Psychology Professor Aileen Torres Wins Prestigious ‘New Jersey Psychological Association Dr. Stanley Moldawsky Mentor Award’ for 2020

Dr. Aileen Torres and PsyD student Keshani Perera MA '20

Torres and Perera during WP's commencement ceremony in August

Aileen Torres, a professor of psychology at William Paterson University, is being recognized as one of two statewide winners of the New Jersey Psychological Association’s Dr. Stanley Moldawsky Mentor Award for 2020. The award recognizes “exceptional leadership” in the form of “enduring and exemplary contributions to mentoring new psychologists and/or graduate doctoral level students.” 

Professor Torres was nominated for the award by fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student Keshani Perera MA ’20.

Torres serves as chair of Perera’s doctoral dissertation, which focuses on bicultural identity integration as a protective factor against the stress appraisal of color-based racial discrimination, and was recently awarded an NJPA Social Advocacy Grant. The professor-student duo also co-authored a book chapter addressing cross-cultural factors in trauma-related disorders that was recently published in the Handbook of Cultural Factors in Behavioral Health. Additionally, Perera serves as the manager for Torres’s research lab on campus and has spent three years as the graduate assistant for WP’s Department of Psychology.

“It is not a secret that graduate school is difficult, but as an international student, it is immensely challenging,” Perera, who is from Sri Lanka, wrote in her nomination essay. She explains that moving to the United States by herself left her feeling out of place, alone, and in several instances, a target of racial discrimination. “As my mentor and a person of color herself, Dr. Torres encouraged me, motivated me, and offered me words of courage to address, speak up, and stand up for myself.

“Dr. Torres has shown me compassion, kindness, and empathy and has believed in me even when I did not believe in myself … [she] has been and continues to be a guiding light in my doctoral journey.”

Torres is a licensed practicing clinical psychologist who has clinical expertise in child abuse, trauma throughout the lifespan, immigration and family therapy. She is endorsed as a Level IV Clinical Mentor by the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health. She was a recent Training Advisory Committee member for the American Psychological Association's Minority Fellowship Program, member-at-large for NNPA, as well as a member of NJPA’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Torres is also a past president of the Latino/a Psychological Association of NJ (LPANJ), among other noteworthy roles.

“As a mentee and later a mentor for the American Psychological Association's Minority Fellowship Program, I have always valued the importance of mentorship in our field, especially for first-generation students,” Torres says. “As a clinical supervisor for graduate students for over a decade, working with students has always been the best part of any of my jobs. I never feel like I've done enough because students always end up inspiring me with their passion and enthusiasm.

“As I have only recently shifted to an academic position here at William Paterson, I am so beyond honored that my doctoral mentee nominated for me for this award,” Torres adds. “We have high expectations for our students here and I am so happy to hear that they feel supported in the important work that they do.”

Torres will receive her award during the NJPA 2020 Fall Conference Virtual Awards Ceremony which will be held on Friday, October 16, 2020.