Author Archives: Eddy Ameen

Dr. Anatasia S. Kim is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

Developing Professional Identities in Legislative Advocacy and Leadership

 

Dr. Anatasia S. Kim is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

Dr. Anatasia S. Kim, PhD is the 2015 recipient of the APAGS Guardian of Psychology Award.

By Anatasia S. Kim, PhD

What is the role of legislative advocacy and policy in my capacity as a clinical psychologist? The answer is found in my years of community-based work with children, adolescents, and families. As a graduate student at UCLA some 15 years ago, I never imagined one day lobbying in the Capitol on behalf of the profession and my clients. But this is exactly what brings tremendous excitement, passion, and hope for me today.

I started my clinical career working with at-risk youth in East Los Angeles using brief intervention models to treat behavioral, emotional, and academic problems. Back then I naively believed that therapy alone would be enough. I continued my work with this population and expanded to working with incarcerated youth and immigrant communities. While involved in research efforts in these areas, it became undeniably apparent that a significant, if not majority, of the psychological problems that challenged my clients were in fact a result not of some intrapsychic forces, but rather, a system  failure.

As a graduate student at UCLA some 15 years ago, I never imagined one day lobbying in the Capitol on behalf of the profession and my clients. But this is exactly what brings tremendous excitement, passion, and hope for me today.

The disparities in mental health, access to and quality of care, and other resources ultimately reflect a broken system of socially unjust policies that impair the wellbeing of the communities we serve. Just as one cannot separate the mind from the body, we cannot separate people from their environment, which includes the social system in which they are inextricably embedded. The solution then rests in large part to our capacity and willingness to be personally and professionally accountable to the world around us.  Ultimately, this means that we have to take responsibility for and develop solutions to social problems that plague our communities, particularly those that have and continue to be the most marginalized and oppressed.

As socially conscious and morally responsible professionals, we cannot simply spew out diagnoses and “fix” broken psyches. We can and must do much more. Indeed, we must fully acknowledge that social injustice, cultural apathy, and moral irresponsibility lead to and cause mental illness. We must acknowledge that mental illness is birthed from community violence, broken educational system, intergenerational poverty, and proliferating prisons. Mental illness is also perpetuated in our silence, when we don’t speak up or use our privilege to challenge the status quo.

My responsibilities as a legislative advocate are not only to the profession of psychology, but more importantly, to the clients I serve. The few letters that follow my name give me access and authority to places that my clients don’t have, including a seat at the table where discussions and ultimately decisions about policies can be influenced. In fact then, legislative advocacy is our ethical responsibility and a moral imperative not only as psychologists, but also as citizens who vote and can demand just polices that promote instead of inhibit mental health.

Psychologists have something critical to offer in the social and public policy discourse. Beyond the therapy and classrooms, our commitment to social justice must be earnest and unwavering. As such, we must get involved in our local, state, and national professional organizations and their growing efforts in governmental affairs including the California Psychological Association’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference.

What then is the role of legislative advocacy and leadership for psychologists? For me, it is ultimately about the courage to use my power and privilege to give voice to those without.


 

Editor’s note: Anatasia S. Kim, Ph.D., Associate Professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, is the 2015 winner of the “Guardian of Psychology” award from the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team.  She was nominated by Eric Samuels, a doctoral student from Wright currently interning at Indiana University, and the 2016 APAGS liaison to APA’s Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology.  An earlier version of this article appeared in the newsletter of the Alameda County Psychological Association.

Author bio: Dr. Kim received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA. She is a National Ronald McNair Scholar, recipient of American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship as well as the Okura Mental Health Fellowship. In addition to teaching, she has a private practice in Berkeley specializing in treating adolescents/young adults with anxiety disorders, depression, and neurocognitive deficits using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In recent years, she served as President of the Alameda County Psychological Association (ACPA), member of California Psychological Association’s (CPA) Governmental Affairs Steering Committee, Chair of CPA’s Immigration Task Force, and CPA’s state Diversity Delegate. In addition, she has served on various local boards including Ethnic Health Institute and Berkeley Alliance aimed at addressing educational and health disparities in Alameda County. Finally, recent her research and clinical projects include: program evaluation for school-based interventions; recruitment and retention of ethnic minority students in graduate training; pipeline for advanced degrees in psychology for historically underrepresented students; and cross-disciplinary approaches to working with systems-involved youth and families.

 

It’s Time to Tell Congress We Need Fairer Graduate Student Loans

Once the thrill of being accepted into a graduate program wears off, the reality of how to finance graduate school sets in. Right now we have an opportunity to make our voices heard and cut unnecessary costs quite a bit.

postgrad-image

What’s the issue? For nearly 50 years, both undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program with the goal of making all levels of post-secondary education accessible to students with financial need. In 2012, however, changes in the Budget Control Act eliminated eligibility for graduate students. In other words, graduate student borrowers could no longer get subsidized loans, like Stafford loans. As a student taking out these loans, your interest is now accruing from day 1.

This change has increased the cost of borrowing significantly and may be putting graduate study out of reach for many students with financial need, especially underrepresented groups. We’ve reported elsewhere on our latest data about psychology graduate student debt. As a result of increased costs, 75% of graduates delay saving for the future, 67% delay saving for retirement, and 57% delay purchasing a home (Stamm et al, 2015). Similarly, graduates may delay starting small businesses like independent practices as a result of their debt burdens. (Additional background is here.)

At the same time, the United States faces numerous health shortages and research voids, and so our choice is often to meet these national needs is to attend graduate school, despite the costs.

What’s our opportunity to act?  In December 2015, Representative Judy Chu, Democrat from the 27th District of California, introduced legislation that would restore the eligibility of graduate students for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program.

Representative Chu’s legislation would amend the Higher Education Act to restore the eligibility of graduate students to the Subsidized Loan Program, and lessen the significant debt burden that many students incur while pursuing advanced degrees.

APA is calling upon graduate students, educators, psychologists, and supporters to take immediate action.

What can I do? 

  1. Click here to tell Congress to support graduate students by asking your representative to cosponsor H.R. 4223.
  2. Fill out your contact information and our system will generate an email to your Representative today, asking them to cosponsor H.R. 4223, “the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act,” (POST GRAD Act).
  3. Add a personal note or story to the letter. If you need to overcome writer’s block, read this veteran’s story about his advocacy for bringing back the subsidy.
  4. When you’re done, post about your advocacy efforts on social media and share the link to this blog post with at least five people.

This legislation is an important step toward ensuring students have access to graduate level study, so take action now! Send a message to your Representative and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4223.  

Editor’s note: APAGS is extremely grateful to the Education Advocacy Team at APA for their efforts in getting this bill on Congress’s radar, drafting our support language, and mobilizing people in person and electronically.  Now it’s your turn!

Psych The Vote! Final Chance to Meet Blaire and Justin before Voting Begins

psychthevoteWe’re once again Psyching the Vote for APAGS Chair-Elect! During the month of April, APAGS members can submit an elections ballot for elections for APAGS Chair-Elect and four members at large (link contains position descriptions and official bios). Members will get an email with voting instructions tomorrow, April 1. This post is the final in our series in which candidates voluntarily answer our questions in 200 words or less, to give voters some insight into what they will bring to their prospective positions. We’ve heard already from Blaire and Justin last week when they spoke about the relevance of leadership and advocacy competencies.

Here we go with our final question for APAGS Chair-Elect: 

What is it about psychology or about fellow graduate students that will keep you shuffling back and forth to DC dozens of times during your 3+ years in office for APAGS? What is it about YOU that makes you believe you can sustain your energy and focus for that long?

Justin Karr responds: 

Justin_Karr_headshot_2015

I was initially attracted to the discipline of psychology due to its focus on improving people’s lives through both translatable research and direct clinical work. In this same light, I came to APAGS with the interest of serving students. My advocacy to date has focused on providing a voice to students, and reducing the burdens that we face during our training and early careers. I personally know the disappointment of not matching to an internship, and I have felt the burden of debt and the constant stress of financial insecurity. These issues are not individual to me, and they require passionate advocacy. My own experiences, and the stories of my peers, motivate me to advocate to the highest powers for improved educational standards, greater training opportunities, and increased graduate funding. These goals do not only serve to help students, but they also serve to help the public. The world needs well-trained psychologists, free of undue burdens that interfere with their training and meaningful work. I will work every day of my tenure as the APAGS Chair-elect to reduce barriers, support educational quality, and ensure that every psychology student has access to the highest quality of graduate education.

Blaire Schembari responds:

schembari

At my first APAGS leadership meeting, I felt a rush of excitement. Over three days of back-to-back meetings, I participated in discussions, brainstorming sessions, and working groups focused on addressing critical graduate student issues. After the final meeting, I expected to be worn out; however, I was inspired and ready to lead. My energy was maintained because I deeply connect with the leadership and advocacy I am a part of with APAGS.

Advocating for my fellow psychology graduate students’ interests and making a difference in their lives and future careers will motivate me to travel during my time in office.

Additionally, I will sustain my energy and focus during my travel, as I have already had practice. My now partner and I were in a long-distance relationship for my first three years of graduate school. I traveled from D.C. to California every month, maintaining my graduate studies and other responsibilities. At times, traveling was difficult; however, I had something, in this case someone, I was passionate about, which fueled my motivation. Giving a voice to my peers is what I am passionate about. I am confident my fervor for leadership and advocacy will keep me energized and focused to travel.

*******************

That’s a wrap! Tomorrow, you as an APAGS member will receive your ballot! Check the inbox and spam folder of the email account you have on file with APA. If you don’t receive a ballot, try entering your last name and membership number here or request a new ballot from Garnett Coad in our Elections Office. — APAGS Staff.

Psych The Vote! Meet 3 Candidates for APAGS Member-at-Large, Diversity

psychthevoteWe’re Psyching the Vote for APAGS Member-at-Large, Diversity Focus! During the month of April, APAGS members can submit an elections ballot for elections for APAGS chair-elect and four members at large (link contains position descriptions and official bios). Members will get an email with voting instructions on April 1. This post is the fifth in a series of six ending tomorrow in which candidates voluntarily answer our questions in 200 words or less, to give voters some insight into what they will bring to their prospective positions.

Our question for APAGS Member-at-Large, Diversity Focus: 

Creating a graduate school experience where students of historically marginalized backgrounds can feel safe is very important for multiple stakeholders — and is receiving a lot of national attention. What do you think is APAGS’s specific role in promoting safety, and what should be our top priorities in the next few years?

Mona Elgohail responds: 

ElgohailA quick Google search of my name will show one of several instances throughout my life when I was discriminated against by those who were supposedly there to help me excel academically. I know first-hand that discrimination against students of historically marginalized backgrounds is still grossly pervasive and tolerated within some university settings. I believe that APAGS is uniquely positioned to address these injustices top-down through policy, and bottom-up by providing minority students with resources to advocate for themselves and create change in their departments.

I aspire to establish policies that encourage graduate programs to more explicitly commit to inclusiveness and diversity. These efforts would involve surveying students to determine how new policies can best reflect the needs of marginalized students nationwide and create meaningful change in their graduate programs.

Solutions can take a number of forms, including periodic trainings on diversity issues; innovative approaches to recruitment of minority students and faculty; the formation of advisory committees within departments that focus on diversity and inclusion; and courses that provide effective understandings of privilege, policy, and social justice. Ultimately, creating a culture where marginalized students feel safe should be a priority for graduate programs and aligns perfectly with APAGS’s mission.

Jamal Hailey responds:

HaileyAPAGS is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in addressing issues concerning safety on a national level through student engagement activities. Over the next few years, APAGS’s top priority should be developing and implementing a strategic plan, which includes having conversations with students across the county, to address issues related to gender based violence and sexual assaults; transphobia, structural level oppression, and the safety of Black students as anti-Black propaganda continues to increase across the country. Elevating the voices of students across campuses provides them with an opportunity to voice their concerns and recommendation regarding safety at their respective campuses. While students at colleges may not have the same experiences, providing an opportunity for students to engage in a national dialogue could yield important information, which APAGS could use to develop a national strategy to address and promote safety for students, particularly those from marginalized and/or underrepresented groups.

Fanny Ng responds:

Ng

Graduate students from historically marginalized backgrounds should not just feel safe in their programs but feel valued and respected as developing professionals who bring unique experiences and perspectives to understandings and applications of psychology in research, practice and teaching to diverse peoples. We should aim not only to establish safety for minority students but welcome diversity across all dimensions at every program as diverse viewpoints enrich teaching and learning for all students and faculty. Diverse viewpoints produce more cognizant and culturally competent psychologists from all backgrounds to effectively address the needs of changing communities currently and in the future.

Therefore, I believe APAGS’s top priorities for the coming years should be to establish practical guidelines for graduate programs on the 1) regular assessment of program diversity climate and 2) strategies for developing effective action plans to cultivate greater safety and inclusion for all students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. I have seen the ways that student feedback can drive lasting change in graduate program policies and structures. I believe that APAGS can and should lead graduate programs to provide safe, non-evaluative avenues for student feedback that redouble the effort to create more welcoming student environments for psychology’s diverse future leaders.

*******************

Be on the lookout tomorrow for our final post in this series and be sure to vote when you receive your APAGS electronic ballot on Friday! — APAGS Staff.

Psych The Vote! Meet the Candidate for APAGS Member-at-Large, Research/Academic

psychthevoteWe’re Psyching the Vote for APAGS Member-at-Large, Research/Academic Focus! During the month of April, APAGS members can submit an elections ballot for elections for APAGS chair-elect and four members at large (link contains position descriptions and official bios). Members will get an email with voting instructions on April 1. This post is the fourth in a series of six between now and Thursday in which candidates voluntarily answer our questions in 200 words or less, to give voters some insight into what they will bring to their prospective positions. Jacklynn Fitzgerald is the sole candidate for today’s featured role.

Our question for APAGS Member-at-Large, Research/Academic Focus: 

Right now APAGS is concerned about adjunctification; that is, the movement of many tenure track positions in the academy to adjunct positions.  What advice would you offer student scientists, and what practical solutions would you ask the APAGS committee to focus on in the near and long terms to examine or address this issue?

Jacklynn Fitzgerald responds: 

fitzgeraldWith the rise in adjunct faculty, students should be increasingly strategic in choosing positions that advance them professionally. One common misconception is that accepting an adjunct position will lead to a tenure-track faculty opportunity within the same institution. While this is sometimes the case, it is not the norm owing to the fact that while adjunct professors are distinguished educators; their achieved skills may be dissimilar from those of a tenured-track research position. That is, while teaching as an adjunct professor can be fulfilling and creates unique opportunity, students should consciously consider ways in which these positions facilitate their ultimate career goals.

Additionally, as institutions rely on adjunct professors for different reasons, sometimes to expose undergraduates to experts with unique perspective and sometimes to free up finances, students should be aware that each rationale holds different consequences for an institution’s climate. Because of this reality, I believe that the APAGS committee should work long-term to create resources in order to help students choose an academic institution as a home and employer. Ideally, these resources critically assess the impact of adjunctification on the financial and intellectual health of institutions so that emerging scientists may better educate themselves on employment options.

 

*******************

Be on the lookout tomorrow for our next post in this series and be sure to vote when you receive your APAGS electronic ballot on Friday! — APAGS Staff.