Jessica Luzier Nominated as Outstanding Leader

Jessica Luzier, PhD, was nominated as an outstanding leader because of her advocacy work in the Ohio Psychological Association (OPA). As a graduate student, Luzier was the leading advocate in Ohio during the successful campaign to change the sequence of training statute. She was drawn to the legislative effort after the change in APA policy regarding the minimum educational requirement for entry into professional practice (PDF, 272KB). SPTAs, particularly in states such as Ohio, recognized access to care in rural settings could be significantly increased by reordering the sequence of training hours so that trainees could be licensed sooner. Ohio is one of among a dozen SPTAs that allow its doctoral trainees to amass the hours for licensure before going to postdoctoral training sites so that licensed psychologists at those sites can be reimbursed for their services from insurance plans (see Ohio’s law for psychologist licensing) (PDF, 45KB). As a result of her efforts, Luzier is the only graduate student ever to be awarded the Karl E. Heiser APA Presidential Award for Advocacy citation and medal.

Luzier became involved in legislative advocacy when one of her colleagues in graduate school asked her to join the Ohio Psychological Association of Graduate Students (OPAGS), and she moved into its leadership quickly. After she attended her first APA State Leadership Conference as an OPAGS representative, she, in her words, “became hooked into the OPA and its advocacy efforts.”

During the course of a year of staunched advocacy, she learned to overcome the challenge of those within and outside her profession who opposed state and national advocacy efforts, including the sequence of training changes. Her mentors Bobbie Celeste (OPA’s Practice Director), Michael Ranney (OPA’s Executive Director) and David Hayes (one of OPA’s past presidents) helped her to adjust to the advocacy arena and modeled how to patiently hold to her vision (“what was the right thing in my mind”) despite legislative challenges and opposing views. She did so by keeping the values of justice and fairness at the forefront of her efforts. The values helped her “stay on message and remain patient,” she said; she continued to remind herself about why removing barriers to services for both clients and psychologists in Ohio mattered. She also learned how to balance the long travel, constant communication with mentors and OPA advocacy team members and lobbying at the legislature with her responsibilities in graduate school. Her professors became understanding about her absences as she convinced them that her advocacy work would benefit all psychologists in the state, including those holding academic positions.

Her colleagues in Ohio describe Luzier as someone who readily learned advocacy skills from her mentors. She is a goal-oriented, persistent person whose charismatic presence led to an increase mastery of public speaking and the use of artful political power. She was able to deploy these skills to persuade others to her views by writing columns, emailing legislators and “lobbying legislators at the door” by reciting personal stories. The stories highlighted the details about hardships that fellow graduate students endured as they had to increase their debt because of the archaic law that prevented competent people from obtaining licensure.  She also “drug” several graduate students to lobbying events and constructed a first-year graduate student lecture about grassroots efforts. Several of the students she has worked with are still involved in advocacy efforts. Luzier stated the following: “Students are the perfect people for advocacy roles. Graduate school can mire you—advocacy is uplifting. I am much more well rounded as an early career psychologist because of being oriented to this critical part of psychology—advocacy.”

Students, please see this column as a call to action. Too many SPTAs have failed to change their laws that bar competent graduate students from amassing their clinical training hours in an efficacious manner so that they can become licensed before their postdoctoral year. Help psychology come into the 21st century. Join Luzier as another student/advocate who has made such a difference for so many.