Jean Lau Chin, PhD

By Tasha Dorsey

Jean Lau Chin, PhDGreat leaders are those who possess vision and the ability to affect change. Jean Lau Chin is one such person. Born July 27, 1944 in Brooklyn, New York, Chin was raised by Chinese immigrants who valued education (Chin, 2006). While they expected their children to complete high school, they were surprised by Chin's desire to attend college as in their culture, advanced education was more typical of men. Still, they supported Chin's decision to attend Brooklyn College where she graduated in 1966 with a BS in psychology (MacKay, 2010).

Chin enrolled in a master's program for school psychology at Teacher's College, Columbia University, initially expecting that this would be the extent of her graduate education (MacKay, 2010). She soon realized it was expected that students pursue a doctorate degree and, not wanting to appear as a quitter, continued her studies (Chin, 2006). During her studies, Chin eventually developed an integrated approach of psychodynamic, multicultural, and systems orientations in her work although early on she was less aware of these divisions among faculty more likely to approve work aligned with their orientations. She earned her EdD in Psychology from Columbia in 1974 (MacKay, 2010).

Culture, mentorship, and diversity were ever present issues in Chin's professional development (MacKay, 2010). A lack of mentors left her to learn the ropes of academia alone, something she did gradually and with great success. There were also few minority students with whom to identify at that time. (MacKay, 2010). In her post doctorate work, Chin was often expected to be an expert on Chinese Americans simply because of her identity (Chin, 2006). It was at this point, she became very aware that her identity as an Asian American colored virtually all of her therapeutic and professional interactions (Chin, 2006).

Although race was always salient to Chin, she is careful to acknowledge the interconnectedness of race and gender (Chin, 2006). While the women's movement catalyzed gender equality, Chin noted that the experiences of White middle class women, who constituted a majority of the movement in its infancy, were different from those of ethnic women. Thus began a process of integrating the voices of minority women into the movement. To thrive professionally, Chin advocates a strong sense of self to counter the double standards minorities inevitably face. Rather than pathologize ethnic women's continued struggle with the issues surrounding bias and oppression, she encourages us to see it as a normative and necessary process (Chin, 2006). In her book, "Learning from my mother's voice: family legend and the Chinese American experience," she urged Chinese Americans to never forget their ancestral past, to balance their American and Chinese identities, and to find their own voice (Chin, 2005).

Women and leadership has been an abiding interest for Chin (Chin, 2006). While Chin has held many leadership roles throughout her distinguished career, she never consciously set out to be a leader. Instead, she saw leadership as a means to bring about change. In retrospect, she recalls deriving a great amount of satisfaction from these positions and feels they were a significant factor in obtaining her goals. Chin is a longtime member of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) and recalled that collaborating with other Asian Americans can be difficult at times. In one particular incident, she planned to hold a meeting with other Asian American psychologists to discuss relevant mental health issues. There were so few Asian American therapists, they had to include other professions such as social work to have a sufficient number of participants (Chin, 2006). Notably, Chin was the first Asian American psychologist to be licensed in the state of Massachusetts.

Chin is committed to the concept of cultural competence (Chin, 2006). It is not enough to be merely culturally sensitive. While most psychology programs incorporate terminology related to the term in their mission statements, she points out that it is important that these words be thoroughly implemented in the programs on multiple levels. Chin believes cultural competence should be implemented from a systemic perspective, meaning not only with clinicians or faculty, but also with overreaching government policies (Chin, 2006).

Among her many professional affiliations, from 2009 through 2011, Chin served as president of Division 45, Ethnic Minorities, American Psychological Association and president of the Division of Women's Issues of the New York State Psychological Association (Adelphi University, 2011). She is a board member of the federal advisory board of the Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, DHHS, and the National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse. Amongst her many awards and distinctions, in 2009, Chin received the Nassau County Women of Distinction Award. She was also recognized by the YMCA Academy of Women Achievers in 2003 (Adelphi University, 2011). 


Adelphi University. (2011, May 7). Faculty and Staff: Jean Lau Chin - Professor. Retrieved from   

Chin, J.L. (2006, February 2). Interview by A. Rutherford [Video Recording]. Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History and Online Archive Project. San Antonio, TX.
Chin, J.L. (2005). Learning from my mother's voice: family legend and the Chinese American experience. New York, NY: Teacher's College Press.
MacKay, J. (2010). Profile of Jean Lau Chin. In A. Rutherford (Ed.), Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Retrieved from