New SUNY Canton Applied Psychology Faculty Member Pens Book Chapter


A SUNY Canton faculty member has published a new book chapter based on her experiences creating a personal “Third Cultural Space” after being viewed as an American in Africa and an African in the U.S.

Assistant Professor Marcella K. Chiromo, Ph.D., who teaches in the college’s Applied Psychology program, published “Navigating Academia as a Third Culture Child” in “Global South Scholars in the Western Academy” published by Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Chiromo just began her career at SUNY Canton in Fall 2021.

Marcella Chiromo teaches a class.

“I was born in the United States and was four or five years old when my parents moved back to Zimbabwe,” Chiromo said. “I had limited knowledge of the Zimbabwean culture and I did not speak the native language. I learned all about the culture through my experiences there.”

She said she struggled to fit in during elementary school as she navigated the cultural expectations. Her family was often referred to as “The Americans” because of the way they spoke. Chiromo then moved back to the U.S. to attend college after receiving most of her education in Africa.

“I was an international student but was not seen as one because I was a U.S. citizen,” she said. “I did not receive the support international students received when it came to navigating a new culture.”

While faced with the difficult situation, Chiromo adopted personal strategies to navigate higher education and personal interactions. She would draw from her experiences as an American to fit in with faculty members and use her knowledge of African culture to fit in with her peers. “I refer to this as cultural code switching,” she said.

Chiromo explained that international students have a host culture and a heritage culture. They can adapt by creating their own third cultural space which reflects their situations and backgrounds. “That’s how I learned to navigate, especially in higher education,” she said.

Her curiosity of how psychology is influenced by culture led her to pursue her doctorate from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Participants in her dissertation study reported positive experiences with the process of acculturation when they were confident about their heritage culture. “Throughout my study, identity and belonging stood out as a catalyst to a positive experience,” she said.

Chiromo noted that developing an understanding of where people are at within cultural spaces helps her assist her students as they navigate their college education. “Something that came out of my research was this desire to be seen, to belong, and to feel like your teachers actually care,” she said. “Sometimes it’s those things we overlook that can get in the way of students having a positive experience in college.”

She will be presenting her research at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference in April.

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.