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Sonya Kurzweil Grant Program at
William James College

Dr. Sonya Kurzweil with grant recipient Caroline Ferreira October 6, 2021

The Sonya Kurzweil Grant Program awards two $5,000 grants to William James College clinical psychology students pursuing their doctoral project research related to the mental health needs of children, adolescents, parents and other caregivers. The program aims to advance scholarly research of best practices for treating, diagnosing and preventing mental health disorders and reward commitment to the child-family clinical specialty. The grants may be used in any way the awardees wish to advance their career and personal goals.

The Sonya Kurzweil Grant Program is a first-of-its-kind program at William James College. The grant is made possible through a donation from the Sonya Kurzweil Developmental Center (SKDC), a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide mental health services to women, children, adolescents, parents and families.   The program was founded in 2018 by Dr. Bruce Ecker, emeritus clinical psychology associate professor at WJC, and Dr. Kurzweil.  They are the principal designers of the protocols.  These include an annual award luncheon celebrating the awardees.

At the October 6, 2021, ceremony, which recognized the 2020 and 2021 grant award recipients, Dr. Sonya Kurzweil highlighted the topics the grant funding has supported to date:

“The topics reflect the wide range of psychological service needs within our communities for children and caregivers and also the wide range of mental health topics that may be pursued at William James College."

The 2021 recipients, Clinical PsyD students Caroline Ferreira and Emily Foard, presented their proposals during the ceremony.  Ferreira, an international student from Brazil, presented her proposal, entitled Early Adverse Experiences and Negative Mental Health Outcomes in Adolescents, which looked to identify how external and internal assets play a role in the mental health problems of adolescents. Foard shared her doctoral project on The Association Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Pediatric Primary Headache Conditions, which looked at the differences between groups who have experienced and not experienced adverse childhood events regarding the incidence of later diagnosed headache conditions.  Both students thanked Kurzweil for her support. Emily Foard commented:

“This opportunity has given me a lot of confidence to see myself as a researcher and to pursue opportunities to share my work and to continue to help advocate for children and families."


2020 grant recipients Dana Borkum and Daniel Moore, whose award luncheons were interrupted due to the pandemic, were also recognized.  Borkum’s project investigated age, cognitive control/flexibility, and self-injurious behavior.  Moore studied mental health providers’ knowledge of trans youths’ unique health needs.


Dr. Sunny Dutra, chair of the SKGP Committee and Associate Director of William James College’s Center for Psychological Science (CPS) remarked:

"I am honored to lend my support to the SKGP program. It provides some of our best and brightest students with tremendous support for their research endeavors and toward improved understanding and treatment of the mental health needs of children and families."

Reference for this summary: 

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