Dr. Michael G. Wessells '70
Mike Wessells was born in Roanoke, Virginia and grew up in Richmond. He attended Roanoke College where he majored in psychology and received his Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1970. He was involved in many campus activities including serving as president of the Honor Council. Wessells was designated both a junior and senior scholar in psychology. He was a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society and the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Wessells continued his education at the University of Massachusetts where he earned his Master's and Ph.D. degrees in psychology. He joined the faculty at Vassar College in 1974 as assistant professor of psychology and in 1981 became professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College, a position he held through 2009. Until recently, Wessells also served as senior advisor on child protection for the Christian Children's Fund. He currently is a professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University where he teaches one graduate course, advises students on research, and conducts research globally on the impact of child care and protection programs.
Dr. Wessells has been recognized many times for his teaching and for his extraordinary commitment to the health of children and families. He received Randolph-Macon's Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching and the College's Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award. In 2009, Wessells received the International Humanitarian Award from the American Psychological Association and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Division of Peace Psychology.
In receiving the International Humanitarian Award, it was noted that Wessells, throughout his career, has applied his expertise in psychosocial assistance for the benefit of children and families affected by forced migration, disasters, and ethnopolitical violence. He has contributed extensively to peace and reconciliation efforts and has provided direct humanitarian services in conflict areas in Asia, Africa, Central America, Europe, and South America, where his efforts on behalf of children often placed him in personal jeopardy. As a global leader in post-conflict reconstruction and child protection, Dr. Wessells has worked for numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations throughout the world, including the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and the American Psychological Association's Division of Peace Psychology.
Wessells' contributions to publications in the field have also been widely influential. He is associate editor of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology and the author of Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Wessells, is Professor at Columbia University in the Program on Forced Migration and Health and Professor Emeritus at Randolph-Macon College. He has served as President of the Division of Peace Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and as Co-Chair of the InterAction Protection Working Group. He is former Co-Chair of the IASC (UN-NGO) Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings which developed the first inter-agency, consensus guidelines for the field of mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian crises.
Currently, he is co-focal point on mental health and psychosocial support for the revision of the Sphere humanitarian standards. He has conducted extensive research on the holistic impacts of war and political violence on children, and he is author of Child soldiers: From violence to protection (Harvard University Press, 2006). He regularly advises UN agencies, governments, and donors on issues of psychosocial support. Throughout Africa and Asia he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist people affected by armed conflict.
Wessells was convocation speaker at Roanoke College in 1987. His work with the Christian Children's Fund was featured in a 2003 Roanoke College Magazine article.
Dr. Wessells and his wife Dr. Kathleen Kostelny live in Beaverdam, Virginia.
Michael G. Wessells received the Roanoke College Medal in 2010.