Author Archives: Emily Voelkel

About Emily Voelkel

Emily is the 2015-2016 past chair of APAGS and an early career psychologist living and working in Houston.

What rights can psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Graduate Students Have Rights. APAGS Just Spelled Them Out.

What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

What rights should psychology graduate students expect no matter where or what they study? (Image source: Julia Manzerova on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a graduate student in psychology discuss aspects of their training or education that seemed inequitable, I could pay back all my loans.

Too often in graduate school, students come across situations in which they believe their rights have been infringed upon in some way. When this occurs, many students feel at a loss for how to advocate for themselves and what they can or should be able to reasonably advocate for. The result for many students is dissatisfaction, frustration, and occasionally leaving a training program or experience.

The APAGS Committee has honed in on this student concern over the past year and opted to move forward with creating a student “bill of rights.” This was a very detailed process that included a literature review of various student right documents from across the world, drafting lists of rights based on this literature and our own experiences, and completing many revisions with input from APAGS leaders and many outside resources.

At long last, the APAGS Committee voted in December to approve a document titled, “Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students.” The Committee is planning to distribute these rights across various platforms and to a variety of constituents. The Committee is even considering bringing the document to APA’s Council of Representatives for consideration as an official policy document! That’s a huge step, and we will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we hope that students, programs, and other interested parties can use this document to their benefit. Use it to advocate for your own rights and thereby create a program or training experience of the highest caliber. If you have other ideas and reactions, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Here now is the text of our position statement, which is also available on our website.


Position Statement on the Rights of Psychology Graduate Students

Preamble

The American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) deems the rights described in this document to be indispensable to the fair, equitable and respectful treatment of every psychology graduate student throughout their education and training. The protection of these rights fosters the highest quality graduate training experience. APAGS considers these rights essential, not aspirational, and we urge graduate programs to implement these rights in their unique settings and training environments. We encourage current and prospective students to utilize these rights in making informed graduate program selections and in advocating for themselves as issues arise.

1. Institutional Environment

1.1 Right to respectful treatment by faculty members, colleagues, staff, and peers.

1.2 Right to have professional and personal information handled in a sensitive and respectful manner such that personal information is only disclosed when it is deemed necessary for educational or training purposes, and that students are informed prior to any such disclosure (See Ethical Standard 7.04).

1.3 Right to affordable insurance inclusive of health, vision, dental, and mental health care coverage.

2. Program Policies

2.1 Right to publicly available, accurate, and up-to-date descriptions of costs, the availability of financial support, and the likelihood of ongoing support throughout training (e.g., percent of students with full and partial financial support during year one, year two, etc.; available funding options), to be provided prior to or immediately following the program’s interviews for prospective students (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.2 Right to accurate and up-to-date information from research advisors and thesis/dissertation committee members on professional factors that could impact student training, career development, and timely program completion.

2.3 Right to access and exercise formal written policies regarding leave and accommodations as they pertain to pregnancy, parenting/caregiving, bereavement, medical or mental illness, and disability.

2.4 Right to access and exercise formal written policies and procedures regarding academic and placement/internship requirements, administrative procedures, evaluation, advisement, retention, average “time to degree,” and termination (See Ethical Standard 7.02).

2.5 Right to express opinions and have representation on campus committees relevant to professional development, with voting privileges where appropriate.

2.6 Right to exemption from new graduation or program requirements, developed after admission, that might result in a delay of graduation.

3. Professional and Educational Training Opportunities

3.1 Right to appropriate professional training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical practice) in the current standards and practices of the discipline and specialty area (See Ethical Standard 7.01).

3.2 Right to be evaluated by faculty consistent with current ethical practices in employment, progression through the program, and grading, solely on the basis of academic performance, professional qualifications, and/or conduct (See Ethical Standard 7.06).

3.3 Right to quality mentorship.

3.4 Right to change advisors and committee members for professional and personal needs.

3.5 Right to receive timely, ongoing feedback on all areas of trainee competency and the opportunity to address growth areas with support from faculty.

3.6 Right to co-authorship in publications when the student has made significant contributions of ideas or research work (See Ethical Standards 8.11 and 8.12 a-c).

3.7 Right to freely communicate and collaborate with other academic colleagues.

3.8 Right to lead, assemble, and participate in organizations and activities outside the academic program.

3.9 Right to engage in self care as a routine practice throughout training (See Ethical Standards 3.05 and 3.06).

4. Work Environment

4.1 Right to fair compensation for services provided during training (e.g., graduate, teaching, and research assistantships).

4.2 Right for students providing services during training (e.g., teaching, research, clinical, and administrative graduate assistantships) to enjoy the recognitions, rights, privileges, and protections afforded to employees under state, provincial, territorial, and national labor laws.

4.3 Right to study and work in an environment free of exploitation, intimidation, harassment, or discrimination based on one’s student status, race, ethnicity, skin color, national origin, religion, political beliefs, economic status, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, disability, medical or mental health conditions, ancestry, citizenship, military veteran status, or any other identity salient to the individual in admissions and throughout education, employment, and placement (See Principle E and Ethical Standards 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.08).

4.4 Right to work under clearly expressed and mutually agreed-upon job descriptions and work or training conditions.

4.5 Right to perform only those tasks that relate to academic program requirements, professional development, and/or job duties.

4.6 Right to provide constructive and professional feedback to supervisors, directors, administrators, and staff concerning the quality and content of supervision

5. Appeals and Grievances

5.1 Right to clearly defined official grievance procedures and informal complaint procedures.

5.2 Right to whistleblower protection for exposing professional, ethical, or legal violations (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

5.3 Right to due process for any accusation of violation or infraction.

5.4 Right to be free of reprisals for exercising the rights contained in this document (See Ethical Standard 1.08).

A Personal Letter to Students from your Chair

*Disclaimer: The following document does not necessarily represent the views of the APAGS Committee or APAGS staff.

To the student community:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this message to you in the wake of the Hoffman report. The report’s claim that some leaders in psychology were involved in inhumane or unethical actions that in any way supported torture is inexcusable. As your Chair and current Board of Directors representative, I believe it is my responsibility to include you in my personal process, and certainly in the actions of APAGS.

I am acutely aware of my privileged status and want to own this before delving into this letter. My position within APA affords me additional information and understanding of our organization that few students have. As a Board member, I have had access to the report for a longer period of time, giving me additional space to work through my thoughts and feelings.

Speaking to my personal process, at different points during my reflection I have felt my faith in psychology shaken almost to its core. The last month or so has been the most difficult and challenging time of my professional career. I personally was shocked, discouraged, and appalled while I read and digested the findings of the report. I went through periods of denial and anger. I often feel confused and unsure of how to effectively move APAGS forward through this crisis and represent you all well. I feel unclear about how to be a good leader in these difficult moments and am turning to my mentors and fellow leaders for support and guidance.

Like me, many students feel lost, confused, disappointed, and unsure of how this organization can continue to be a home for their professional careers. Some students are wondering what these findings mean for their futures. These feelings are legitimate, and the questions students have about whether to remain involved in APA are fair. Indeed, the following weeks, months, and years will be difficult times for our APA community. Although I certainly do not have all the answers for how to move forward at this time, I do want to let you know explicitly what action steps APAGS is taking now to ensure that the student voice serves as an active agent of change in APA.

Our current action steps include:

  1. The APAGS Chair-Elect and I co-wrote an informational post that can be found on the gradPSYCH blog.
  2. I am co-authoring a blog post with Angela Kuemmel, Co-Chair and Public Interest representative of the Committee on Early Career Psychologists, on reasons to stay involved with APA. This post will highlight the unique position students and ECPs are in to create change within the organization. When this is available, you can access it at the same link as above.
  3. Your elected and appointed APAGS Committee and Subcommittee Chairs are holding calls to discuss the report and work toward actions steps APAGS can take.
  4. The APAGS Committee is formulating the best and most efficient way to collect feedback from students and deliver this feedback to APA governance so that student recommendations have a prominent position in the decisions being made by APA.
  5. We are discussing creating an APAGS position statement after eliciting feedback from members like you.
  6. We are encouraging continuing student presence in governance and encouraging you to reach out to us. Please know that you and all fellow student members of APA are represented on APA’s membership council, the Council of Representatives, by me and by Christine Jehu, Chair-Elect of APAGS. You should feel free to contact us anytime (emily.voelkel08@gmail.com; christinejehuapags@gmail.com).
  7. To all fellow APA Convention attendees:
    1. Provided that Council is in open-session, please come by to listen in to the governance process. The schedule and format of Council is still being created, so please understand it is possible an open-session might not occur.
    2. I encourage all my peers to attend a town hall meeting on the Hoffman report Saturday, August 8th from 3pm to 4:50pm in the Convention Centre to process your thoughts and feelings openly about the report.
    3. As I write this, APAGS is actively discussing holding a students-only forum in addition to the general town hall. Stop by the APAGS booth for updates and location information about any of this.

As you digest the report and reflect, I hope you will find ways to remember why you have been proud in the past to be a part of this Association and continue your membership so that you can influence change. I know that despite the wealth of good APA and APAGS does on a daily basis, the report’s findings cast a shadow over that goodness. It is our collective challenge to hold both the good and the ugly together. It is our duty to steer APA in directions that restore our confidence and preserve the field of psychology for the future. I have full confidence that the involvement of students and ECPs is necessary to right this ship and create an APA based in integrity, ethics, and a commitment to human rights. When and if you are able, I encourage you all to join with me in hope. Hope that we can create a better APA together.

Emily Voelkel

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Easy Cheap-y Grad School Recipes

chopping-vegetables1-600x420I love to cook. During graduate school it was one of my primary self-care strategies. But, let’s be honest, when you’re pulling together your pennies in line at the grocery store and trying to find time to brush your teeth, gourmet meals aren’t exactly high on the list of priorities.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to, quick, cheap meal ideas for those of you on a budget—with your time and money.

1. Cafe Rio Chicken – This crock pot delight is so easy and versatile. You can put this chicken in a salad, a soup base, tacos, burritos, a rice/veggie dish, or you can just eat it straight out of the crock pot!

2. Person-Pleasing Chicken – The author calls this Man-Pleasing Chicken. I just call it seriously delicious. Chicken thighs are a great way to save money when compared to chicken breasts. You can skip the rosemary to save extra cash, but I always keep it.

3. Baked Ravioli – How much easier and delicious can you get?

4. 5 Ingredient Black Bean Soup – This is one of my favorite quick and delicious soups. There are other 5 ingredient options on the site too.

5. 8 Can Taco Soup – Taco in a soup. Done.

6. Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers – So, this one takes a little more skill. But, you can do it! You can save extra cash here by omitting the cheese and using rice instead of quinoa.

Enjoy!

Match Day 2015: The Dialectic of the Internship Crisis

Correction (9:00pm): Due to an editorial mistake, not the author’s, the Phase I match rate was reported in the original post to be 90%. The actual figure is 82% and has been corrected below. The 90% figure represents the possibility of all students who submitted rank lists matching to all available positions after the completion of APPIC Phases I, II, and the Post Match Vacancy Service; however, a small number of positions historically remain unfilled each year. We regret the error. 

Today is the day. The day that students enrolled in clinical, counseling, and school psychology programs have been anxiously and excitedly anticipating for months. Today is “Match Day” for internship, the culmination of a journey from applications to interviews to ranking…to waiting.

For many students, the process itself is wrought with complicated emotions, financial stress, and moments of both triumph and struggle. The match today will mean celebration for many students as they reap the rewards of their hard work. Even for some who did match, conflicting emotions may emerge as they consider the implications of moving away from friends, families, partners, and in some cases children, to complete their training. For others, it is a day of disappointment and heartache as they receive the news that they did not match and are forced to face the difficult decision of how to move forward.

The internship crisis continues to be a huge concern for many graduate students in psychology. For those who might not be familiar with this issue, trainees are required to obtain a doctoral internship to satisfy graduation and licensure requirements. Yet, there are not enough internship positions to meet demand.

In 2013 and 2014, the crisis has demonstrated some overall improvement. There have been significant efforts on behalf of many in the education and training communities to influence our numbers, including internship stimulus funds, partnering with colleagues creatively to create new sites, and other efforts. The data from 2015 again show improvement. This is the great dialectic of our time: There has been improvement, and yet we can and must do better.

The Stats

The 2015 Phase I match statistics, released today, show the following:

  • 4,247 students entered the match, with 3,928 completing the process and submitting a rank-order list
  • 3,684 positions were available in the match, including 2,732 accredited positions
  • 3,239 students matched to any internship site in Phase I of the match
  • 2,600 students matched an accredited internship site in Phase I

Taken together, the 2015 match rate for all applicants to the match in Phase I is 82% (up from 80% in 2014). Meanwhile, the rate for all applicants to an an APA- or CPA- accredited internship in Phase I is 66% (up from 62% in 2014). There is more work to be done.

The 2015 match rate in Phase I is 82% (up from 80% in 2014); it is 66% for applicants to APA- and CPA-accredited internships (up from 62%).

An important note: APPIC data at Phase I tells just some of the story. When we look at the crisis as it relates to only students from APA accredited doctoral programs going to accredited internships (source), the numbers show small signs of improvement. We don’t yet have the latest data from APA’s Commission on Accreditation, but from 2011 to 2014 we can see some modest gains:

Internship year Match rate of students from APA-accredited doc programs to any internship Match rate of students from APA-accredited doc programs to APA-accredited internships
2011-2012 83.1% 51.9%
2012-2013 88.8% 54.6
2013-2014 90.1% 57.7%

Another dialectic—improvement, but not enough.

The Crisis Continues

The fact that 34% of students from accredited programs — that were deemed to be ready for internship by their programs — did not match to an accredited site should be a concern for all in the training community. This is not just a problem for training programs or internship sites. It is the responsibility of the psychology community at large to address this issue for the future of our profession.

As APAGS past-chair Jennifer Doran highlighted last year, there is so much more to the match than the data. The emotional toll, financial stress, and consequences of not matching weigh heavily. To advocates, the data matters. To individual students, these factors will count for more than any compiled statistic when describing the internship crisis.

What is APAGS Doing?

The crisis remains a key issue that APAGS collaborates with key stakeholders to address. We have tirelessly advocated for efforts that address the crisis and are partnering with others in the training community to find innovative ways to address the crisis. Some of the highlights of our efforts and advocacy include:

  • Last year, APAGS produced a video highlighting multiple aspects of the crisis in addition to advocacy, awareness and action steps students and psychologists can take to end the crisis. We need you to help spread the message in this video.
  • APAGS partnered with APA Past-President Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D. and others in the training community during the 2014 APA Convention to present innovative solutions to the crisis. We are currently working toward ways to implement the ideas presented during this panel.
  • APAGS supported the passage of APA’s Internship Stimulus Package in 2012, providing $3 million in grant funding to increase the number of accredited internship positions. As of December 2014, this money resulted in 10 internship programs receiving accreditation, 27 internship programs with pending accreditation, and at least 57 internship positions. Remaining funds will also be allocated toward further creative efforts in ameliorating the crisis, including helping states seek Medicaid reimbursement for intern services.
  • APAGS formed an Internship Working Group to analyze and promote solutions to the internship crisis. In July 2012, APAGS released a policy and expanded response to explain how it will continue to advocate on multiple fronts for graduate students.
  • APAGS has compiled some of its actions since 2000 to mitigate this problem, and further describes its latest actions in a 2014 journal article.
  • APAGS and other departments in APA are developing a toolkit of resources to help psychology training programs advocate for Medicaid reimbursement for intern. This may help entice the creation of and funding for more internship positions.
  • APAGS staff attend several regional psychology conferences each year to teach prospective grad students how to decipher publicly available data related to internship match and 14 other factors.  We also produced a recorded webinar on this topic.
  • APAGS is attending the annual meetings of many psychology training councils to promote the development of new internships.

What the Future Holds

The trends have been positive over the last few years, but change has continued to be slow. There is no simple solution to the crisis. We know it will require multifaceted and creative solutions to continue the trend in a positive direction. There is much that trainees and psychologists alike can do to make a difference. The links I’ve shared, particularly to our video (which I’ll embed below) provide steps individuals at all levels can take today to make a difference for next year and future students.

APAGS would like to congratulate the students and programs celebrating today’s match results. We commend you on your accomplishments. You might wonder what to do now that you have matched, and APAGS has resources for you.

APAGS would also like to extend support for those of you who received disappointing news and did not match today. We have resources and support for you as well. For our colleagues and friends who did not match today, we as a psychology community need to offer them our support and encouragement.

The dialectic of change is that it is difficult and necessary. We have already made positive change, and APAGS is working to continue to advocate for students and ameliorate the crisis. I would like to encourage everyone, regardless of your outcome, to share your story, in the comments section, on our Facebook page, or personally. Please contact me or APAGS staff with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. We are here to support you. Together, we can all make change.

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Catching Fire: The Quest for a Postdoc

Mockingjay 1So, you survived “The Hunger Games” and landed an internship. The rest is downhill from here on out, right? If you are likely to be in the market for a postdoc, maybe not. Read on to see how I discovered the postdoc search to be much like an internship sequel that rivals the Hunger Games.

 1) Just when you’re starting your Victory Tour, your name gets called again. Like Katniss and Peeta, you arrive after the internship “games” grateful and relieved, ready to bask in the victory. Almost as soon as your anxiety comes down and you aren’t looking over your shoulder every few minutes for another obstacle, your name gets called again in the lottery. It’s time to select a postdoc. Not more than a couple months into your internship training, you have to reassess your skills, ask for reference letters, and choose sites. I have heard of some interns being asked on day one where they want to go on postdoc. In many cases, you haven’t even obtained the skills or experiences you need for postdoc upon application. This is especially true if you are slotted to complete specialty training in the second half of the internship year and are planning to apply for a specialty postdoc (e.g., trauma, neuropsychology, geropsychology). It’s hard to focus on the skills and training you are taking on during internship, your anxiety increases again, and your focus is on the next games instead of where you are. But, unless you’re positive you won’t need a license, know you’ll move to and stay indefinitely in a state that has passed sequence of training (i.e., you don’t need a postdoc), or are open to securing an informal postdoc, your name will be called again. It’s time to buck up for round two.

2) First to the Cornucopia gets the best tools. Similarly to the Hunger Games, in round two you’re at an advantage if you are among the first to, well, everything. Depending on the size of your internship class and supervisor pool, being the first to ask for recommendation letters is to your advantage as some people (think Training Directors) may be inundated with asks. For sites with rolling applications, the first to apply are the first interviewed, and therefore the first offered positions. Unlike internship, you are almost always competing for one or two slots, and the competition is steep. When you are offered an interview, sometimes you get a single day or a few days to make it there. For one site, I received an interview offer Thursday and was asked if I could come the next day to interview. If not, my next choice was Monday, Tuesday, or nothing. If you have things holding you back from the postdoc Cornucopia (e.g., limited time off from internship, lack of funds, other interviews), it’s even harder to get there first.

3) The quicker you figure out the Arena’s hidden traps the more likely you’ll survive. The Gamemakers of postdoc don’t always play fair, and there are lots of traps along the way. APPIC has a postdoc matching system that is highly underutilized by sites and the result is a kind of free for all. Depending on when one site’s applications are due and interviews are set, it is very possible that you could have an offer for a postdoc at one site before you even get an offer to interview at your first choice. Within the VA system, you typically have 24 to 48 hours to accept or decline an offer, putting applicants in the impossible position of accepting an offer that may be less preferable or chancing it and hoping they get a more preferred spot later. The alternative is accepting an offer and backing out later, something that is not looked on favorably for a young professional, but the system almost forces people into. Because there is no set notification date, sites are in direct competition to grab stellar applicants, and many sites continue to push their applications sooner in the year. In the VA system, there has been a push to follow uniform notification day, but on more than one occasion I was blatantly told that sites were not following the recommendation so they could make offers before others. It also seems more and more common that a site’s current interns are preferred and offered positions. While intuitively a known entity may be preferable to an unknown entity, sites cannot say outright that they prefer their own interns. If you are unaware of this like I was, you will spend hundreds of dollars buying plane tickets, hotels, food, etc. to attend an interview for a position you are unlikely to get. Many contend that in-person interviews are the way to go, but I highly recommend considering alternative options (e.g., telephone, skype) if the site allows for it. Ask training directors who their most recent postdocs are and where they came from before you invest more precious time and money. Lastly, in my experience many VAs are moving to competency-based interviews. For people like me who are pursuing specialty postdocs but aren’t getting their respective specialty rotation on internship until the last 6 months, you are at a disadvantage. I felt less confident in my ability to answer specialty-based questions and couldn’t provide the depth of case examples from internship in trauma that many of my competitors could. While most sites say they understand your situation, it makes sense to pick the more experienced person. Study up on your specialty (e.g., updated literature), prepare detailed case examples, and ask your internship site if there is any flexibility to add in specialty experience to your first rotation.

4) You need allies and gift givers in the Arena. Just like internship, you need good mentors and allies to help you make decisions, improve your application, and write letters of recommendation. Hopefully you have kept in contact with a few supervisors from graduate school, because odds are you will be in need of another letter of recommendation from someone who has known you longer than a couple months. You’ll need mentors to help you decide which postdoc is best for your training needs and long term goals. Your internship cohort can be a great place to find support and proofread cover letters. Similarly to internship, you are likely going to have to spend a money that you don’t really have based on an internship stipend. Ask friends to crash at their apartments, save money as soon as possible, and look for alternative travel options (e.g., bus, rental car, train/amtrak).

5) Right when you feel like you are about to be destroyed by a jolt of lightning, your genius saves the day. The stress and anxiety of postdoc are considerable, particularly if you are juggling more than one offer in the span of a day or two while waiting to hear from other sites. You may have just moved to a new city and are already having to consider where you will move next, possibly for another single year stay. If you have a significant other or family to consider, the stress is even higher. While waiting for interviews, it may feel like you won’t find a good fit or even get an offer. But, if you are prepared and thoughtful, the odds are likely in your favor to land a good training spot. No matter what happens in the first round, don’t panic. Tons of sites come up with postdocs at the middle and end of the year, so you will have other options. Again, however, for many specialty training programs, the best sites have a standard application process that begins early in the year.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I found the postdoc application process to be more stressful (over a shorter time period) than internship applications. I felt relatively confident in my ability to obtain an internship, but I did not feel as prepared for the postdoc system. It was a shock to fall right back into feelings of insecurity and uncertainty so soon after the internship match. It’s also important to consider the sites and type of training you are looking for in a postdoc. I was strictly in the VA system and applying only to trauma-focused training sites. Other opportunities (e.g., informal postdocs, postdocs later in the year) exist for those who may have less specific training goals. Regardless of your training needs, good luck fellow travelers. May the (postdoc) odds be ever in your favor.