President’s message

On coming full circle and looking to the future

Division president discusses his initiatives for Div. 20.

By Michael Marsiske, PhD

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president in 2018-2019. I want to express particular gratitude to outgoing Past President Manfred Diehl and President Joe Gaugler for the time and passion they gave to the president role. They have given me strong models for effectiveness, and they have helped to set Div. 20’s agenda for years to come. As Joe tells you elsewhere in this issue, his presidential initiatives to support early career professionals and to improve the financial sustainability of the division have coalesced into an American Psychological Foundation (APF) Fund for Div. 20. In a remarkable feat of fundraising, as of this writing, the Fund has received pledges, donations and commitments totaling almost $40,000. Continuing to grow this Fund will be an important activity for the division. This “paying it forward” to the future generations is at the heart of what our division has always done well.

I suspect I am not alone when I say that Div. 20 has always been my intellectual home. As a member of APA since 1998 and a member of the Division Executive Board since 1995, I have had the privilege to observe and support our many strong leaders. At its best, Div. 20 is an intergenerational organization that recruits and mentors persons in training and early career professionals and helps to guide them to eventual paths of leadership.  Indeed, I have benefited greatly from this mentoring ethos: My doctoral mentor (and still close colleague) Sherry Willis is a former president, as was my entire doctoral committee (John Nesselroade, K. Warner Schaie, Steve Zarit), as was my postdoctoral mentor (Paul Baltes). Manfred Diehl was a graduate school colleague, and our president-elect, Jennifer Margrett, who is already serving as a fully engaged member of the leadership team, was also my first doctoral student. I believe the division does best when it encourages this kind of multi-generational collegiality.

The beauty of Div. 20 is that support for early career professionals transcends the individual department or program. The just-finished APA convention was a perfect personal illustration of this for me. At my first APA convention in Atlanta 1998, Chris Hertzog, whom I’d never met, approached me and offered — in a kind, supportive way — important questions I needed to think about to move my work forward. That brief conversation inspired years of subsequent work. Recently, in the summer of 2018, I watched Chris, subsequently a past president himself, approach one of my current students, Brad Taylor, who is also stepping into a student representative role on our division, at his first APA convention. Brad would later tell me how much he gained from the conversation and how it is informing his next steps. For me, it was a full circle moment, and it illustrates what our division has always done best.

Of course, much has changed in the thirty years since my first APA convention. Just about every aspect of attending a conference has gone virtual — from airline reservations and boarding passes to how we produce and present research and to how we connect with each other. In San Francisco, hashtags (#APA2018) and text messages to colleagues to arrange meet-ups, replacing the paper message boards of the past, ruled. Indeed, it is this virtualization of social networking and collegial contact that represents, I believe, a critical evolutionary direction for the division.

In 2021, the division will turn 75 years old. (Yes, we’re beginning to think about how to celebrate this; we’ll probably not top Susan Krauss Whitbourne’s 50th anniversary cruise around Toronto Harbour, dancing the Macarena). Looking back, it is remarkable that the division helped to put the “problems of aging,” later reframed as the understanding of maintenance, growth and decline across adulthood, at the core of APA’s emphases. Indeed, APA’s commitment to aging has never been stronger, in no small part due to the leadership of Debbie DiGilio and the APA Committee on Aging that she supports. Along the way, the division has supported educational programs in aging and has joined with clinical divisions to help formalize certification and specialization in geropsychology.

But what’s next? What are the unique emphases, services and outcomes that the division needs to provide to continue to maintain value in the eyes of its members? What is the division’s role in stemming the loss of membership and the relative difficulty of recruiting early career psychologists that has concerned much of APA? How must the division evolve in a world where most of “social networking” is now done in real time and online rather than at annual conventions?  I believe it is time for us to try to answer some of those questions.

Correspondingly, my three presidential initiatives for this year are:

  1. to continue to support and grow our APF Fund for Div. 20.
  2. to conduct a needs assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the division to help frame our future agenda.
  3. to improve our “telepresence,” especially for early career members and affiliates, to ensure that the division meets them where they live.

Telepresence refers to the use of virtual technology (e.g., internet) to facilitate participation in distant events. Much of the early work of our executive has already been framed around the idea of bolstering our daily connections with members. Increased Listserv messaging, thanks to Joann Montepare, heightened engagement in our social media channels, as Lisa Hollis-Sawyer and Katie Anthony are growing our Facebook and Twitter presence and improving the content on our website, as Frank Infurna and Jessica Brooks are web co-chairs, are all part of the messaging strategy. With our Education/Continuing Education Committee, we are about to survey division members about the kinds of content we should be prioritizing; we’re also working closely with Grace Caskie to make sure that newsletter articles are widely disseminated. You will be hearing much more from us about these telepresence initiatives in the next year.

In other news, please take note of important deadlines and opportunities that are coming up. Tina Savla and Laura Zahodne are already hard at work on the Chicago APA 2019 program. Inter-divisional collaborative programs are due Oct. 12, and poster/paper/symposium abstracts are due Dec. 3. Karen Hooker and Ruchika Prakash will soon reach out to remind you of our annual award program for students and members. Most student awards will be due on Dec. 1, and most member awards will be due in March 2019. Similarly, please see the call for new fellows of the division put out by Alan Stevens and Lynn Martire in this issue, due Dec. 1.

You will hear more from us soon, across our channels of communication, about our plans for 2018-2019. We value all feedback from members, and I encourage you to reach out to me by email.