As President of STP this year, my focus will be on exploring how well we are serving our members and psychology teaching and learning. As I think about these things, I am struck by how people affiliate with STP and whether that affiliation says something about the value of STP to psychology teachers and instructors. I wonder whether we as a Society are reaching anyone and everyone who teaches psychology, or if we are just reaching people who teach in certain contexts or from certain professional backgrounds. I wonder if what we are offering is compelling enough for people to identify with us in formal, overt ways (like paying for membership or volunteering to serve on committees). I think the act of formally joining a group like ours depends on many factors, not the least of which is how people choose to identify themselves professionally.
How I identify myself personally is something I get to think about often. When I got remarried in 2017, I didn’t legally change my name. For one, changing one’s name is a real hassle. For another, my husband is “Dr. Meadows,” and now my stepson is “Dr. Meadows,” so I didn’t think Birmingham was big enough for three “Dr. Meadowses.” And for another, my first married name is the one my children have, so I decided to retain my affiliation with them. My current husband and I just happily use our full names when we introduce each other to people, hoping to keep people from addressing me as “Dr. Meadows” and him as “Mr. Fineburg.”
But I did add my husband’s name to my Facebook profile name. I did the “Facebook-official” name change as a part of my exuberance over marrying my current husband, but it has created confusion with my Facebook friends. When they see me in real life, they stutter through what to call me, often referencing Facebook as the source of their confusion. Of course, now that the Facebook-official name change is there, I can’t go in and change it without people thinking something is terribly wrong with my current marriage. So, I live in real life with my legal name and in cyberlife with my husband’s name.
How does all this identity talk relate to STP? Consider this – we have over 10,000 people who are connected to our STP Facebook page. That’s over 10,000 people who, at some point, joined us in cyberlife. The act of joining a Facebook group, though, doesn’t involve paying a membership fee, so it’s a relatively low commitment to make compared to joining an organization formally. It’s an affiliation that matters, and the contributions people make to our Facebook group are vibrant and active. Yet, we only have a little over 3000 paid members in real life. It seems that around 7000 people see something valuable enough to affiliate with us on Facebook, but not enough to pay the $25 membership fee to join us formally. Our Society is experiencing a similar type of identity disconnect that I experience – we have one group identity in real life, but a different one in cyberlife.
We need to ask ourselves why this disconnect happens and what we can do to make joining us more attractive. Much of my focus this year is to explore why this disconnect exists. Is it too much of a hassle to join us in real life? Is what we offer in real life as vibrant as what people can get for free on Facebook? Do people feel there is space for them in STP in real life?
As I work with the Executive Committee to tackle these questions, I ask you to think about your identity as a psychology educator and how STP fits in. What do you hope your students gain from learning psychology from you? What do you need from STP to accomplish your psychology teaching and learning goals? What do you need from a professional network of psychology educators to improve your teaching life? Where and how do you need your voice to be heard in STP? What would you like to share with other members of STP?
Share your thoughts with me (confidentially, of course) by completing this online form.
STP President - 2020