Professor Grabe received her B.A. in Psychology from Michigan State University and did her graduate studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology. She was trained in clinical psychology with a minor in quantitative statistical methods. She completed a clinical residency at the University of Washington, School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.
After completing her doctorate, Shelly was awarded a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award to conduct research on women’s body objectification at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She designed a programmatic investigation of body objectification using diverse but complementary methodologies (e.g., quantitative survey, experimental designs, meta-analysis) to demonstrate that the objectification of women's bodies is deeply embedded in socio-cultural world views and intersects with race/ethnicity. She was mentored in feminist psychology by Dr. Janet Hyde.
At the same time Shelly became a community organizer, directing a CODEPINK chapter in Madison, WI and was an active member of the then Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua. Through solidarity relationships with the women’s social movement in Nicaragua (Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres), Grabe became learned in women of Color and “Third World” feminisms from a grassroots, decolonial perspective. She used this perspective to push a new area of inquiry into the investigation of social inequities or male dominance in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary context. To do so, she coupled her interests in structural inequities, gender, and globalization with her research training to work with transnational women’s organizations. Together they pushed new areas of inquiry that had the potential to support positive social change for women. During her postdoctoral years she was awarded a Visiting Scholar position in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and received funding from the National Science Foundation to begin an investigation in Nicaragua. This work was supported by mentor, colleague, and friend, Carlos Arenas.
Professor Grabe joined the Psychology faculty at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2008. Her primary appointment is in Social Psychology, though she is affiliated with the Feminist Studies and Latin American and Latin@ Studies departments. She is also an affiliate of the University of California Global Health Initiative Center of Expertise. In addition to the strong support received from her colleagues in the Psychology department, Grabe’s interests in women's human rights in a transnational context were mentored by Dr. Rosa-Linda Fregoso. Grabe has been a University of California DC Fellow, received a campus Excellence in Teaching Award, was awarded the Georgia Babladelis Best Paper Award from the Psychology of Women Quarterly, and has been a recipient of the Denmark-Reuder Award for Outstanding International Contributions to the Psychology of Women and Gender. Her research at UCSC has been funded by NSF, the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School, the UC Global Health Initiative, the Chicano/Latino Research Cluster at UCSC, the UC Humanities Research Institute, and the REED Foundation.