Dr. Krzysztof “Krys” Kaniasty has been selected as Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s 2014-15 Distinguished University Professor.
A professor in the psychology department, Kaniasty is perhaps the foremost authority on post-disaster social support, having written or co-written numerous empirical and theoretical articles, chapters and reports on the topic.
“This title reflects a very special honor given to truly exceptional faculty members who have made significant contributions in the classroom, in research and in scholarship — and who have been leaders in our university community,” Michael Driscoll, IUP president, said.
“These faculty members are true leaders for our institution, setting an example of excellence as teacher-scholars who are working to move the university forward.”
Though the Distinguished University Professor award is presented annually, recipients retain the title for life.
“While Dr. Kaniasty has been honored internationally for the quality of his research and scholarly work, he remains committed to being an effective teacher and to helping students succeed in all possible ways,” Driscoll said.
Kaniasty, a member of the Institute of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, has studied psychology both in Poland and the United States. He conducted and collaborated on several large-scale longitudinal studies investigating social support exchanges, individual and communal coping, and psychological well-being following natural disasters and other major stressors in several countries, including the United States, Mexico, Poland and China.
He is president of the Stress and Anxiety Research Society, and his scholarship has been recognized with several prestigious honors, including STAR’s Lifetime Career Award in 2011.
Early in his career, Kaniasty was recognized by the American Psychological Association with the Community Psychology Dissertation of the Year award (1993). In 2006, he was honored with the Individual Award by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education for his book about the 1997 Polish flood and its psychosocial consequences.
A member of the IUP faculty since 1990, he has been honored with the Outstanding Researcher Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the Sponsored Program Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research and the University Senate Distinguished Faculty Award for Research. He also serves on many national and international boards and associations, as well as many university committees.
Kaniasty has been an author or co-editor of several books and has written or co-written many highly cited social support and trauma chapters and articles in professional journals. He also has served as chief editor of “Anxiety, Stress and Coping: An International Journal,” and as associate editor of “The Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma.”
He regularly presents his research at national and international conferences and seminars, including serving as keynote speaker at the Australian Psychological Society Conference; the annual conference of the Stress and Anxiety Research Society in M￼nster, Germany; and the International Conference — Contemporary Quality of Life at the University of Opole, Poland.
He has been successful in securing research grants totaling more than $500,000, including several projects funded through the National Institute of Mental Health.
“It’s truly an honor to be selected for this recognition,” Kaniasty said. “I am proud and delighted because it is something I can share with my family, my collaborators, my departmental colleagues and many of my students. Work in academia, especially in social sciences, is a communal and collaborative enterprise. You cannot get by without a little help from your friends.”
During his tenure as IUP’s Distinguished University Professor, Kaniasty will work on a project that will address the question “When is social support actually helpful?”
“A large part of my research career has been devoted to looking for empirical evidence of what seems obvious to many, if not most, people — that receiving help in times of crisis is supportive,” Kaniasty said.
“Paradoxically, many stress and coping scholars and mental health practitioners, while enthusiastically heralding the beneficial effects of social support on psychological health, primarily refer to ‘perceived social support,’ what scholars call a hypothetical concept, and not ‘received support,’ which is a tangible concept.
“I want to focus on this question: Why is received support less influential than perceived support?” he said.
He explained that the goal of his research is to enumerate and describe social-psychological processes that undermine the efficacy of social support actually exchanged in times of stress.
“Ironically, social support is so omnipresent, it has unlimited opportunities to go wrong and potentially be harmful,” he said. “I hope to prepare a set of explicit recommendations that will help all of us help others in crises. That is the way helping is intended to be — helpful.”
Kaniasty resides in Indiana with his wife, Aleksandra “Ola” and their daughter, Natalia.