Tag Archives: Leadership

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 Your APAGS Leaders!

Getting involved in APAGS governance is a great way to hone your leadership skills, network with other leaders in the field, and learn about and advocate for important issues affecting the field of psychology. Staff here at gradPSYCH Blog want all members to meet their appointed and elected leaders in our new series—Meet Your APAGS Leaders!

Our first introduction is Emily Voelkel, the current Chair of APAGS.

Tell us about yourself. committee-bio-voelkel_tcm7-158532

I grew up in a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m the oldest of three girls, and family has always been very important to me. Growing up, I always felt a strong desire to see the world. So, when I graduated high school I went to Chicago to attend Loyola University. Chicago is a wonderful, vibrant place, and I just loved my time there. I was especially appreciative of the opportunity to study abroad in Rome and travel some of Europe! I can’t wait to go back again. After college I actually joined Teach For America and spent two years teaching 6th grade in Houston before deciding to go to graduate school. It was a life-changing experience that changed my view of our education system and my role in social justice in our country. Currently, I am near the end (finally!) of my training and completing a clinical PTSD fellowship at the Boston VA. I’m married to theHadley Texan I met in Houston, Kolby, and we have an adorable 3 year old pup named Hadley. In my free time (yes, you do get some free time later in training) I love to walk with Hadley, cook, garden, and binge watch TV shows. I love food and traveling and am greatly looking forward to the days Kolby and I can experience more of the world together.

How did you get involved with APAGS?

I first got involved with APAGS very early in my doctoral career. I was at the 2011 National Multicultural Conference and Summit in Seattle when I saw the APAGS booth. I stopped by and talked to the person working there. I realized my program did not have a Campus Representative (CR) for advocacy, and I really wanted to bring that role to the University of Houston (UH). So, I sent in the materials and became the first UH Counseling Psychology department CR! I really loved being a part of the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team (ACT) and was thrilled to be discussing key psychology advocacy issues with my peers. During my year as CR, I was promoted to Texas State Advocacy Coordinator (SAC). I was honored to be asked to attend the APA State Leadership Conference in D.C. during that time and attend the APAGS-ACT business meeting. From that point on I was definitely hooked on APAGS! I wanted to be involved with this inspiring group of leaders and work toward solving important student issues as much as possible. Eventually, I ran for Chair-Elect, won, and here I am today!

What has been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Awesome question! I’m sure many people will have poignant or funny responses to this. I can’t wait to read them. But, honestly, I am not that into pop culture, fame, or celebrities. The things that stand out to me the most over even the last few years are how many talented people have lost their lives…Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, only to name a few. Mental health concerns have, in my opinion, influenced the loss of many of these lives that were iconic in pop culture and the arts.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

My most recent Facebook post was in response to the heartbreaking events in Baltimore recently. I recommended a good piece on White Fragility by goodmenproject.com:

“One of the experiences I am most grateful for from my doctoral education was having courses that allowed me to explore my Whiteness. Discuss what it means to be White in our society and the ways in which I have benefitted from a societal system that continues to perpetuate and thrive on racism in many ways. What is happening in Baltimore is only one of many examples of the consequences of continuing to be unwilling to discuss and take responsibility for this system and make efforts toward change. My heart goes out to everyone involved. For those interested in a great article that explains why it is so difficult for many White people to talk about racism, I recommend this piece.”

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

Finding Peace Amidst the Chaos

What advice do you have for future leaders in the field of psychology?

I think the best advice I can give to psychology’s future leaders is to be innovative and forward-thinking. Psychology as our advisors knew it and as we know it is changing. If we are going to be true leaders in psychology, we need to start to look forward to what psychology could be and how it will fit into the changing healthcare, research, university, and other systems. If we continue to define psychology by current parameters, I worry we will spend much more time defending “our turf” and less time defining what a new psychology can and should be.


How to Succeed When You Lead

Serving as the Chair of APAGS was an incredibly formative professional development experience. In reflecting on the year, with its successes and challenges, several leadership lessons emerge that I will take with me. I hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me in learning what it means to be a leader, and to lead.

Be Principled

Leaders often face an array of complex, difficult, and even controversial decisions. A guiding framework for making decisions – especially difficult ones – is to align with both your individual principles and the values of the group you represent. You are more likely to make good decisions when you can clearly articulate the principles and the rationale behind them.

Say No

We create strategic plans and mission statements to give us direction and help us decide what we hope to achieve and how to get there. Equally important, they also should help you decide what not to do. Your group will function best when it sets clear priorities and engages in activities that are in alignment with those goals. This means learning to be comfortable saying “no” to opportunities or projects that detract from your ability to realize your vision.

Embrace Disagreement

Disagreement can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Yet disagreement is a critically important part of group process. Disagreement usually means that you are discussing something important. Groups can move forward constructively in the absence of consensus. In fact, if you wait for everyone to agree, you may never get anything done. Leading means being willing to move the group forward towards a solution everyone can live with. And working through disagreement to find common ground results in the best and most thoughtful outcomes.

Be Willing to be Unpopular

Being a leader means being willing to be both loved and hated. Leaders make difficult decisions, and receive both praise and criticism for their actions. At times, the right (principled) decision may not be a popular one, or may cause friction with other groups. Leaders need to find the courage to fight for what they believe in, even when there is some risk involved. Stand by – and share – your principles and what you believe is right and why. This is the definition of good leadership.

Communicate & Collaborate

The importance of communication and collaboration cannot be underestimated. Groups in power are most often criticized for a lack of transparency in their actions and decision-making. Decisions will be tough, and decisions will be unpopular. Communicating openly and clearly with your constituents is your greatest protection against mistrust and criticism. When difficult decisions are made, explain your thought process and your rationale (and yes, sometimes even your struggles in making the choice). Transparency and a collaborative style will go a long way towards earning trust, even when you make decisions that may at times be controversial.

I hope these reflections are helpful, and that you will consider embarking on your own leadership journeys. Being involved in the field is a professional responsibility, and being a leader is a great way to contribute and use your skills. Leadership can be challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding and meaningful work. We can only make change happen when we sit at the table, and our voices are powerful – if we choose to use them.

Visit the APAGS Governance webpage for more information on leadership opportunities.