Looking back and looking forward

The president and past-president examine division accomplishments from 2011 and anticipate positive 2012 changes relating to diversity, students and early career psychologists, and more.

By Nancy Felipe Russo and Dean Keith Simonton, PhD

2011 was a busy and productive year. In general, our programs and initiatives were aimed at clarifying Division 1’s mission, spotlighting key unifying concepts and shared goals of psychologists, and enhancing the Division’s infrastructure. In addition to a shared history, unifying concerns include integration of theories, methods, ethics, and applications of psychology. Application is broadly conceived, encompassing teaching, research, and practice; common concerns include the public interest, diversity, public policy, economic issues, and training current and future generations around the world.

Responding to the need to communicate the usefulness of psychology to the public and policy makers, Nancy Felipe Russo’s overarching presidential theme for 2011 was "Unification through Application". She also established presidential initiatives in the areas of diversity, students & early career psychologists, and mentoring. In addition to working with Program Chair Jan Sigal on the presidential convention program theme, she asked that division officers and committee chairs consider projects in initiative areas. Task forces on teaching and curriculum change (led by Mindy Erchull) and early career psychologists (led by Eric Charles) were appointed and given suite time to organize convention programming. Executive committee member Brian Stagner and membership chair Mark Terjesen developed new recruitment materials and free first-year memberships were offered in a recruitment effort that included distribution of membership information at the National Multicultural Conference and Summit. Suite programming at the convention was designed to provide students and early career psychologist opportunities to meet and talk with distinguished psychologists. Ceremonies in the suite for the Anastasi student research (led by Harold Takooshian) and poster awards (led by Emilio Ulloa and Monica Ulibarri) contributed to student outreach and networking efforts.  

To implement the overarching presidential theme, in 2010 then-President-elect Russo asked awards committees to consider giving additional weight to applied work when applying the award criterion of relevance to the division’s mission, with the goal of including awardee addresses as part of presidential theme programming at the 2011 convention. As a result, the program was enhanced by award addresses that featured applications. For example, the William James Book Award recognized Fooling Ourselves: Self-Deception in Politics, Religion, and Terrorism (Praeger Publishers, 2009), by Harry Triandis and the Arthur W. Staats Lecture was given by Bill McKeachie who was recognized for his widespread impact on diverse aspects of psychology, particularly teaching.  

Two presidential citations were awarded. One was to the Handbook of Adult Resilience. The other citation was awarded to the IAAP Handbook of Applied Psychology. Awards were given at symposia on handbook topics organized by the Handbook editors for the 2011 convention. A conversation hour with IAAP Handbook editors and authors, led by Paul Martin, was hosted in the division suite. 

The goal for the themed convention programming was to present a picture of the immense variability of applications of psychological science. Theme programming encompassed topics as diverse as creativity applied to education, business, therapy, morality, cognitive psychology applied to training in the real world, women in STEM careers, interpersonal violence prevention, health disparities, and applications of psychology to public health, among others. These symposia were structured so that they would be adapted to special sections or issues for broader dissemination in journals. 

The unification of psychology does not stop at the border, so it should not be surprising that in response to a request from the American Psychological Association, our convention programming included a poster developed by Alexandra Rutherford and Nancy Felipe Russo describing Division 1 leaders’ involvement in international activities.   In addition to being included in the special international poster display organized by APA at the convention, it will be posted on the division’s new website. Our division has a close relationship with Division 52—International Psychology —and shared a suite with that division at 2011 convention. Thanks to the profitability of our journal, Review of General Psychology edited by Doug Candland, we will be able to afford our own suite for the 2012 convention in Orlando. Last year we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the journal with a birthday cake at a social hour – a good time was had by all.

It is not possible to give a complete portrait of everyone’s activities – please see the division roster for the complete cast of characters and elsewhere in the newsletter for more detailed descriptions of various activities. Our core activities and services are led by a healthy mix of “old hands” and “new blood” on the 2012 Executive Committee. For example, the newsletter is now ably edited by newcomer Marissa Harrison, while former editor Gina Brelsford has taken on new responsibility as Secretary from Robin Cautin. Robin Sakakini retired as webmaster, replaced by newcomer Grant Rich, who is managing our listserv and working with President Dean Keith Simonton on developing a new expanded division website. Florence Denmark retiring as Fellows chair, currently transitioning with the new chair, Richard Velayo. Mary Lou Cheal retired as Awards Coordinator and was awarded a C. Alan Boneau Award for her outstanding service to Division 1. Because Cheal was unable to attend the convention, she was recognized at an award ceremony in her home. The other 2011 Boneau Award winner, Harold Takooshian, was recognized at the APA convention. Josephine Tan is our new Awards Coordinator and continues with the Sisyphean task of managing our awards and updating the Award Handbook.

Although the APA Convention is the major time that Division 1 people can get together and interact, in 2011 we also sponsored a conversation hour with Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson organized by Bob Johnson at the Western Psychological Association meetings.

Looking Ahead 

Policy Committee

Following up on last year’s theme of unification through application, President Simonton appointed Russo to chair a Policy Committee. The goal of the Policy Committee is to organize and encourage follow-up activities aimed at dissemination of psychological knowledge that is useful for a policy-related purpose, including research funding policy advocacy. Dissemination may be through journal and newsletter articles, through the book series, and on the division’s new website that is under development. Such work will provide diverse portraits of exemplars of psychology-in-action, illustrating that theory-based psychological applications are useful, and that theories interrelating some combination of biological, psychological, social, and contextual (historical, situational, and cultural) perspectives are most useful. Please see Applying psychology to public health issues for an example. This work is conceptualized as supporting the Scientific Directorates’ need to advocate for funding by demonstrating psychology is useful. 


As past president, Russo made issues of diversity a strong priority for the division, and this priority continues under current President Simonton. We sponsored the National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS) for the first time, and were represented at the meeting by Russo and outgoing council representative Bonnie Strickland with Nancy Felipe Russo. Our new council representative, Rosie Phillips Bingham is one of the founders of the NMCS. We further upgraded sponsorship for the NMCS meeting in 2013. In particular, Division 1 has become increasingly sensitive to the need for greater diversity in its leadership. We have reached out to several members of underrepresented groups, encouraging them to stand for office in the division. Other members of underrepresented groups have been asked to join division committees. Although much more needs to be accomplished, it is evident that some progress has been made.  

Students and Early Career Psychologists

Because the age structure of the division is heavily skewed upward, a division priority is to attract students and ECPs. One approach to this end has been to offer one-year free memberships to all new members of the Division. While this approach is generally successful in attracting students and ECPs, it has been less successful in retaining them. The division’s task force on early career psychologists continues to make progress toward this goal. Last year, the dvision’s suite convention program included career preparation programming designed to attract our younger colleagues to Division 1 as well as opportunities to meet and interact with Division leaders and other distinguished psychologists. Because the Division can now afford its own suite at the forthcoming Orlando APA, we hope to provide more opportunities for students and ECPs to get involved in the division’s activities. Finally, in January 2012 the division began working to have its website hosted with APA. Besides providing a more professional appearance and integration with the home site, it is hoped that APA Communities will provide a vehicle for reaching out to young psychologists. This new development will also enhance our effectiveness in our third initiative.      


Suite programming at the Convention is designed to provide students and early career psychologist opportunity to meet and talk with division leaders. With the help of Mark Terjesen, the new suite program chair, President Simonton plans to expand the suite programming in 2012. We further believe that the Anastasi student research and poster awards contribute to this ongoing effort. It is hoped that the new division website will also serve this function. Of note, we are pleased that Zoeann Finze-Smith is our new and energetic graduate student member on the Division 1 Executive Committee 

Promotion of Psychological Science

This year’s presidential convention program theme will be The Psychology of Science and Psychology as a Science. Toward that end, Simonton appointed Gregory Feist whose book on the psychology of science won the division’s William James Book Award, as our 2012 Program Chair. In addition to invited addresses and symposia, Simonton will deliver his divisional Presidential Address on psychology as a STEM discipline, using research in the psychology of science to offer an empirical assessment. It is argued that field attributes and researcher characteristics show that psychological science cannot be separated out from the natural sciences. The discipline’s scientific status, of course, has important implications for psychological practice as well. 

Call to Action 

In sum, The Society for General Psychology has a broad mission, but what it can accomplish depends on the people who have vision of what needs to be done and who are willing to devote energy to making things happen. There is always a need for convention pogram reviewers, journal reviewers, and people interested in organizing programs at national and regional meetings, membership development, website/social media development, student outreach, and teaching and curriculum development, among other things. The Policy Task Force in particular can use help in identifying and preparing materials for our section of the new website. If you want to become involved, check the Division 1 Executive Committee. The success of Division 1 depends on its members—present and future.