Amanda L. Sullivan

In Funded Scholars
Amanda Sullivan
Amanda Sullivan

Amanda L.



Assistant Professor 
University of Minnesota

Professional Bio

Dr. Amanda L. Sullivan is an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota’s College of Educational and Human Development. She completed her doctorate in educational psychology at Arizona State University. A school psychologist by training, her research interests are multidisciplinary and encompasses issues of equity related to disability among culturally diverse children. Her work centers on understanding the social context of education for children and youth with disabilities, with an emphasis on inequities in access and outcomes among individuals from traditionally marginalized backgrounds and the preparation of educational professionals to implement evidence-based practices. Her work has been featured in numerous national conferences of the American Psychological Association, National Association of School Psychologists, Council for Exceptional Children, and American Educational Research Association and has been published in journals such as Exceptional Children, Psychology in the Schools, Urban Education, and Review of Research in Education. Her current research explores how family, school, and community factors influence development and diagnosis of learning and emotional difficulties among children, access to educational and mental health services, and children’s short- and long-term educational outcomes from birth through adolescence.

Project Description

This project will examine the mental health needs of adolescents and young adults with serious emotional disturbance (SED) and related evidence-based school mental health interventions. This project aims to provide a broad picture of the mental health needs and related evidence-base school mental health services for adolescents with SED. A variety of disciplines (e.g., special education, psychiatry, nursing, clinical psychology, school psychology, social work, school counseling) contribute to school-based mental health research, and this amalgam can apparently impede awareness among both scholars and education professions of the accumulating research evidence in this domain. A primary goal of this project is to identify interventions and adaptations shown to have positive effects for the predominant school social-emotional difficulties of adolescents with SED as a means of supporting wider adoption of evidence-based practices among educators serving this group.

The project will progress through an inductive process of analyzing a large-scale, nationally representative database (i.e., the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2) to ascertain the primary social-emotional difficulties among students with SED in school settings, followed by systematic reviews of the literature to identify the evidence-based practices addressing those specific needs and the effect of adaptations on intervention effectiveness. Further, during the systematic review process, meta-analytic methods will be utilized if the available literature is conducive to this approach. Together, the phases of this project provide a holistic topography of the mental health needs of the unique and understudied adolescent population. This project also reveals the current practice landscape of existing literature regarding evidence-based mental health interventions and adaptations that augment implementation in school contexts.

My New Connections Experience

I applied to New Connections because I am confident that the mentoring, methodological training, consultation, and networking supported by the grant will broaden my multidisciplinary knowledge and skill set for conducting health-related research. I welcome the opportunities to learn from others and improve my scholarship through the RWJF symposia and clinics. In addition, the credibility garnered by the support of the RWJF is especially valuable to me given that the work I am interested is unique within my field (i.e., school psychology), and I seek to not only infuse this work into my field but to expand my impact well beyond school psychology. I also hope to develop an ongoing relationship with the foundation and other scholars engaged in research to improve health care and policy.

Being part of New Connections represents an opportunity to develop my scholarship and join a highly regarded network of scholars doing critical work.

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in furthering our understanding of the social context of education for students with disabilities, especially those with or at-risk for learning disabilities, emotional disorders, and health impairments. In one line of work, I employ a prevention sciences perspective to understanding the ecological and interpersonal factors that place children and youth at risk for educational disabilities and mental health problems, as well as the implications thereof for the outcomes they experience within educational settings. I have taken an epidemiological approach via secondary analysis of large-scale data to examine the systemic prevalence and ecological correlates of early developmental delay, health and mental health problems, and the high-incidence disabilities and the intersections thereof among young children and school-aged populations. My research interests in health and health care emerged through recognition that both are critical to studying inequities and understanding the experiences of individuals with disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, serious emotional disturbance, ADHD, health impairments) across education and community settings. In particular, understanding the educational experiences and outcomes of individuals with disabilities requires attention to issues related to health, especially how health status and access to care shape school functioning and the provision of related services in schools. In my second line of work, I explore professional training and practice issues relevant to the provision of evidence-based school psychological and educational services for diverse learners, particularly multi-tiered academic and behavioral supports, psychoeducational evaluation for diverse learners, and culturally responsive practice. A central concern underpinning both lines of work is to understand disparities in educational access, treatment, and outcomes and the implications of identified inequities for policy, training, and practice.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator,
  • Award Year: 2011
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Vulnerable Populations
  • Project Name: Examining the Needs of Adolescents and Young Adults with Serious Emotional Disturbances in Relation to Mental Health Interventions in Schools.

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