Kent State Psychology Professor to Receive 2022 ATHENA Akron Leadership Award

ATHENA Akron, a women’s leadership organization in Summit County, Ohio, has named Angela Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University, its winner of the 2022 ATHENA Akron Leadership Award. She will receive the award on Nov. 17 at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.

According to the ATHENA Akron website, the award is granted to “exceptional individuals who have achieved the highest level of professional excellence, contributed time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community, and actively assisted others – particularly women – in realizing their full leadership potential.”

Neal-Barnett is a leading expert in Black mental health with an emphasis on anxiety disorders among Black women and girls. Her latest efforts center on expectant mothers – Black women in particular – who may be suffering from PTSD or other stressors that can lead to an increased risk of pre-term births, infant mortality and mortality of the mother. Infant mortality rates in Northeast Ohio are three to five times higher for Black babies than white babies, an alarming statistic that is an issue across the country but particularly prevalent in this part of the state.

“I am humbled and honored by this award,” Neal-Barnett said. “My work has always been based in the community and primarily focused on Black women and girls. ATHENA is about women’s leadership and leaving a legacy for those coming behind us. I count it a privilege to receive this award from the Greater Akron ATHENA organization.”  

Started in 2021, Neal-Barnett’s Spirit of Motherhood intervention project screens and treats PTSD and chronic stress among Black expectant mothers with the goal of reducing symptoms that impact the health of mothers and babies. It helps them to adopt and use coping mechanisms that support their own mental health, and that of their children. Her Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders Among African Americans (PRADAA) Lab receives funding support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, American Psychological Association, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and Akron Community Foundation.

In addition to her widely cited research publications, Neal-Barnett has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine; Essence magazine; The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; and Harvard Business Review. She is also the author of “Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic and Fear” (2003).

To learn more about Neal-Barnett and her Spirit of Motherhood program, visit

If you are interested in becoming a participant in the Spirit of Motherhood program, please contact Keaton Somerville at or Diane Robinson at; you may also call or text 330-552-8959.

For more information about the PRADAA Lab, visit

To learn more about ATHENA Akron, visit

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Media Contacts:
Jim Maxwell,, 330-672-8028
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Wednesday, August 31, 2022 02:51 PM
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 23, 2024 09:07 PM
Jim Maxwell