PRESIDENT LETTER BLOG
This blog contains an archive of "Greetings from the President" that appeared since January 2020 on the STP home page and in STP News. To view letters from STP Presidents from 2016 through 2019, click here.
by Susan Nolan, STP President-Elect
I’m excited to announce the 2021 Presidential Task Forces! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in serving on any of these task forces, or if you have any questions.
Task Force on Integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and International Initiatives Across STP
The task force will continue the work on DEI that 2020 President Amy Fineburg initiated. The task force will explore how to integrate STP’s DEI and international initiatives more fully in all we do, including membership, programming, awards, and resources. The task force will examine the structure of the organization, including whether there might be more explicit connections across the five Vice-Presidential areas or whether a new structure would help STP move away from the siloed nature of our current structure. The task force will use information from the newly implemented DEI assessments as well as any assessments that they implement. The task force also will offer suggestions to increase inclusion and equity, including with respect to internationalization, in all areas, including with respect to our membership, leadership, award/grant applicants, and invited speakers.
Task Force for Resources for “Pivot Teaching”
The task force will gather, solicit, and publicize resources for “pivot teaching” – e.g., changing modalities mid-semester, accommodating individual students whose situation has changed, integrating more flexibility into courses generally. The resources might include information on shifting to online, hybrid, or HyFlex modalities, for providing online resources for students in a face-to-face course, and for communicating with students in flexible, creative, and inclusive ways. The task force will prioritize top-notch, evidence-based, student-centered teaching and learning as modalities and other conditions shift.
Task Force on Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking: Guidelines 2.0
STP’s initial peer-reviewed statistical literacy guidelines were published on the STP website in 2014 (see below for links). Since then, there have been far-reaching changes in the ways in which statistics are taught, and the ways in which changes in best practices for research methodology have driven how statistical analyses are approached. The task force will create updated STP guidelines for statistical literacy, reasoning, and thinking to incorporate what we have learned from the open science movement, data ethics initiatives, and new analytical approaches.
· Statistical Literacy in the Introductory Psychology Course
· Statistical Literacy in the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum
· Statistical Literacy in Psychology: Resources, Activities, and Assessment Methods
It’s September of 2020, so it’s been 3 months since the murder of George Floyd and roughly two weeks since the murder of Jacob Blake. Protests are ongoing as people mobilize to speak out against racism and to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. In this time of protest and calls for justice, many organizations have put out diversity statements that seek to affirm commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. After much work by member leaders of STP, we now bring you this Statement on Addressing Systemic Racism and Inequity in STP and our commitment to critical reflection and assessment, representation, equity, and inclusivity.
This statement is the product of pursuing those values. I worked with three members of the Executive Committee to draft and edit this statement – special thanks to VP for Diversity and International Relations Kelley Haynes-Mendez, Secretary Stephanie Afful, and President-Elect Susan Nolan for their work on this statement. Our first attempt at a statement was clumsy, at best. It came across as defensive and performative, even though our intention from the beginning was to avoid such things. STP’s Diversity Committee, led by Teceta Tormala, reviewed the first draft, and they responded with honesty, clarity, and appropriate frustration. Their critical reflection took us back to the drawing board, and we revised the statement to present to the Diversity Committee and the Executive Committee for review. With some minor edits from the EC, we sent the statement to APA for review (as is required for all APA Divisions seeking to put out such a statement). APA responded favorably to the statement, calling it “strong and compelling” and “a model for our association-wide efforts.” This positive feedback from APA would not have happened without the work of the Diversity Committee, specifically Teceta Tormala, Dina Gohar, and Leslie Berntsen. My deepest gratitude to each of them for helping us communicate the values of STP in ways that will help drive our work moving forward.
This statement is STP’s public commitment to all current and future teachers of psychology to pursue the values we outline in the document. The Executive Committee is openly and publicly asking that we be held accountable about how we can make these values a reality in the work of the Society. By being a member of this Society, we call on each of you to uphold these values in your classrooms and work contexts. Recognizing inequity and pursuing the values of critical reflection and assessment, representation, equity, and inclusivity allows us create systems that are antiracist, benefiting everyone and not just a few.
Read STP’s Statement on Addressing Systemic Racism and Inequity in STP here.
Provide feedback on diversity issues and accountability concerns to email@example.com.
Amy C. Fineburg, PhD
Ok, so, the pandemic is not getting better and the plans for this academic year probably won’t work. I’m predicting that, at some point, we will have stretches of time where every day will be like a snow day – will we meet today or not? So, let’s take a detour from the angst and worry over Academic Year 2020-2021 and celebrate some truly wonderful psychology educators.
One of my privileges as STP President is to bestow Presidential Citations to two colleagues “who have made extraordinary life-time contributions to the Society and/or to the teaching of psychology.” The two people that I have honored this year are among the best teachers and people I know.
Loretta Neal McGregor, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at Arkansas State University and is President of the Faculty Senate. Loretta earned her bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University, her master’s degree from Emporia State University, and her doctorate from Wichita State University in Human Factors Psychology. She has taught in higher education for almost 30 years. She served for 8 years as department chair at Arkansas State in the Psychology and Counseling Department. Prior to her tenure at ASU, she was an assistant professor at Southern Arkansas University and her alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University.
Loretta has served the teaching of psychology for many years as an advocate for quality undergraduate education for all students. She has taught courses across the undergraduate psychology curriculum, including research methods, statistics, and introduction to psychology. She has been a member of APA’s Board of Educational Affairs and served as Division 2’s (STP’s) Associate Director for Society Programming for the APA Convention. She was a long-time Advanced Placement (AP) Reader and Table Leader, helping to ensure quality scoring of AP Exams for students around the world. Loretta is one of the most preeminent scholars of the life of fellow Arkansan Mamie Phipps Clark, the pioneering social psychologist who, along with her husband Kenneth Clark, conducted the “Black Doll/White Doll” studies that ultimately influenced the 1955 Brown v. Board of Education decision from the United States Supreme Court. Loretta is a sought-after speaker on teaching, learning, and Dr. Clark’s contributions to the field. She is an alumnae of the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology (LIWP). She is the first African American awarded a Presidential Citation from Division 2.
Kristin Habashi Whitlock is the AP Psychology teacher at Davis High School in Bountiful, Utah. She also teaches courses at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Kristin has been teaching AP Psychology at Davis since the course’s inception in 1992, and she has been involved with the AP Reading since 2001. She has been a Question Leader, Rubric Master, Table Leader, and Reader at the Reading and has served as an Advisor to the College Board and on the AP Psychology Development Committee, which is charged with developing questions for the AP Psychology Exam.
Kristin has been active in promoting quality high school psychology instruction for most of her career. She helped found and directs the Utah Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (U-TOPSS) Fall Conference and is a member of the APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative group. She served with me on the Steering Committee for the APA National Summit for High School Psychology, co-chairing the “Psychology is a Science” strand. She has served as chair of TOPSS and has presented at just about every major psychology and psychology-affiliated conference that exists, including NITOP, ACT, NCSS, and Psychology One. Kristin is generous in sharing good psychology instruction with others, including being a co-author of such resources as the Barron’s AP Q & A Psychology book and presenting at AP Summer Institutes each year. Kristin is the first high school psychology teacher awarded a Presidential Citation from Division 2.
I am sad that I won’t be able to see them in person this year at our Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) since we had to move that event to an online experience. So, I made some lemonade out of those lemons and recorded a Zoom-cast with Loretta and Kristin to explore some of their perspectives on teaching and to show you all what amazing, caring, excellent teachers and people they are. Please enjoy our friendly chat.
Speaking of ACT and going virtual, please take a moment to listen to me, Tom Pusateri (our Executive Director) and Jordan Triosi (Director of ACT Programming) discuss our decision making process for going virtual and what we are looking forward to for this year. Thanks to Eric Landrum and the PsychSessions podcast team for taking the time to interview us and share how much we will miss seeing everyone in person this fall. (And take some time to browse around the PsychSessions site to find interviews with amazing psychologists and psychology teachers!).
2020 STP President
I had hoped that, by now – July 2020 – we would be in a different place. I had hoped that, seeing the relative success of “flattening the curve” and social distancing from April and early May, we would have a better handle on how to live while waiting for a vaccine or reliable treatment for COVID-19. We needed to have a handle on all this as the fall semester looms large at summer’s end. As each day goes by, it often feels like any hope we have had for a full resumption of normalcy is fading fast.
The more I reflect on this time in our history, the more I wonder if getting back to “normal” is really what we should strive to do. The last month has shown us that “normal” for some is oppression for others. We are reminded that inequities in the systems and in ourselves erode the very goals we as teachers strive to achieve. For as long as I’ve been a teacher (since late last century), I have heard calls to change from the “industrial age” school model to one that feels more modern. I’ve heard calls to change everything from the way academic years are structured to how classrooms are managed to how curriculum is developed. As I think about what I would want for my children – a first-year college student and a rising fourth grader – I want a new normal for schooling, one that may upend some cherished traditions but that might just, in the end, help my children see equity in a system that often promises more than it delivers. Here are some ways I’d like to see schooling change as a result of our modern and difficult times:
Learning is the constant, but time is variable. Learning and time don’t always go in sync. Some people learn some things very quickly. Others take longer. Usually, the speed at which learning happens differs within the person. For instance, a person who might learn a language quickly might take longer to learn how to play an instrument. Someone decided at some point that learning calculus in high school should take an academic term (anywhere from 6 weeks to nine months). Someone else decided that earning a degree in calculus should take four years.
Many teaching practices are designed to manipulate this learning-time dynamic to make learning happen within the time limit. We make students sit through an entire course to earn credits even if they can demonstrate already acquired knowledge. We give extra time and offer incompletes (which must be changed by a certain time) to help students who need more time to learn. What if these time factors – length of academic terms, scheduling of the school day/week, when learning assessments occur – could be more flexible? What if the learning was the main goal instead of completing things “on time?”
At no time in educational history have we had available the technological tools needed to reach students when they are not right in front of us. We can communicate and interact with students virtually like never before. How can we capitalize on this to be able to make learning the focus? How can we reclaim time for ourselves and our students by being flexible about it? I’d like to see more schools consider how to rethink daily and term schedules that allow for flexibility with time without sacrificing – and in fact, encouraging – learning.
This type of change, though, would require our general culture to get on board. Our school day and week are based on when parents need childcare to work most jobs. The timeline for finishing the associate’s or bachelor’s degree is based on when we believe people should be living and working on their own as adults. There is little, if any, good exploration of whether an 8am-3pm, Monday through Friday schedule is ideal for learning with children. And, as we’ve seen with this season of COVID-19, I would argue that there is little real evidence that work must be done on a 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday schedule, either. As we consider reopening schools this fall, why can’t we explore how a more fluid school schedule can help students learn better? We know distributed practice is better. We know that cognitive load is important to consider. We know playtime/free time for students contributes to greater social-emotional learning. Could we adapt to a school schedule that allows for more flexibility of when learning happens? COVID-19 is giving us an opportunity to give it a try in a way that might just save lives in the process.
Inclusive teaching must be the norm, not the exception. If we can adopt the idea that learning should be the focus, not time, then why would anyone NOT try to make teaching inclusive? Inclusive teaching centers on making sure students feel welcome to learn. By providing structure, checking our biases, and meeting students where they are, we can remove so many barriers to learning, and the results will likely amaze us. Students aren’t coming to us from a cookie-cutter factory model of learning. They bring an amazingly complex dynamic of personal and societal variables along with them, making it the ultimate exciting challenge to figure out how to help that students learn best. For most students, turning the learning light on isn’t difficult. It may take learning to pronounce their name correctly or explaining a procedure again patiently. It may take believing their story of hardship, even if it seems incredible. Or it may take not asking them to explain at all, but giving help anyway.
COVID-19 is affecting all of us in ways we only imagined before. How many times during this time have we felt the need to apologize for interruptions by our children or our pets or our roommates or partners during our Zoom calls? Do we blur our backgrounds or turn the books on our shelves around to avoid people’s curiosity (at best) or critiquing (at worst) our lived experiences? We hope our work colleagues will understand when we can’t meet a deadline during COVID or have an errant cat show affection during a video call. Let’s learn from COVID that inclusive teaching allows us to have that understanding for our students.
The power of education must extend beyond our classroom doors. I became a teacher because I wanted to “pay it forward.” I grew up in poverty (although I credit my parents for making our home feel richer than it was), and my educational attainment has allowed me the provide my family the financially comfortable life I didn’t have then. Because of my experiences, I have long been a champion for the power of education for my students. Yet, I realize that the level playing field I work daily to build isn’t guaranteed beyond my classroom door. BIPOC students, students with disabilities, students without documentation, students who speak other languages better than English, students from poverty, LGBTQIA students, etc., could be as educated as I am but are not given respect, deference, justice, or even life in the world.
We cannot continue to sell students on a dream. If we want to see the promise of education fulfilled, we need to work in our own communities to be sure that students can realize the promise. They must not be denied housing or loans or jobs or access. They must be treated fairly and equitably. We must work to make space for our students in the world and not just in our classrooms. We must fight for systems and procedures that bring equity, not just hope for it. We must look at results and data and be willing to see when and why things aren’t working – and then change them. We must speak up. We should also be willing to step aside and make space. Our advocacy for students must extend to the world in which we all share together if we are ever to see the dream we are giving students realized.
We can be the change we need right now. You might not have any control or say over what your institution decides about school and work in the fall. The lack of voice and choice in the larger scope of things will be frustrating and frightening in this time where these issues can have life-or-death consequences. I hope that your principal or provost is considering how to keep people safe.
As you wait to find out, consider using some of these resources to help as you plan for whatever the fall may hold:
I had wished that, by now, we would’ve been able to see the end of this COVID-19 tunnel. I had wished that we could see each other at the APA Convention in Washington, but thanks to Missy Beers (our APA Convention Chair) and Jamie McMinn (our outgoing APA Convention Chair), we have a lineup of great virtual speakers . My presidential “hour” will be a Zoom panel discussion with five BIPOC STP members discussing their work and how we can build a more inclusive STP moving forward. Thanks in advance to EC VPs Meera Komarraju and Kelley Haynes-Mendez ; Diversity chair Teceta Tormala ; Membership Chair Rita Obeid ; and Diversity committee member Dina Gohar for serving on this panel and sharing their work.
I had wished that it would’ve been possible for us to hold our Annual Conference on Teaching (ACT) in person in Pittsburgh in October. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing the end yet, and we can’t gather in person in October. I’m proud of Jordan Triosi (our ACT Director) and Lindsay Masland (our incoming ACT Director) who have worked hard to come up with a new plan for a virtual ACT that will be available FOR FREE to all members of STP. I look forward to this opportunity, and I look even more forward to seeing you all in person again when we can be safe together.
Wear a mask. Keep your physical distance. Look out for each other.
In August of 2019, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones spearheaded a special issue of the New York Times Magazine entitled The 1619 Project, "a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative." The magazine showcased historians, writers, and artists to reflect on the impact slavery has had on the American – and the African American – consciousness. As Ibram X. Kendi points out in his book How to Be an Antiracist, racism didn’t start with the arrival of 20 or so Angolans on a Virginia beach. A Portuguese scholar invented a hierarchy of skin color conflated with generalized personal qualities to honor his patron, Prince Henry the Navigator (who, incidentally, never really navigated himself outside of Portugal). This invention not only took hold as justification for chattel slavery of Black people, it persists as justification for continued personal and societal racism long after slavery-as-America-has-known-it was legally abolished.
Once again, the United States is confronting its racism. Social media, for good and for ill, is amplifying the tragedies of the day and the responses to them. We have watched people being killed. We have watched protesters march. We have watched anger being displayed. We have watched monuments come down. We have watched all of it in real time. Social media is allowing us to replay events on demand, unlike how those before us were able to consume the news of the day. It is exposing even more brightly the consequences of racism for all to see. Non-White people have been telling about the effects of racism all along, though.
I hope people listen. I hope people listen to Black and Brown voices about what needs to be done. I hope people act on what needs to be done. I hope psychologists continue to tease out the mechanisms of racism so we can more effectively combat it in our society and in ourselves. I hope we all continue the long march toward freedom and equity.
For those of you who identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are receiving the care and support you need in these traumatizing times. For those of you who teach students of color, I hope you are finding words and actions that care for and support your students in these traumatizing times. For those of you who do not identify as a psychology teacher of color, I hope you are listening and following the guidance of Black and Brown colleagues and friends who want you as an ally and advocate.
As we journey onward, I am asking what the Society for the Teaching of Psychology can do to move us all along the path toward freedom and equity. How can we as teachers be antiracist? How can we teach students to be antiracist? What do teachers need to be better at identifying and responding to racism? What can we as teachers do to help the discipline of psychology be a more inclusive science? I have written before about my presidential initiative to diversify our membership, and a task force is working this year to develop a process for becoming a more inclusive Society. An inclusive STP, though, is only as effective as the people who participate. I hope you bring your voice, expertise, and skills – and listen to the voices, expertise, and skills of others – to help continue building an STP that helps all teachers of psychology gives psychology away to all students.
Take care, fellow teachers.
Welcome to May, which in my world doesn’t look like it will be much different than April. So, let’s call this season “Maypril.” Whether we get to have a distinct June, July, and August will depend on how well this reopening experiment goes. I’m in one of the experimental groups here in Alabama, but we’re getting a lower dose of the IV than our neighbors in Georgia…
Since the beginning of our isolation responses to this pandemic, people have been waxing philosophic about what might change as a result of our current “normal.” People have been predicting all sorts of societal improvements like a reversing of global climate change, the end of racism, more people getting exercise, a rejection of constant technology dependence, and more man buns. Consider that pollution seems to be clearing up in many places, gas prices are ridiculously low, and my husband’s hair is getting pretty long. Unfortunately, racism still seems alive and well, and my 8-year-old son lives for his 2 hours of entertainment screen time each day. Some things look like they are changing while others remain the same – which is pretty much the same as things have always been, come to think of it.
I think about how other momentous events in my lifetime have changed me and the world around me. I remember watching the Challenger launch live at school in 1986. Afterwards, we rarely watched live events in school. I remember being a new high school teacher the year of the Columbine tragedy. Afterwards, I would make plans in my head for how I could protect my students from an active shooter. I watched the 9-11 attacks unfold in real time. Afterwards, traveling by plane hasn’t been the same. COVID19 has thrown us all for a loop, and, on some levels, we will be forever changed because of it. For a long while, we might be wary of close contact with strangers. We might look askance at people coughing in public. We might be frustrated with people not wearing masks in public.
What will change about teaching and learning? Will more teachers be incorporating good practices in distance/online learning? Will teachers discuss what content or assignments to prioritize in case more closings happen? Will our grading practices and deadlines be better at considering student life circumstances? Will we balance work and life better?
We teach psychology, so we know that, in all likelihood, people will drift back to habits and preferences from before the pandemic faster than the predictions hope. We have spent – and probably will spend – a long time under these cautious conditions, and new habits surely will form. We might eat in more. We might spend more time talking to each other. We might do better at distance learning in the future. We might keep the daily walk ritual going. We will also get manicures and haircuts. We will eat out and shop in stores again. Our children will play with other children again.
I encourage you during this extraordinary season to reflect on what you want to return to and what you want to be different. What for you has been precious about this time? What has been unmanageable? What will you hope to regain? What will you never return to? Connect with me on our STP Facebook page and on Twitter (just tag me - @afineburg in your @teachpsych tweet) to share your visions of our future as people and as teachers of psychology.
Here’s hoping our post-COVID world learns lessons from pre- and thru-COVID that leave us better than before.
I hope that you are finding some semblance of rhythm in this uncertain time. I hope that you and yours are healthy, and if not, that you are able to find effective healthcare. I hope your online teaching and communications platform is working. I hope that you are finding joy seeing your students’ faces from time to time. I hope that your children are finding new and fun ways to play and learn. I hope your pets are loving every minute of you being home more. I hope that your cooking is better than mine. And if none of these things are happening for you, I hope you can reach out to someone in this community or another one near you for help. Even though we must maintain distance, we are not alone.
The Executive Committee met virtually on March 28, and we were able to get some important work done for the Society. Some of what we do in the spring meeting is to review what we did last year. We had a great 2019 under Rick Miller’s presidential leadership:
For 2020, we are planning some 75th anniversary celebrations at ACT (again, hope springs eternal for a conference this fall), and I will be formalizing work I’ve been doing with our Membership and Diversity Committees on further diversifying STP’s membership and work. Susan Nolan, our President-Elect, shared her vision for 2021, and I’m excited for you to hear more from her in the fall on what she has in store for STP.
While things feel cruel right now, there is goodness going on. People are helping each other. Pet photos are being shared. Silly things that kids say are making the rounds. John Krasinski (of The Office and Jack Ryan and Emily Blunt’s husband fame) shared Some Good News. We found some toilet paper in a store last week. Small victories in trying times are beacons of light in the darkness. Our STP community is a light in my world. Thanks to you all for your generosity and solidarity.
See you this fall, I hope.
STP President 2020
Hello, my heroes! I have been completely impressed and humbled by the generosity of our teaching psychology community in the wake of this extraordinary time dealing with COVID-19. As this virus – such a tiny little thing – has such a big impact on everyone, I have seen so many ways that our community has reached out to be “all in” with helping everyone move to online or home learning.
The Facebook group has grown as people recognize the quality of the resources being shared there in the spirit of doing what is right for students. So many individual members – more than I can recognize specifically here – have given their time and expertise publicly and privately over the last couple of weeks to help those who are shifting to a totally new (to them) platform of teaching. I thank everyone so much for making that group a part of the “helper” community. Shout out to Lyra Stein, Chair of our Member Communication Committee and her colleagues on the committee for managing it so well!
It feels like STP has been preparing unknowingly for this kind of thing for a while now – we have people who not only teach online regularly but engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning about online teaching. Our members know how to set up and deliver instruction online, and we know some of the conditions and practices under which it works best. We all recognize that things will not all go smoothly as we go to full online instruction at our institutions, but we can feel confident that people are nearby (both physically and virtually) to lend a hand when things feel wrong. I am so proud to be a part of such an outstanding community!
Our Spring 2020 STP Executive Committee meeting, scheduled for March 27-29 in my city Birmingham, Alabama, has been canceled. We are working as a group to find time to meet virtually. Like many of us who are grieving missed opportunities and experiences, I am heartbroken not to be able to share my city with our fabulous EC. STP sponsors so many programs that involve travel and support for conferences, and we are so sad that people who were supported by our various programs and grants cannot use them this spring and early summer. The EC has voted on a set of policies regarding deferring awards and grants that hopefully will fulfill those in the coming year. If you have incurred travel expenses that were to be funded by STP, please review our new policiesso we can work with you on those expenses.
I truly hope that we can work together as a larger community to do our part to flatten the curve with this virus so that we can get back to meeting and learning together in person. Virtual meetings and learning certainly have their charm. As an introvert who works from home already and likes her personal space, I can’t say I’m struggling with social isolation and distance. But I do look forward to reducing the social distance I need to keep from other people and seeing y’all face-to-face, especially y’all in my cherished STP family.
Be safe and well with you and yours. Reach out when you need. Help where you can. We will persist!
I’ve discovered that I am a pretty horrible blogger. Instead of throwing my thoughts out into the marketplace of cyberideas, I overedit myself to the point of irrelevance. I’ve found that I’m too careful a writer to be good at posting frequent, insightful posts. Kudos to those of you out there who put out great posts with more frequency than I can usually manage.
Case in point: I’ve been working on this post for over a month! One of my presidential initiatives in 2020 is to explore – and hopefully implement – ways to diversify our Society’s membership. I am clearly not alone in this goal. Last January, I went to an APA-sponsored leadership retreat for incoming division leaders, and it seemed as though most, if not all, of the other divisions represented had the same goal. Some divisions were approaching their diversification efforts to attract younger/early career folks, and others were exploring attracting more diverse gender and race/ethnic representation. Diversity, widely defined, seems to be a recognized value for most of APA right now.
My struggle with this post is that I have been wrestling for some time now about how to use the word “diversity.” When I worked for a large, metropolitan school district in Alabama, we would talk about our “diverse” schools, but we were not really referring to those schools that had real diversity. The district has schools that range from 99% White to 99% Black, with almost every demographic breakdown in between. The 99% White school and the 99% Black school had the same problem – they were each not “diverse” in the true sense of the word. Yet, we spoke of the 99% Black school as our “diverse” school. We never referred to the majority White school as diverse. Using the word “diversity” in this way upholds a majority normative standard, and I don’t want to perpetuate that standard in my work. I’m working on better ways to talk about these issues.
Diversification efforts have been a goal for organizations like ours for a long time, yet we haven’t made the progress we all say we want. The psychology student population has been decidedly diverse for more than a decade, yet only 17% of psychology faculty identify as racial/ethnic minorities (APA Center for Workforce Studies, 2019). While women make up 56% of psychology faculty, women have outnumbered men in psychology graduate programs three to one for more than a decade (also from APA CWS). If we’ve been working on diversifying for this long, we should really be more frustrated that we haven’t figured out how to do it better than we do it. I know I have felt such frustration.
Often, diversity efforts become more about moving the metrics than truly creating spaces. Diversity efforts that merely move the metrics play diversity as a zero-sum game where room is made for some at the expense of others. Viewing diversity as a numbers game may explain why attempts generally fail to live up to the hype. If the spaces that we open up aren’t welcoming or empowering or supportive, the new people won’t stay in those spaces for very long. People who have been pushed out or aside to make the numbers work become resentful and often sabotage the work that’s been done.
In membership organizations like ours, we don’t have a finite number of membership slots to give out. We don’t have to push anyone aside or out the door to make room for new people. There aren’t a limited number of teaching ideas or resources to be had. We are only limited by our members’ capacity for ideas and work; if we need a bigger table to seat us all, let’s build it.
I am working with our membership and diversity committee chairs (Rita Obeid and Teceta Tormala) and their respective STP VPs (Meera Komarraju and Kelley Haynes-Mendez) for the last few months to discuss how to make room in STP. We are discussing not only ways to recruit new members, but also how to develop programming and resources people need. We are considering diversity needs related to where and who people teach. We are considering what people who teach about diversity need. We want to create spaces that allow people to be intersectional, affiliating with STP in all the ways they choose to identify. We are considering the types of funding the efforts will need. There is so much to consider to make sure the spaces are open, welcoming, empowering, and supportive.
I want to hear your thoughts about diversity in general and how to diversify what we do and who we serve in STP. Here’s a Google form to collect your thoughts.
Some questions asked include:
As always, comments are confidential. I will do my best to respond personally to anyone who provides contact information.
Thanks for this opportunity to serve you and your students.
Amy C. Fineburg, Ph.D.
STP President - 2020
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.