Random Sample

Occupation: Professor and chair of the Virginia State University psychology department. He's been at the school for 27 years, chair for the last four.

Member since: 1996

Early influences: Hill is the son of Oliver W. Hill Sr., one of the civil rights lawyers involved in Brown v. Board of Education. "I grew up with the ideas of social justice and the need to make change in the world," he says.

Hill was 5 when the Supreme Court was considering Brown. "At that time, the hotels were segregated, so the lawyers in the case stayed at our house," he remembers. "I would sit under the table and listen to Thurgood Marshall and others talk about the case. I didn't understand what they were saying, but I knew something important was going on."

In 1961, at age 12, Hill was among the first students to desegregate Virginia schools. "All my life, my parents had been girding me, so I was well-fortified for that first day, but it was still difficult to understand that people don't like you, but they don't know you."

Work passion: Interacting with students (he teaches biopsychology and statistics) and conducting research. He's just completed his first year of a three-year National Science Foundation grant to study factors that impede ethnic-minority student success in math and science. Specifically, he is looking at interventions that might improve students' processing speed and auditory processing. "These skills were once considered intractable, but can be developed from training," he says.

Nagging disappointment: The dearth of minority students in psychology. "It's critical to train more minorities to go into the professorate and become role models," Hill says. "The more quantitative aspects of psychology continue to have underrepresentation."

Proudest achievement: His work to develop and launch VSU's first PhD program, which is in health psychology. "It was a sea change for the university," he says. "We are now seen as a research institution."

Family life: He has three grown children and three grandchildren with his wife, Renee, whom he met at the University of Michigan. She has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Virginia. "We have some interesting dinner-time discussions," says Hill. "I like to tease her about how philosophy evolved into psychology."

Hobby: For 30 years, he has taught meditation, most recently to inmates through the Siddah Yoga Prison Project. "It's very rewarding. Some inmates become very dedicated yogis. When you think about it, their setting is almost like an ashram—not much sensory stimulation, strict regulations."

He has taught meditation at all of Virginia's maximum security prisons and some federal prisons around the country.

—S. Martin


Each month, "Random Sample" profiles a randomly selected APA member. You might be next.