"It's been an upward climb for me," says the 24-year-old graduate student who entered the program this fall, having completed his master's degree in psychology at Eastern Kentucky University with a 4.0 grade point average.
Chapman was raised by a single mother, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was a high school freshman. "I didn't know a lot about it at that point," he says about his mother's diagnosis. He then made a difficult decision to move in with his 80-year-old grandmother in a rough neighborhood in Louisville rather than move with his mother to Frankfort, Ky., where she received treatment.
Many of his Louisville classmates chose violence or selling drugs over studying. But Chapman chose his studies, not wanting to fall prey to the same temptations. "It's been a difficult road," Chapman acknowledges. "But I did it myself by being motivated."
Chapman has always been intrigued by the choices people make in life, which is part of what attracted him to psychology. "I've always been interested in how people who are in similar circumstances go another route," Chapman says. "I guess I want to know why am I okay and some others are not."
The diversity Chapman brings to his program stretches beyond overcoming a troubled past. He is one of only a handful of African-American male students in doctoral psychology programs in the United States. African-American students only account for 4.7 percent of the student population in psychology, according to the 1999 APA Student Affiliate Application and Survey.
Chapman admits this can be difficult at times. "Sometimes I feel like there is not anyone who I can relate to," he says. "There have been things that I would like to discuss with people," such as being able to ask what it is like to be a black male in the field.
In 2001, Chapman married Jackie, a service coordinator at a mental health service organization in Louisville. He met her in an introduction to sociology class. Chapman tries to complete his class work during the week so that he can spend time with his wife on the weekends.
Chapman sees the many differences and perspectives he offers to psychology as a positive. As he jokes with his classmates: "Want to experience diversity in the program? Just hang out in my office for a week."