Feature Article

President's end-of-year column

Recent changes within the division and what to look forward to in the future.

By Ellen Walker, PhD

I would like to start my last presidential newsletter column with a question for our membership – where do we see ourselves in the next five years? Where do we want to go and what would we like to see as a contingent of researchers, academicians, teachers and practitioners interested in psychopharmacology and substance abuse? As Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Can we change the progress, focus, or direction of our division? Of course, we can; there are frequent opportunities for change, we just need to act. Each year, we have the usual changes of the elected officers, and every three years we have the reappointments of other officers, councilors, liaisons and representatives. Each group of motivated people brings new ideas and a different outlook to the division. Amazingly, we have a number of outstanding individuals that fulfill multiple, sequential roles within the division or have contributed year after year in their positions. These folks provide tremendous service to division and their colleagues and bring their perspective or sense of history from their previous roles to their current responsibilities. Personally, I thank these colleagues and actually the whole executive committee for their support this year; it really does take a village to keep on top of all the small and large tasks to keep Div. 28 together.

So what has recently changed in the division? In the past few years, Div. 28 has seen some interesting transformations and some new initiatives. From a procedural point of view, Div. 28 has adopted the use of Division Services to handle our membership process for a fee. While there were some growing pains initially, and we are still ironing out some details, this practice has smoothed out the process for joining the division and we are tracking a small increase in membership. This is probably due to our ability to more easily convert student members to regular members as they graduate and the convergence of online membership portals feeding into our membership pool. The governance of APA at large is going through some major changes to streamline functions for the Board of Directors and the Council of Representatives. Although these modifications are proceeding at a snail's pace due resistance from a vocal minority, the proposed structure will eventually better serve the smaller, science-focused divisions and will hopefully provide us with slightly more influence. Another new change in 2014 was the switch to collaborative programing across the divisions of APA, which theoretically would provide us an opportunity to increase our programming hours at the annual meeting. There were a number of challenges to implementing this collaborative programming initiative this year including a different submission and review process, only a few collaborative submissions this first time around, and the actual scheduling of the hours in concert with our own program. Nevertheless, our Program Chair Richard Allen, PhD, did a great job of pulling everything together, so I really thank him for all his efforts. The ground is broken for collaborative programming, so I suspect we will have more of these hours in 2015. Finally, our division co-sponsored a second midyear meeting with Div. 50 called Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction (CPA). The first CPA evolved from an Interdivisional Grant Program put together in 2013 by Anthony Liguori, PhD, and Sara Jo Nixon, PhD, Presidents of Divs. 28 and 50, respectively. In 2014, the second annual CPA meeting was successful, especially due to the herculean efforts by the Co-Chairs Katie Witkiewitz, PhD, and Jennifer Buckman, PhD. Nevertheless, as our division is half the size of Div. 50, the portion of Div. 28 members in attendance along with consideration of the costs of both a midyear meeting and an annual meeting swayed the executive committee to decide that we should focus on the annual meeting at this particular point in our history and budget. Fortunately, Div. 50 is continuing the CPA meetings and information on it can be found in this newsletter.

One thing that has not changed much in the past years has been the demographics and the actual numbers of members in Div. 28, which of course has an influence on our voice within APA and our budget. A reading through past president's columns reveals goals to diversify and increase membership. Each year we see a small increase in dues-paying members or affiliates, which is critical to keep moving forward. However, our division membership roster has some interesting characteristics. Currently, half of our regular membership roster is senior dues-exempt members or fellows. These are our colleagues that have maintained their membership over the years, often serving in various roles within Div. 28, and clearly are interested in staying in touch or participating in divisional activities. We appreciate their continued membership. Although they no longer pay dues to the division, any of these members can donate to the division by sending tax-deductible contributions to our treasurer, which would help us immensely to sponsor more awards and programming during the year. Our roster also includes a large number of student members that pay a reduced membership fee, but obviously ensure the future of Div. 28. A recent trend is a growing number of people that join Div. 28 as affiliate members without joining APA. These are people with a strong interest in psychopharmacology and substance abuse but not necessarily interested in APA or psychology at large. Finally, when I look through our membership roster, I am always impressed with the qualifications and accomplishments of our members. We have no problems each year finding outstanding candidates for fellow status or excellent people for our awards. These individuals are the members or potential members that especially need to step forward and help us direct Div. 28 on its future course or for our recent award winners, join our division.

So where do I see Div. 28 in the next five years? To continue to survive as a division of APA, we need more members, of course. This will require continued vigilance and new membership ideas from the executive committee as in years past. I am turning over this presidency in January to the exceptionally talented William Stoops, PhD, so I am confident 2015 will be an excellent year for Div. 28. But I also see that our future will be a challenge between the necessary and literally required collaborations across divisions of APA, while maintaining our own identity as psychopharmacologists within those collaborations.

In closing, I would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy transition to the new year. I challenge all our members: help us steer the division in a direction for a future that you envision. Cheers.