Tag Archives: governance

Ian Gutierrez, APAGS Chair

An introduction from the new APAGS Chair

IanAs the new APAGS Chair, I will have the privilege of representing graduate students within the American Psychological Association beginning August 8th. By way of introduction to those of you who may not know me, I wanted to share a few thoughts and reflections in advance of the beginning of my term.

I am a very political person. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of community organizing, the necessity of labor rights, stronger protections for working people, and the critical importance of creating a more just society that offers opportunity for all, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

For me, becoming a psychologist necessitates being politically minded. Just look at the world we live in: The post-war order that secured peace and stability in Europe is under siege; Iraq and Syria are engulfed in intractable civil wars; and terrorism continues to claim the lives of innocent civilians around the world. At home, women still earn only three-quarters of what equally-qualified men earn; African-Americans disproportionately suffer the injustices of mass incarceration, and others find that a routine traffic stop by a police officer may have life-threatening consequences; rural and impoverished communities have been torn apart by the opioid and methamphetamine crises; many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis; student debt has ensnared millions of Americans in a financial trap from which they find it impossible to escape; Americans continue to lead the Western world in gun deaths, most of them the result of suicide; and, as a result of these and other developments, racism, sexism, and xenophobia have found new political purchase in our social and cultural landscape.

Professional psychology likewise faces enormous challenges. The findings of the APA’s Independent Review (i.e., the Hoffman Report) have undermined the public’s faith in our profession’s most prominent institution. The “replication crisis” has prompted serious challenges to longstanding claims made by many research psychologists. Psychologists remain excluded from the Medicare definition of a physician, barring psychologists access to resources critical for supplying the public with quality mental health care. Despite the proven effectiveness of psychotherapy, too many Americans still lack access to the care they so desperately need.

Psychologists must be involved in finding solutions to all of these problems. Yet, for students, this can be overwhelming. “The world has its problems, but I just need to finish my dissertation.” “I am concerned about the challenges facing our profession, but right now I just need to match for internship.”  I have heard these and other similar statements many times.

Graduate school can be difficult, and many obstacles must be overcome to complete a doctorate in psychology. Believe me, I know just as well as you do. However, I strongly believe that we are living in a significant period in both our nation’s history and that of our profession. Maybe you’ve asked a parent what they did during the Summer of Love or what it felt like to see the Berlin Wall come tumbling down. I believe that great changes are taking place in our lifetimes, right now, that demand our presence and action. More importantly, they demand our skills, knowledge, passion, and talents as psychologists in training. Ask yourself: Years from now, when your family asks you what you did when the world changed in 2017, what do you imagine yourself saying? Where were you standing?

Where are you standing?

Even though there are enormous challenges facing our society and our world, I remain confident that the world of tomorrow will be better than the world of today. I have that hope because I have seen the future. The future is us. The maturity, vision, energy, and character of our generation is unparalleled, and I know that because I have had the privilege of hearing so many of you share your dreams and ideas. Already we have accomplished so much, and we’re just getting started.

As APAGS Chair, I promise to do my very best to show APA and the field of psychology the energy and promise that you bring to the table. I believe that the student voice is critical to the future of our profession and our society, and I will give everything I can to ensure that the student voice is heard. In turn, I ask that you keep bringing your energy, creativity, passion, and vision to your research, your practice, your education, your advocacy, and your activism. The future is counting on us.

I am an open book. You can follow me on Twitter at @IanAGutierrez.

Author Bio:

Ian A. Gutierrez, MA, is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut pursuing his doctorate in Clinical Psychology and the 2016-2017 Chair of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). His research focuses on the development of belief systems over the life span.

Editor’s Note: Interested in becoming a part of APAGS Leadership? There are many ways to get involved!


APAGS Dedicates Pages to Institutional Transparency

Transparency in government—in ensuring accountability, reducing barriers for involvement, and building institutional confidence—is perhaps one of the greatest assets a representative body can provide to its constituents. It can help ensure the dissemination of information, the empowerment of individuals to partake in their governing, and promote societal progress.

Volumes have been written on its importance, and many organizations espouse it as a tenet, including our federal government.  And yet, secrecy seems to be an insidious and ever-present danger in most all institutional settings, and examples of misuses of institutional secrecy abound (see Maret & Goldman’s 2011 Government Secrecy for a good review).

The extent to which transparency must be balanced with other elements of good governance—such as privacy, efficiency, and power—remains fervently contested. And yet, it is my belief that transparency is essential to both APA’s and APAGS’s missions.  APA’s mission, which emphasizes the broad dissemination and application of psychological principles and practices, mandates transparency to ensure that psychology is seen as a public science rather than a private interest.  APAGS’s mission, which emphasizes serving as a united voice to advocate for graduate student development, necessitates transparency in order to see itself as an inclusive enterprise.

Members of the APAGS staff and committee are working hard to improve transparency in our procedures.  As one step toward that aim, we are very eager to make our operations documents available online. There, you will find:

  • foundational aspects of our constitution and bylaws;
  • the proceedings of our meetings;
  • the ways we have spoken on behalf of graduate students through position statements;
  • our reports to other governing bodies; and
  • information outlining committee appointment and election procedures.

getinvolvedIt is indeed up to both our organization and to us, as members, to participate actively to promote institutional change. I strongly encourage you to peruse the documents listed on the page as a first step. If, in reading these sources, you’d like to get more involved in APAGS to ensure its success at all levels, please consider running for an elected position or subcommittee chair, applying to be a subcommittee member, serving as an APAGS Ambassador at Convention, writing a blog post, or joining the group I chair—the Advocacy Coordinating Team—as a Campus Representative.
We look forward to hearing your voice.

Deadline Extended to Join APAGS Leadership!

Pictured are members of the 2014-2015 APAGS Committee, and staff liaisons

You could be here! Pictured are members of the 2014-2015 APAGS Committee, and staff liaisons.

Great news: Are you interested in joining APAGS leadership? The APAGS Committee is still accepting applications for a Member-at-Large position. This position would focus on a number of issues affecting APAGS members, and in particular serve as the point person for Membership Recruitment and Retention issues.

Timeline: If you apply and get slated for this position, you’ll run an election during the month of April by trying to get the online vote of fellow APAGS members. Your term of service would begin this August and you’d serve for two years, through August 2018. You must be in school through at least Spring 2017 to be eligible.

Next steps: For information on eligibility and application materials, please go to our website. All applications must be submitted to apags@apa.org by 11:59PM EST on 2/15/16.

My Journey through Outrage

Jennifer M. Doran, M.A.

Like so many of you, my reactions to the Hoffman Report ranged from shock, to disgust, to outrage. I couldn’t wrap my head around the report and its findings – that some senior leaders at APA colluded with the Department of Defense in order to allow psychologists’ involvement in settings where detainees were being tortured. As someone who has spent the past 5 years involved in the leadership of APA, I questioned my own judgment, sense of respect for the organization, and passion for engaging in its work. My outrage gave way to embarrassment and sadness. What I previously viewed as a professional achievement now felt like something to hide and run away from.

To make matters worse, the formal responses by APA felt hollow and woefully insufficient. I didn’t see my outrage reflected by the organization, and felt anger in response to what appeared to be “managed” communications. Such was my mindset as I traveled to the 2015 Annual Convention – with a heavy heart, and a suitcase full of disappointment.

But then I arrived. I sat in APA’s Council meeting among many colleagues and friends. And what I saw surprised me. Despite the stress and horror of everything that had transpired, I witnessed the most civil and respectful Council meeting that I had seen over the past three years. I heard passionate pleas for action, personal stories and perspectives on the underlying thread of racism in what had transpired, a range of emotions, and a general will to do good and correct the course of APA. When resolution NBI 23B passed (instituting a policy that clarifies the definition of torture and preventing psychologists from participating in interrogations where detainees are not afforded Constitutional protections), via a verbal roll call, I watched the room erupt in excitement. In a flurry of emotion hugs, cheers, and tears followed. This moved me.

Throughout the convention I witnessed a similar constructive and emotional tone. I heard graduate students share and process their reactions in the APAGS town hall, and the views of the larger membership in the general APA town hall. I watched leaders reflect, listen, feel, and (most importantly) truly show remorse and apologize. Through these events, I felt inspired by the genuine desire to take strong action, correct the problems in APA, and address the horrific transgressions that were perpetrated.

I am still outraged. But that outrage is now blended with small glimmers of hope. I believe that there is much work to be done. “Fixing” what transpired goes far beyond the torture issue alone; rather, such a task necessitates addressing larger cultural problems deeply embedded in the organization. Issues of transparency, collaboration, power and privilege, checks and balances, and the disconnect from the voices of the membership must be addressed. This is no small feat.

But I can see a better APA. An APA that is truly a members-first organization; an APA that prioritizes its values and human rights above other interests, such as prestige and profit; an APA that strives to be a force of good in the world above all else.

And building that APA will take time. It will take strong, dedicated, impassioned leaders to help steer the ship back on course, to rebuild the foundation that has fallen. When I first read the report, I (like many) considered leaving APA. Did I really want to be part of an organization where such things occurred? No, I could not stay.

But then I realized that I had to. Change can only be made by those who are outraged, by those who wish for change to occur. If you choose to leave the table (via your membership or your activity in leadership), you give something up – your voice, which is worth holding on to. For if the most outraged among us – if those who truly value social justice and human rights – choose to leave, change will not occur. We need to stay, and stay loudly.

APA needs the perspectives of graduate students and ECPs to help shape what it will become. It is our future at stake, and our voices must be part of the dialogue. Our outrage can be productive, particularly when combined with passion, hope, and a vision that we can heal. This is why I am choosing to remain a part of the organization. For only with our collective voices can we advocate for a better future – for APA – and, more importantly, for psychology.

To keep up to date on the Independent Review and the actions of APA and APAGS, see: http://www.gradpsychblog.org/ir/#.VdPlFrGFNZQ.


Meet the Candidates! APAGS Chair-Elect

300VoteDid you know that the voting period for APAGS elections is the entire month of April? This blog post is the third in a series in which  candidates answer questions posed by the current committee. Today, you’ll get a chance to hear from the two candidates for APAGS Chair-Elect: Ian Gutierrez and Michael Williams.  APAGS members will be provided with voting instructions in the beginning of April and will have the chance to vote for this position, as well as Member-at-Large, Education Focus and Member-at-Large, Communications Focus.


Question: If you weren’t studying psychology, what other career would you pursue and why? 

Ian Gutierrez – Truthfully, psychology is that “other career” that I ultimately chose to pursue. My teenage dream was to become a record producer! Before graduate school, I worked as a follow-spot operator on Broadway musicals, including Spring Awakening and Gypsy, and I also worked as an audio technician on a few productions of Menopause the Musical (…honest truth, can’t make this up). While I enjoyed working in the entertainment business, I decided that I could more directly impact people’s lives for the better in another line of work. Psychology fit that bill perfectly, and I have never looked back since making that career transition. If I were not studying psychology, I would likely work in public policy. The impact that state and federal law has on public well-being, mental health, and psychological science is enormous. It is critical that mental health professionals and scientists remain engaged in the political arena.

Michael Williams – This question is challenging given that I have wanted to be a psychologist since elementary school. However, pursuit of an academic research career in neuroscience would be a strong alternate to my current career path in clinical psychology for many reasons. This field offers me the opportunity to continue engagement in research regarding brain injury and recovery. In addition, I could continue my other pursuits, including teaching, providing mentorship to undergraduate and graduate students, and engaging in community leadership. Neuroscience was my minor during undergraduate studies. I was fortunate to get undergraduate research training at Morehouse School of Medicine Neuroscience Institute in Dr. Byron Ford’s lab. This lab experience was amazing. I learned about rat models of neuroprotection and recovery for brain damage secondary to organophosphate poisoning and ischemic stroke. A career in neuroscience would nurture my passion for research of brain injury and my desire for an academic career.


Question: APAGS is doing a lot regarding the internship crisis, and plans to continue doing so. What do you think is another major issue affecting graduate students, and how do you hope to address the issue if elected as Chair? (150 word maximum)

Ian Gutierrez – The student debt crisis threatens the future of professional psychology. Educational debt in the United States exceeds one trillion dollars, creating long-term financial hardships that many of us know all too well. At the same time, graduate school is becoming increasingly expensive. Even those of us who are employed to teach or conduct research struggle to make ends meet on limited incomes. Meager incomes and heavy debts make it nearly impossible for many of us to start families, access quality healthcare, or save for the future. As APAGS Chair, I will advocate for APA program accreditation standards that account for and limit rising graduate program costs. I will also push for the establishment of APA/APAGS-supported loan assistance programs to help students pay down debts while they are still in graduate school. To learn more about my APAGS initiatives, please visit my website or email me. Thank you!

Michael Williams – Funding for graduate students in psychology is a major issue. APAGS has a done a great job examining debt load, job trends, and starting salaries. The median debt load for PsyD graduates is $120,000. It is $80,000 for PhD health service professions and $32,000 for research PhDs. Student debt has raised over time. Academia is a primary employment setting, but the full-time tenure track academic positions are declining. With the delayed entry into the workforce, debt becomes a major burden to many graduates. As Chair, I would work with APAGS to explore innovative ways to develop and identify new funding sources. I would consider ways to incentivize applying for grants and other funding mechanisms. I would collaborate with different students organizations to promote the many resources compiled by APAGS, including grants and fellowships. In addition, I hope to empower students with tools to get involved with advocacy for funding opportunities.



Learn more about all candidates and be sure to vote in the upcoming APAGS election! If you are a current APAGS member with a valid email address on file, you’ll get your email ballot on April 1. If you do not receive one, please check your email spam filters and junk box. If you still do not see one, please contact Garnett Coad, the APA Director of Elections.