Texas Tech University

Family Addiction Recovery Researcher Joined Academia to Make a Difference

Glenys Young

July 14, 2020

Sterling Shumway received a 2020 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

In February, the Texas Tech University System announced its 2020 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards to honor outstanding faculty members who provide exceptional opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting the seven Texas Tech University faculty members who were recognized. This is the sixth in this series.

Sterling Shumway, the Evelyn M. Davies Regent's Professor and chair of the Department of Community, Family & Addiction Sciences in the College of Human Sciences, is passionate about education. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, faculty senator and director of the Institute for the Study of Addiction, Recovery and Families, it would be easy for Shumway to say he has too much else going on to focus on his skills as an educator – but he hasn't.


Through the Texas Tech Teaching Academy, Shumway has invested in education, as evidenced by his 2017 President's Excellence in Teaching Award and his nomination for a 2019 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award. This time around, he wasn't just nominated.

On Feb. 5, Shumway received a 2020 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

Can you describe your research and its impact, both in academics and society?
I engage in recovery research with a focus on long-term recovery and how brain function changes for both the alcoholic/addict and their family members over the course of addiction and recovery. This is research that has never been done before. It will help the trajectory of the addict and alcoholic in their recovery process and provide similar resources for family members who have been impacted by this disease.

What projects are you working on at this time?
Substance use disorders significantly impact family systems, yet often have been treated as an individual problem. Nevertheless, family inclusion has become a treatment priority although limited research exists regarding family members. Specifically, research has yet to examine the neuropsychological processes associated with family members. My current research uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy and functional magnetic resonance brain imaging technology to study similarities between the alcoholic/addict brain and their family member's. This is an effort to provide a better understanding of these similarities and how they impact the addictive process and subsequent recovery for both. The hope is that it will help establish the need for more resources and better treatment for family members, thus impacting the addicted loved one in a positive manner.

What areas are you interested in for future research?
The application of our brain research to prevention and intervention efforts.

What rewards do you get from teaching?
It's all about the joy of teaching things that can be applied to and help with the societal understanding of a difficult and stigmatized topic. Mentoring these students and helping them find their own recovery, understand their own family dynamics and lose the stigmas associated with the disease of addiction provide an amazing pay off for me, for them and society in general. It is hoped that the students benefit and become advocates for understanding and ultimately help to change perceptions in their broader communities.

What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?
My clinical practice opened my eyes to the problems of addiction and mental health. I wanted to make a difference, but I felt that the research was limited. Research that informs clinical practice is important and it enables us to not only understand, but to intervene appropriately; in essence, to make a difference. If my efforts don't make a difference for individuals and families, then I'm not interested.

How has Texas Tech helped you advance your research and teaching?
The university has provided important moral and financial support for the work of addiction that is done on this campus through the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities and the Center for Addiction Recovery Research. This support is second to none when compared to other campuses across this country and the world. Texas Tech also has been good to me personally and I will always be grateful for that.

Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?
Richard Wampler, my mentor when I was pursuing my doctorate here at Texas Tech. He gave me many opportunities to teach, do research and serve in the community via engagement efforts. His mentoring was invaluable and his belief in me something I will never forget. Many others have helped shape my career along the way and I feel deep gratitude for them.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Texas Tech has been good to me both as a student and as a faculty member. Guns up!