Scholar Spotlight: Katrina Rbeiz 2022

Hi everyone! My name is Katrina Rbeiz, and I am a Lebanese-American first-year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University. I’m excited to share more about my motivations and experiences as a HASTAC scholar, and to connect with other like-minded individuals!  

If you’d like to connect:  


Personal Website 

1) Why did you apply to HASTAC? 

I stumbled upon the HASTAC program during the first semester of my Ph.D. program, and I was ecstatic to learn that such an initiative existed – one that would let me focus on highlighting the intersections of technology, creativity, and digital humanities. I was confident that the HASTAC program would give me the opportunity to refine my ability in integrating technology with research recruitment, dissemination, and access. Through networking with a community of like-minded scholars, I have gained confidence in my growth as a culturally and technologically competent researcher, where I will adopt novel approaches to communicate with and work alongside culturally diverse populations.  

2) What do you want to do after you graduate? 

As a first year, I’ve been keeping an open mind to all the different paths I could potentially take once I graduate. The HASTAC program has emphasized my desire to adopt an intersectional approach to my future career, which is why I would love to continue conducting research, practicing clinical work, and tailoring digital interventions to best help marginalized populations. I hope that these positions allow me to continue focusing on Middle Eastern and North African Wellbeing, cultural validity in assessments, and addressing disparities in the measurement and diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorders in people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.  

3) What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

That I’ve lived overseas for the majority of my life! I was born in Lebanon, and moved to Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia before moving to the United States at the age of 18. I consider myself to be a third culture kid (TCK), someone who was raised in a culture other than my parents’ or the culture of nationality. I discuss my identity in this podcast, and how these experiences shaped my appreciation for cross-cultural experiences, and for highlighting people’s stories regarding their sense of belonging, their conceptualizations of home, and their creative passions. 









4) What are some things that you wish you knew before you got into graduate school? 

I wish I knew that there would be so little structure. As someone who craves instruction and organization, I was surprised by how much freedom I have as a graduate student. This is a wonderful thing for a lot of people, because you have the chance to pursue your passions and ideas without many constraints, however, this can also be challenging. Graduate school relies on you to be self-motivated, which requires making your own schedule that you can realistically follow. It can feel like you’re a fish in the ocean at times, but it’s okay to seek resources, mentorship, and help in all aspects of your graduate school career. One thing I would want people to remember is this: You are your biggest self-advocate.  

5) How do you envision HASTAC and/or higher education in 10 years? Where do you fit in? 

I would love to see HASTAC grow into a larger, more international program. One thing I really appreciate about HASTAC as it currently stands is that it brings people together from across varying academic and socio-cultural backgrounds. In the next few years, it would be wonderful to connect with a larger community of cross-cultural researchers, academics, and advocates, so that we can continue to collaborate with one another on important projects. In particular, networking with a larger community of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) HASTAC scholars would be incredible so that we can exchange perspectives on how to best serve MENA community members internationally, and in the MENA region.  

6) How does digital scholarship fit into your research or teaching? 

My HASTAC project focuses on amplifying voices and creative thought processes from Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) populations in the Nashville area. I hope to highlight the intersectional identities of people from this population group. Oftentimes, MENA populations occupy a liminal space of hypervisibility and total invisibility. On one hand, media depicts negative representations of our culture, but on the other, MENA identity groups are left out of major demographic questionnaires, including the U.S. census, virtually erasing our experiences from policy and cultural considerations. To accomplish my goals, I plan to collect and host on the web examples of creative expression from multicultural student organizations on campus and from NGOs focusing on advocating for and building strong community relationships with refugees (particularly from the MENA community). In addition, I am planning to create a podcast featuring MENA voices talking about topics like Home, Belonging, Culture, Sensory Realities, and Creative Escapes. To this end, my final goal is to create a digital platform highlighting written, oral, and artistic expressions of nuanced cultural experiences in the MENA population, as we deserve to be celebrated for our national, religious, and linguistic differences. 

7) What do you hope to accomplish with your research or teaching? 

As a Lebanese American woman growing up in six Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, I developed a fascination for how human behavior and mental health are impacted by social environments. When I expressed my interest in psychology to people in the region, I was met with concerned looks. Given the cultural stigma surrounding mental health and the lack of cross-cultural diversity in psychological research, I am determined to for my research and teaching to  

1. dispel negative stigma surrounding psychological wellbeing, 

2. document the unique cultural and social experiences of MENA Americans and immigrants using an online platform, and  

3. scientifically communicate research results to a wider audience through digital media. 

8) What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? 




9) What’s something we should ask you? What’s your answer? 

What are you doing to demystify the graduate school process?  

As a first-year, I remember the struggles I faced when applying to graduate school. I felt disconnected from the process, which is why I decided to start a podcast with a fellow Ph.D. student.