In This Issue

Diversity Mentorship Program spotlight

Mentoring connection brings together an early career professor at the University of Minnesota and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

By Kennetha Frye, MS

In this issue of FSTP, we included another mentor/mentee spotlight in order to highlight, for current SASP members, the benefits of having a SASP diversity mentor. This issue's mentor/mentee pair is Amanda Sullivan, PhD, and Prerna Arora, PhD. Both have been members of the program since its inception. Amanda Sullivan is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests focus on educational disparities, particularly those related to disability and special education. She is the secretary of APA Div. 16 and serves on the Early Career Workgroup. Prerna Arora is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research interests focus on the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices in schools and pediatric primary care settings. She is the chair of the Early Career Workgroup of APA Div. 16.

Mentor: Amanda Sullivan, PhD

What is your perspective on the future of multiculturalism within school psychology?

Amanda Sullivan, PhDAs someone relatively new to the field (I began my graduate training in 2005), it is interesting to observe the increasing diversity in school psychology in training and research. To a degree, we see recognition of issues of cultural diversity codified in accreditation standards, which are then reflected in the curriculum of our training programs. On that front, there is certainly a ways to go, particularly in moving from standalone “multiculturalism” classes to integrated coursework and field experiences to preparing practitioners and scholars more holistically to be responsive to the increasing diversity in schools. More broadly, I think we need to continue engaging in critical discourse about the way we conceptualize “multiculturalism” and its implications for practice and research in school psychology. While it can be argued that much progress has been made, there is certainly much more to be done and much more school psychology can contribute to improving academic, social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes all children and youth. Thankfully, there are many scholars and trainers who continue to buck the stereotype that school psychology is a field narrowly focused on (certain kinds of) testing. We've seen a proliferation of research paradigms, methodologies, theoretical perspectives, and research questions gaining traction, and I hope that will continue as new scholars enter school psychology and we have a sustained, robust, critical dialogue about the needed changes in the field. As a field, we also have a long way to go in increasing diversity in in terms of recruiting and retaining trainees from diverse backgrounds. I think we are a long way from resolving this particular problem, but this program is one element of such efforts.

What comes to mind when you reflect on this mentorship experience?

I am really pleased that SASP is providing this space for mentorship of diverse scholars in school psychology. There are several mentor roles and functions, and no one person can or should fill all of those for another, so it is great that this program exists to expand participants' mentorship networks. This program allows for a mentoring relationship with a different dynamic than that of the typical advisor-advisee dyad where the parties are engaged in multiple roles simultaneously. Because Prerna and I had no previous or concurrent involvement outside this program, I think it creates a relationship where we can have candid conversations about scholarship and career development. My goal is to serve as a resource and sounding board, and I appreciate the opportunity to be fully transparent and forthright about the research process, faculty development, and other early career topics. As an early career scholar myself, I can appreciate the value of having these kinds of conversations and welcome the opportunity to support such a promising early career scholar.

Mentee: Prerna Arora, PhD

What have you enjoyed the most about the mentor/mentee experience?

Prerna Arora, PhDAt this graduate or even early career stage of training, the opportunity to be supported in the exploration of one's future in the field, particularly by one who has recently undergone the same process, is invaluable. Additionally, there are often fewer opportunities than may be desired for the graduate student, intern, or even postdoctoral fellow for such open and direct conversations about graduate training, academia, job searches, and the like. The experience of participating in the SASP Diversity Mentorship Program has provided me with just this and has assisted me in this exploration of my interests in an academic future in the field of school psychology. While I had contemplated this seriously in the past, the information, advice, and resources gained throughout this mentoring relationship has solidified this decision and have made it more a feasible undertaking.

What topics in regard to diversity have you discussed with your mentor/mentee pair?

Throughout the year, my mentor and I have explored areas related to our interests in addressing health and educational disparities in underserved populations, including opportunities for scholarship, funding, or additional mentorship. More than this, however, we have explored the opportunities available to contribute to and “diversify” the field of school psychology through cross-disciplinary work, as well as the recruitment, training, and development of diverse scholars within the field of school psychology.  I have enjoyed using this broader definition of diversity in guiding our talks.

Do you plan to collaborate on any research projects with your mentor?

As I've come to learn, one should never be closed to this possibility. While the interests of my mentor and I differ to some degree, there is a great deal of overlap in our interests in terms of our professional development. Through this experience, my mentor has made me of aware of various fellowships, sources of funding directed at early career individuals, and service opportunities, some of which I have already pursued. In fact, it was through her guidance that I learned of an opportunity to help develop and serve on APA Div. 16's Early Career Workgroup, an experience, which I have and continue to greatly value and enjoy. I look forward to continue to work with Dr. Sullivan and examining potential for possible collaborations on research projects.