This year's "Up Close and Personal" question-and-answer session will feature Janet E. Helms, PhD, founding director of Boston College's Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture. Helms's research has driven new theories of how race and gender identity and cultural factors influence counseling practices, assessment and personality development.

Her work has provided empirical evidence that it is not race or gender per se that affects people's mental health, but the psychological effects of being treated in certain ways because of one's ascribed membership in these categories. Helms has found that racial identity predicts a variety of outcomes, including race-related stress reactions, performance on standardized tests and perceptions of supervisor-supervisee experiences. She is now investigating the links between racial and womanist identity and health disparities of women of color. "Although obesity is a problem for U.S. women, particularly African-American and Latina women, little research has examined racial stressors and the women's manners of coping with them as catalysts for the problem. If we can find how these identity schemas affect eating, we might develop interventions more useful than just telling women to eat less." Helms will answer questions about her work and looks forward to learning from attendees about other practical applications of her theories.