, gender, and disabilities. She looks at universal stressors and examines them to see what types of difficulties are tied to identities. She then sees what resources help overcome identity-related trauma.   

Originally from New Orleans, Dr. King first became interested in resiliency after witnessing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on her family and community. When her dad’s indoor rock-climbing gym completely flooded, she saw firsthand how an unexpected event can drastically impact a business. Many of her community’s businesses never came back to New Orleans. This major, unexpected event sparked her interest in resiliency in businesses, organizations, and communities.   

Dr. King attended Spelman College as an undergraduate, which sparked her interest in identity. By attending Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women, Dr. King lived not as a racial or gender identity minority. This living experience taught her a lot about diversity among black people.  

“It was very interesting to then go back into the world as a black woman in spaces where it's so few of us,” added Dr. King. “I was really fascinated by that process.” 

Dr. King earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in organizational psychology from Michigan State University in 2018. During her graduate studies, she studied diversity, equity, and inclusion with Dr. Ann Marie Ryan as a part of the Diversity Research Group and motivation with Richard DeShon. When an opportunity came up to travel to New Zealand for a summer to study resiliency concerning a major earthquake that happened in 2011, she jumped at the chance.  

“It all kind of came together and points to what I currently study,” said Dr. King. “I’m taking these two umbrellas of resiliency and identity and saying that they can benefit one another if we think about them together. There is so much left to understand about resiliency and identity, especially for adults in the workplace.” 


Support and mentorship 

Dr. King is the first to share the credit of this award. 

“I want to be very clear, this is not just all my doing,” added Dr. King. “My grad students, my mentors, my collaborators, the training I got at Michigan State, and the support I have here at Rice, have all allowed me to meet the selection criteria for this award.” 

 Dr. King has four Ph.D. students working in her lab; she recognizes that they make the lab's projects run smoothly. Being able to mentor and interact with her students is one of her favorite parts of her work. She shared that the graduate program at Michigan State University has had a lasting effect on her research, her work as a professor, and how she mentors her students. 

“I loved the graduate program at MSU. I felt grateful because it is a star-studded cast of faculty that mentored me, taught my classes, and prepared me for what was next,” said Dr. King. “I think a lot of how I've modeled my mentorship style, research, and project management skills are based on the things that I saw faculty doing there at Michigan State.” 

Between research, mentorship, and teaching, Dr. King sees little downtime. She recognizes, though, that she stays motivated because she cares about the work that she is doing. She advises new grad students to study something they are interested in so that on the hard days, they can also find the motivation to keep going. 

Dr. King is grateful for the work that she gets to do every day.  

“I love that I get to be curious and learn for a living,” she added. “I get to think about things that people are experiencing that might be difficult, and I get to do work to figure out answers and solutions.”