We’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:
A 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:
APAGS 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:
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.