Student Task Force Blog

Regular blog postings on students' issues and concerns.

May 11, 2020

Surviving your research defense during COVID-19

The end of the semester is finally here! However, it may be nerve-racking if you are preparing to defend your dissertation online. We are in new and uncertain times, so it is okay to feel nervous. This blog post is designed to help you think through some of the logistics of defending your research remotely. 

Check with your program

  • Does your school require a specific platform such as Zoom?
  • Is your defense open to the public, or is it reserved for the committee?
  • Who is the organizer of the meeting — you or your chair? What is the plan if you need to leave so they can deliberate?
  • If it is open to all, will participants be muted?
  • Will people be able to interrupt and ask questions, or can they type and submit them online?
  • Have a back-up plan if things go awry. 
  • Make sure your platform is bomb-proof — meaning no one can just “join in” and potentially throw off your presentation. 
  • Make sure you communicate the plan at the beginning with everyone.
  • Make sure roommates or family are not using the internet so it does not affect your streaming. 
  • Do not have applications running in the background. 
  • Make sure your computer has all the updates the day before, or turn off updates if you do not want new software.
  • Really practice the first few slides. Have them memorized! That way, if there is any hiccup, it will not throw you off because you have practiced the first few slides so often.
  • Practice transitions! There will be minimal hiccups if you are able to do a trial run with friends or your chair. 
  • Add some extra time just in case there are connection difficulties. 
  • Make sure your setup has enough light and is distraction free.
For more information, check out APA’s interview on defending your thesis from home

Erika Brink, MA
Fifth-year doctoral student, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Student chair, APA Div. 31

September 1, 2015

My Journey through Outrage

Like so many of you, my reactions to the Hoffman Report ranged from shock, to disgust, to outrage. I couldn't wrap my head around the report and its findings - that some senior leaders at APA colluded with the Department of Defense in order to allow psychologists' involvement in settings where detainees were being tortured. As someone who has spent the past five years involved in the leadership of APA, I questioned my own judgment, sense of respect for the organization, and passion for engaging in its work. My outrage gave way to embarrassment and sadness. What I previously viewed as a professional achievement now felt like something to hide and run away from.

To make matters worse, the formal responses by APA felt hollow and woefully insufficient. I didn't see my outrage reflected by the organization, and felt anger in response to what appeared to be "managed" communications. Such was my mindset as I traveled to the 2015 Annual Convention - with a heavy heart, and a suitcase full of disappointment.

But then I arrived. I sat in APA's Council meeting among many colleagues and friends. And what I saw surprised me. Despite the stress and horror of everything that had transpired, I witnessed the most civil and respectful Council meeting that I had seen over the past three years. I heard passionate pleas for action, personal stories and perspectives on the underlying thread of racism in what had transpired, a range of emotions, and a general will to do good and correct the course of APA. When resolution NBI 23B (PDF, 650KB) passed (instituting a policy that clarifies the definition of torture and preventing psychologists from participating in interrogations where detainees are not afforded Constitutional protections), via a verbal roll call, I watched the room erupt in excitement. In a flurry of emotion hugs, cheers, and tears followed. This moved me.

Throughout the convention I witnessed a similar constructive and emotional tone. I heard graduate students share and process their reactions in the APAGS town hall, and the views of the larger membership in the general APA town hall. I watched leaders reflect, listen, feel, and (most importantly) truly show remorse and apologize. Through these events, I felt inspired by the genuine desire to take strong action, correct the problems in APA, and address the horrific transgressions that were perpetrated.

I am still outraged. But that outrage is now blended with small glimmers of hope. I believe that there is much work to be done. "Fixing" what transpired goes far beyond the torture issue alone; rather, such a task necessitates addressing larger cultural problems deeply embedded in the organization. Issues of transparency, collaboration, power and privilege, checks and balances, and the disconnect from the voices of the membership must be addressed. This is no small feat.

But I can see a better APA. An APA that is truly a members-first organization; an APA that prioritizes its values and human rights above other interests, such as prestige and profit; an APA that strives to be a force of good in the world above all else.

And building that APA will take time. It will take strong, dedicated, impassioned leaders to help steer the ship back on course, to rebuild the foundation that has fallen. When I first read the report, I (like many) considered leaving APA. Did I really want to be part of an organization where such things occurred? No, I could not stay. 

But then I realized that I had to. Change can only be made by those who are outraged, by those who wish for change to occur. If you choose to leave the table (via your membership or your activity in leadership), you give something up - your voice, which is worth holding on to. For if the most outraged among us - if those who truly value social justice and human rights - choose to leave, change will not occur. We need to stay, and stay loudly.

APA needs the perspectives of graduate students and ECPs to help shape what it will become. It is our future at stake, and our voices must be part of the dialogue. Our outrage can be productive, particularly when combined with passion, hope, and a vision that we can heal. This is why I am choosing to remain a part of the organization. For only with our collective voices can we advocate for a better future - for APA - and, more importantly, for psychology.

Jennifer M. Doran, M.A.

To keep up to date on the Independent Review and the actions of APA and APAGS, see: Responding to the Independent Review

This article was originally posted on APA's gradPSYCH Blog: My Journey Through Outrage

May 27, 2015

Introductions and Tips for Getting Involved

Getting involved in the efforts of your SPTA can be intimidating, and it can be hard to know where to start. As the incoming co-chairs of the Div. 31 Student Task Force, we wanted to offer a little about our own experiences getting involved, as well as some practical tips for becoming an advocate for psychology in your own SPTA.

Rachel (West Virginia)

My name is Rachel Spero, and I am a rising fifth-year student in counseling psychology at West Virginia University. I am headed to start my internship at the Topeka, Kansas, VA this summer. My first experience with the West Virginia Psychological Association (WVPA) came four years ago as a result of a colloquium my department sponsored on the topic of “How to Become an Advocate for Psychology.” The then-president of the WVPA spoke to us. She was so passionate that after her talk, that I sheepishly went up to her and stuttered that I was interested in getting involved in any way possible. My expectation was to get a brush-off. I mean really, how could a first-year doctoral student be helpful lobbying the legislature? Surprisingly, she was thrilled by my interest and invited me to the next WVPA legislative strategy meeting.

I wanted to be involved but, frankly, going to a “strategy meeting” on a topic I didn’t know much about with a bunch of strangers sounded terrifying. As the date of the meeting got closer, my critical inner voice got louder. “You’re just a student, you can’t possibly be helpful.” “You have no idea what they’re going to be talking about.” “You’re going to embarrass yourself.” The voice got so loud, I almost called to cancel. In a moment of inspiration, I instead picked up the phone and called two of my friends and asked (okay, I begged) them to go with me. When they agreed, I found that I was able to crowd source the courage to make it through the front door.  And thank goodness I did, because there was some really delicious free food (the siren song of starving graduate students everywhere).

If the night had ended there, I would have called gaining the courage to attend and getting a scrumptious steak out of the deal a total success, but it got even better. As it turns out, most psychologists are not expert political lobbyists either. I found comfort in knowing that most of the established psychologists in the room didn’t know all of the steps of getting a bill passed, the names of all of the state representatives or the complete structure of the legislature at the state level (psychologists: they’re just like us). Even better was finding that my own unique skill set was very much in demand. The WVPA wanted to increase their online presence and as it turns out, I’ve earned the title “social media expert” based solely on the amount of time I have spent procrastinating on Facebook. I left the meeting feeling a part of something larger than myself. The psychologists were also so excited to have students there that they encouraged us to bring a new friend to each meeting (think: a psychological advocacy pyramid scheme).

The rest is history. I fell in love with advocacy work, my SPTA and encouraging other students to get involved. The benefits that I have gained from my time with the WVPA include networking with psychologists statewide, which led to some amazing opportunities down the line, making friends in other programs across the state and having unique opportunities that really helped my CV to stand out during the dreaded internship application process. 

Chris (Idaho)

My name is Chris DeCou, and I am a rising fourth-year student in the clinical psychology program at Idaho State University. Much like Rachel, my own involvement in advocacy began at the state level after a presentation by the president and advocacy director of the Idaho Psychological Association at our weekly department brown-bag meeting in 2012. I was encouraged to learn about the ongoing advocacy efforts in Idaho. However, I also was intimidated by the limited involvement of our students in state advocacy at that time. I also noticed thoughts of, “Nobody cares about students’ perspectives,” and, “No students have time for advocacy work.” These thoughts do represent important challenges for student involvement in SPTAs. However, I have found that legislators and our SPTA leadership have been extremely supportive of students who wish to be involved in advocacy, and legislators have been very responsive to phone calls and emails from students.

Another thing I have valued about my involvement in advocacy efforts in Idaho has been the opportunity to learn how to explore and discuss controversial policy issues constructively and discern the competing merits of controversial political initiatives related to the practice of psychology. This process of constructive criticism and refinement of policy initiatives has been very meaningful to me in becoming involved in advocacy efforts, as it has allowed me to bring my own skills as a researcher and scholar to bear on important policy conversations. It has felt like a domain that students may be uniquely skilled at, given their active involvement with thesis and dissertation projects. Thus, research expertise and translational understandings of empirical findings is another important skill set that graduate students can offer their SPTAs and their state legislators, as emerging psychologists with a strong foundation in the current scientific literature. Although we are still building our student advocacy efforts in Idaho, I am encouraged by the growing interest of students and the strong support from policymakers and the Idaho Psychological Association. Getting involved can be overwhelming and it can be confusing to know where to start; however, the benefits do outweigh the risks.

Tips for Getting Involved
  • Find a way in. Check your SPTA’s website, go to a local conference, email the SPTA contact person. See what is happening in your SPTA and offer to help. Also consider reaching out to program alumni who are now involved in your SPTA.

  • Bring backup. Take a few friends with you. Bribe them with food if necessary. Similarly, consider hosting collaborative events/initiatives that include your psychology students’ association and your SPTA.

  • Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve got something to offer. From your knowledge of social media, your topic of research interest, to your level of energy – you have something unique to contribute to your SPTA.

  • Go grassroots. In addition to the broader initiatives SPTAs are pursuing, students have their own issues and advocacy agendas that matter. Don’t be afraid to cultivate student interest in student issues and offer to pursue policy initiatives spearheaded by students within your student organization in collaboration with your SPTA.

  • ACT. APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team (ACT) is there to help you learn the basics of how to advocate on behalf of graduate students everywhere.

  • Pick-up the phone, write an email. Never forget that a quick phone call or email to a legislator, commissioner or other policymaker is a powerful advocacy tool and well worth the time.

  • Reap the rewards. Whether it be scoring a prime practicum spot or finding researchers to collaborate with, there is a lot to gain from getting involved.

If you have any questions about getting involved with your local SPTA, please contact your ever-eager-to-help Student Task Force co-chairs, Chris DeCou and Rachel Spero. And as always, we are here to be your voice. Let us know what is important to you.

April 2, 2015

Graduate Students, Div. 31 Is Your APA Home

If you are a student working steadily toward a graduate degree with an emphasis on psychology, then you already know what it is like to feel that you are on a journey. You may have even been told by your family or graduate program that you had started down a new “path” in life when you were accepted into school. Depending upon your educational and career goals, the journey to your degree varies in length. However, the feelings of facing the sometimes ambiguous process of your education and the feelings of uncertainty when trying to achieve the distant goal of completion of your degree, are universal. In some sense, the feelings that emerge are like homesickness. You may be happy that you have begun the undertaking of your educational journey, but you may feel unsure of what lies ahead. For example, when it is time to apply for practicum or internship, most of us tend to want a sense of security to know that we are on the right path.

For students, belonging to an APA division can bring many benefits. Benefits of leadership opportunities and potential scholarship and travel awards. Division membership can also bring with it a sense of belonging to a team with a greater purpose and a sense of security that we can achieve our educational goals. There are many divisions within the APA for students to join. Each division has its culture, history and mission. Most importantly for students, all APA divisions want some student involvement. APA divisions recognize that students, who become involved, may also someday become the new leaders of that division. Div. 31 wants to help students achieve their goals and wants to support students to become the next generation of leaders in the APA and at the local state, provincial and territorial psychological associations.

The mission of Div. 31 is to provide advocacy for state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs) and state issues within the governance structure of the APA. Div. 31 facilitates communication among the SPTAs staff and their members to promote and recognize the activities of individual SPTAs and their representatives. Essentially, Div. 31 membership empowers you as a student with information to make informed choices which can support your educational and career goals. Div. 31 membership also affords you opportunities for leadership on the national and local psychological association levels. Div. 31 will also support and recognize your leadership activities and connect you with other student leaders across the SPTAs.

Div. 31 is the home and voice for professionals and students within the APA. Div. 31 is your APA home regardless of what school you attend, where you live, what other APA divisions you belong to, or even what path you choose in the field of psychology. Div. 31 is your home and voice for issues concerning you as a student on the local psychological association level and the national level. Div. 31 is charged to work on the current issues that directly affect students, particularly the internship crisis and reimbursement for interns. No other division of the APA has goals that directly focus on student issues like Div. 31. Which is why Div. 31 is a student’s APA home and membership to students is free.

Div. 31 wants to connect you to the network of other student leaders across states, provinces and territories. As a member, you will have the opportunity to be connected through the Div. 31 student newsletter, the division blog and the Div. 31 student task force blog. These communications will provide you with opportunities for leadership within Div. 31 and at your local psychological association. Essentially, if you have something to say about student issues, want to create real change or just want to stay up-to-date on the issues affecting students, it is time to join Div. 31. Div. 31 needs students in every psychological association to support this network and needs your voice. Div. 31 is your home within the APA that will keep you informed about issues that affect your career in psychology while offering you the opportunities to become a leader to create positive change for all members.

The door to your APA home is open, join Div. 31 for free today. To learn more, you can follow us on Twitter at @APADivision31.

Jean-Ellen M. Metivier, MA
Doctoral Student, Department of Clinical Psychology, Fielding Graduate University
President, Fielding Graduate University Psi Chi Chapter
APAGS DSRN Representative, Div. 31

November 26, 2013

Standing Tall: The Vital Role of Students

We are all leaders. Our field is one of leadership and it is a powerful vision to think of joining together with a loud voice that speaks from compassion, commitment, and expertise in what it means to be human. Take a step this month and to see where the path leads you. Reach out, get involved and use that voice that got you to where you are today to advocate for a better tomorrow. 

Action Steps 
  • Speak to your classmates and colleagues. Find a couple of friends to join you in taking steps towards getting involved. 
  • Make sure to seek out opportunities that interest you. Do not spend precious time on things that you will not be engaged in or passionate about. However, realize that we all change and it is okay to be involved in one area for a while and then decide to get involved in something else later on. 
  • Join APA and seek out student leaders in the divisions you are interested in. Ask how you can get involved in those divisions. 
  • Join your state psychological association and specifically the graduate student chapter of the association when possible. 
  • Join and get involved in local chapters of the state psych associations. These are often nearby and allow you to meet others in your area who can plug you into specific interest groups, etc. 
  • Join APA Div. 31 (State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Association Affairs). Their main goal is to provide you and your psychological associations with useful resources, services and benefits as well as being your voice for psychological association issues within APA. 
  • Join the APA Division 31 student listserv by contacting Connie Paul, PhD. This is where we as students can discuss important things like student debt, healthcare reform, etc. and to brainstorm great ways to get involved in advocacy around these issues. 
  • Take opportunities to give presentations or lead discussion groups in practicum placements or other places where you see a need or a space to do this. This can be in schools, churches, hospitals, clubs, organizations, homes for the elderly, sports teams, etc. 
  • Ask your supervisors, advisors, etc. about ways to get involved in writing or offering psychoeducational materials: Division 31 will publish what you produce in one of its five blogs. 
  • Be confident in yourself and the roles you take on. Remember the importance of psychologists and consider the ways we are needed in our society.

    Nikki Frederick, MA 
    APA Div. 31 Student Task Force Chair

August 26, 2013

Div. 31 Symposium on Student Leadership Sets Stage for Next Steps

During the 2013 APA Convention in Honolulu, Div. 31 allotted convention programming hours for student programming, a novel approach that had never been done before because of a low student presence within the division. During the past year, student membership has exploded in Div. 31, and the division is looking for further ways to make it the professional home that students can claim as their own. The symposium entitled “Future of SPTA's Graduate Student Involvement, Leadership, and Innovation” addressed issues about advocacy and SPTA concerns. Speakers included the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team (ACT): Paul Ascheman, PhD; Mike Parent, MS; and Sabrina Esbitt, MA. Greg Wilson, BA, proposed and ran the symposium.

The graduate student leadership presentations (PDF, 2.5MB) focused on what the APAGS ACT looked like from a systems level and how the ACT network is a key player in disseminating information related to science and practice to students across a vast network of student representatives from around the country.

Esbitt focused her presentation on the model of her organization, the New York State Psychological Association, to describe the work and advocacy she has done on behalf of students in New York. She also spoke about the challenge of advocating for the needs of all students in such a large state, in which most of the doctoral programs are located within New York City. Nesbitt’s talk demonstrated why it is imperative that students join their state psychological associations and how they can become members and leaders within these organizations.

Ascheman spoke about the APAGS ACT, first explaining what the network is, how it is commonly used and how communication in the organization is bi-directional, meaning that the team obtains communication from around the country not just on student issues but also on issues occurring within the SPTAs that have huge ramifications for students and training. Lastly, Ascheman discussed the “NY 22” action that took place last year, in which 22 interns would have lost their funding and ultimately that year of training had it not been for the advocacy of students sending more than 3,000 letters to the New York governor’s office. The direct action secured those internship positions and set a precedent for what student advocacy can accomplish.

Finally, Parent spoke about how students can be engaged in advocacy efforts on the front line through his presentation titled “Front-Line Advocacy: Strategies for Boots-on-the-Ground Students.” Parent spoke about the internship crisis and how groups such as those mentioned by Ascheman and Esbitt have and continued to play crucial roles in advocacy efforts on student-related issues. Parent viewed the internship crisis, and advocacy as a whole, through a feminist/post-modern and organizational behavior approach and highlighted that the nature of these advocacy-related efforts are based within social justice causes. His presentation highlighted hierarchies of power and how students can sometimes feel disempowered because of where they find themselves within hierarchal structure.

Overall, the symposium was well received. The participants asked many questions, and excellent dialogue occurred throughout the symposium. Several participants requested contact information for the speakers so they could consult with them. A similar presentation at the 2014 APA Convention is planned. Div. 31 is focusing on generating a pipeline for those interested in advocacy and leadership and continuing to make psychological research and practice relevant to students and emerging professionals.

June 20, 2012

Advisory About Obama's Announcement Regarding Deferred Action for DREAMers

Claudette Antuna, the chair of the Division 31 Student Task Force, forwarded an announcement that clarifies President Obama's executive order regarding so many people within our communities who are at risk for deportation. The clarification follows:
To: Washington State Alliance for Equal Justice Leadership Group

As most of you probably heard, President Obama announced this past Friday that his administration would be granting a temporary form of immigration protection known as deferred action to certain undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States before the age of sixteen, have been living in the US for five years or more and who meet other requirements.... In order to address some of the initial questions, we have prepared a community advisory in English and Spanish (PDF, 233KB) that provides basic information about the announcement. The primary message we want to ensure the community understands is that the administration has not yet announced or put in place a process to accept applications for this new initiative, so no one who is not currently in deportation (removal) proceedings can apply yet. We anticipate that the process will be announced sometime during August but we will send out an announcement when the process is in place. The advisory provides our recommendations on what people who may qualify for this program can do at this point.

Please let me know if you have any questions. We anticipate having additional information in the coming days which we will share with all of you.

Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
615 Second Ave, Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98104
Telephone: (206) 957-8609
Fax: (206) 587-4025

May 9, 2012

Psychology of Immigration Resources

Please read the report by the APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration initiated by former APA President Melba Vazquez. The executive summary of the report (PDF, 408KB) and the full report are available.
A web-based resource "Psychology of Immigration 101" describes this new area of emerging practice. An APAGS webinar on the topic, "Immigration: Things you must know for research, training, and practice," is scheduled for Tuesday, May 15, 12:30 to 2 p.m.

For more information, please contact Efua Andoh at (202) 336-6045.

April 24, 2012

Welcome to the Student Task Force Blog

Throughout the next months, the Division 31 Student Task Force blog will broadcast "just-in-time" information about leadership and advocacy skills, and advocacy efforts that affect students.

For instance, Dr. Benjamin, President of the Division, and a first-year member (of a three-year term) of the APA Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) just announced that BEA has requested that APA authorize three million dollars over a period of three years to provide seed funding to increase the number of APA accredited internship programs. Such funds will be used to assist programs in the application process for APA accreditation including application and site visit fees, program consultation, administrative and supervisor support, intern stipends/benefits or other direct costs in seeking accreditation.

Priorities will be given to those applicants that (1) expand the number of positions, (2) serve underserved populations, and (3) prepare psychologists for the 21st Century health care system, especially for integrated primary care and work in community health centers. BEA recommends collaborating with APPIC in this capacity building effort, and anticipates this program will have a positive impact on the internship imbalance.

Our division is on the vanguard of helping to fix this crisis. Members of our Division will need to lobby the members of the APA BOD and COR in order to change the existing limited efforts that have been meted out to end the internship crisis. More about who to contact and when will be posted later this year.

This policy change will help considerably. In addition, stay tuned for more information about changes in the Commission of Accreditation procedures that also will ease the internship crisis. Both sets of changes will prepare our internship programs to bid and provide services to those who will need behavioral care under the Affordable Care Act (that will open services to 40 million more people). Remember that unless the internship has accreditation, it would not be eligible for reimbursement from federal programs.