Maria Aleksandrova-Howell was born in Moscow, Russia, and moved to the United States in 2006. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in counseling psychology at Oklahoma State. Aleksandrova-Howell said that growing up in Russia's collectivist society taught her to value groups and observe and learn about group dynamics. She noted she took her first group psychology course during her master's program at West Texas University and has since lead art therapy, mindfulness and yoga, and positive psychology groups. She had an experience with co-leading process, milieu, parenting, substance abuse prevention and trauma survival groups while working with adolescents and adults in several settings, including eating disorders program at a psychiatric hospital, Native American primary care clinic and a college counseling center. Aleksandrova-Howell explained that a favorite group therapy moment occurred when she taught adolescent females recovering from eating disorders about personal strengths. She noted the experience was empowering for them as they revealed to her how no one had ever encouraged them to identify and then speak about their personal strengths before. Aleksandrova-Howell's dissertation studies the relationship between mindfulness, emotional regulation strategies and positive body image, and their effect on adaptive eating behaviors. She said she became a Div. 49 member because she has felt "inspired and energized" by group and valued the emotions and positive change it provided others. Aleksandrova-Howell believes that becoming a Div. 49 member may be fulfilling for those who value human connectedness, cooperation and positive interdependence. She hopes to continue to meet others who love group and are open to new experiences.
Aleksandrova-Howell had a good beginning in doing research with groups; she has co-authored an article on the application of tele-behavioral health approaches focused on prevention of substance abuse and suicide to a small group of Native American adolescents. She plans to pursue research related to emotion regulation and conflict resolution in groups; group approaches focused on wellness, positive body image, and healthy eating; mindfulness and relaxation groups for American Indian population; and cross-cultural studies involving group therapy approaches in Russia and the United States. Her other research and professional interests include multiculturalism and diversity, positive relationships and strengths oriented therapy and assessment. Aleksandrova-Howell is applying for her doctoral internship this year, hoping that she will be able to enhance her group therapy skills during her internship year. She said that her future dream job would include collaborative multidisciplinary teams. Finally, Aleksandrova-Howell described herself as loving "bonding-in-the-moment" humor and noted enjoying traveling, spending time with her husband, connecting with her family and friends, watching crime movies and participating in sports such as skiing and yoga.