Sustaining Div. 20

Division president discusses ways to sustain and promote Div. 20.

By Joseph Gaugler, PhD

It is a unique privilege to serve Div. 20 as president. For much of my professional career, I have viewed Div. 20 as a professional “home” and have sought to serve the division first on the education committee, then on the membership committee, then as treasurer and finally now as president. I know so many of you value your membership in the division as highly as I do, and I hope as president that I can honor your commitment to this wonderful community of scholars, practitioners, students and many others. I would like to particularly acknowledge Manfred Diehl and Harvey Sterns, my two immediate predecessors, for their excellent leadership of the division these past several years.

For those of you who attended the 2017 APA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., you may have had the opportunity to hear a bit about some of my presidential initiatives. Although I outlined several specific initiatives, they all likely could be synthesized into one major idea: the sustainability of Div. 20. Given my past roles in the division, I have seen firsthand that our membership has changed significantly over the past two decades, not only in number but also in the balance between scholars and practitioners as well as early career psychologists and more advanced professionals. The executive committee has made a number of valiant efforts to broaden membership and promote the benefits of the division, but I also believe we are at a tipping point as a division. We must not only build on past efforts but also take some calculated risks, some of which are summarized here.

I am excited to be working with Allison Bielak and Tina Savla, chairs of the program committee, to build partnerships with other divisions to highlight one of my first presidential initiatives: the “aging of APA,” or how we as a division can assist APA as a whole, which is facing many of the same membership challenges that we are, as well as individual psychologists who are adapting to their own adult development. We hope to address this with cross-division programming initiatives. Some of our planned co-sponsored programming will also emphasize how key life events and psychological phenomena affect individuals across the life span (e.g., trauma). I am eager to share more details with you as these programming initiatives begin to take shape in the next month or so.

Another key initiative that I hope to facilitate during my presidency is a bridging of the gap between scholars and practitioners in Div. 20. In this regard, Jennifer Margrett, the Continuing Education chair, and I have begun to plan several possible activities to do so. Specifically, we are hoping to develop a series of webinars that offer APA continuing education credits and possibly continuing education credits for other disciplines that outline emerging and best practices in the translation of adult development and aging research. We also hope to plan some preconference workshops at meetings where the division can reap the financial benefit of doing so (e.g., the 2018 Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting). Div. 20 is uniquely positioned to offer preconference content that is highly desired, such as cutting-edge research methods. Our hope is to have our first webinar organized for early 2018.

Gloria Luong has done a wonderful job in maintaining our membership levels, and I look forward to collaborating with her to identify some additional activities that we could initiate to reach out to potential members. Related to this: I have re-established the Early Career Task Force, which will be chaired by Courtney Polenick and Nicole DePasquale. I hope to have regular conversations with them to develop an action plan to fully demonstrate to early career psychologists that Div. 20 is a worthwhile professional home where one can receive mentorship not only during one’s early career, but also well beyond. More importantly, I am hoping that the Early Career Task Force can help foster new ideas of how to effectively engage with early career psychologists with our division.

Perhaps one of the most exciting ideas we have considered since the APA convention has been the possibility of initiating a fundraising campaign to support student and early career psychologists, particularly via the awards we grant each year. Sue Whitbourne, Bill Haley and I have begun having conversations with the American Psychological Foundation of how to plan for and strategically develop such a fund. We hope to share more details with the division executive committee as well as Div. 20 membership at large as we solicit the necessary approvals and have an appropriate plan in place, but I believe this is a promising idea that could help to sustain Div. 20.

I am thrilled to serve the division as president this year. We have an ambitious set of activities planned, but I am confident that we can work together to ensure Div. 20 remains a premier professional community for scholars, practitioners, students and others who embrace adult development and aging. I look forward to communicating these exciting initiatives throughout the year on the division Listserv, through a planned mid-year teleconference meeting with the executive committee this November and of course, through future newsletter articles.