Support for GPE Program at a Critical Juncture

Advocacy continues to be an integral and exciting part of the annual Education Leadership Conference (ELC). This year’s ELC, which focused on Psychology and Lifelong Learning, included a number of sessions dedicated to advocacy training, leadership, and active engagement.

Once again, ELC participants sought to deepen their understanding of the Graduate Psychology Education program (GPE) and use that new knowledge to educate members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as their staff, about this unique, psychology-specific federal program. Participants learned this year that the focus has been on: reinstating the geropsychology grants; addressing the needs of veterans and their families, as well as unemployed persons, in underserved communities; and placing psychology trainees in community health centers..

The advocacy related sessions began on Sunday afternoon with Nina Levitt, EdD, Associate Executive Director of the Education Government Relations Office (EdGRO), and Jenny Smulson, Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer for EdGRO providing a brief overview of the GPE issue and current efforts to gain increased funding for the program, as well as information on other ELC sessions aimed at preparing everyone for their hill visits on Tuesday.

The following day on Monday morning, EdGRO staff presented a session entitled Advocacy for Novices, which was offered not only to new advocates, but also to anyone wishing to brush up on their advocacy skills. Nearly 50 ELC attendees joined for this presentation – the highest number ever. Employing a combination of interactive exercises and PowerPoint presentations, Nina Levitt and Whitney Warrick, JD, Legislative and Federal Affairs Associate, explained the basics of how the federal legislative and annual appropriations process works, what gives Americans the right to advocate and why it is important for psychologists to be actively involved in advocacy activities. This very popular mini-workshop session further allowed participants to engage in a spirited discussion of advocacy “how-to’s”, learn how to be an effective advocate, and sharpen their communication skills in anticipation of their Capitol Hill visits.

Monday’s sessions also included the Education Advocacy Awards Luncheon, which provided an opportunity to recognize psychologists and other individuals who are advancing psychology education and training through their advocacy activities and support. This year three individuals were honored for their efforts and were presented awards by the Board of Educational Affairs Chair, Janet Matthews, PhD and APA President Carol Goodheart, PhD. In the category of APA Member At-Large, Cindy Juntunen, Ph.D received the 2010 Education Advocacy Distinguished Service Award for her efforts to promote a greater understanding of the need to engage in grassroots activities at all levels and advance collaboration within the psychology education and training community. Next, the Federal Education Advocacy Grassroots Network award  was presented to Philinda Hutchings, Ph.D for her skill, tenacity and great enthusiasm in recruiting new members to the Education Advocacy Grassroots network. And, lastly, Debbie Jessup of Representative Lucile Roybal-Allard’s office received the 2010 Friend of Psychology Award for her support of increasing psychological services to underserved populations.

Following lunch, ELC participants then attended a plenary session entitled, Graduate Psychology Education:  Serving Veterans and Unemployed Persons in Underserved Communities. Facilitated by Linda Campbell, PhD, APA Board of Educational Affairs member, three panelists spoke of the role that psychologists can play in addressing issues of trauma related to unemployment and post-deployment of military personnel in underserved communities through the GPE program. David Rudd, PhD, David Riggs, PhD and Nadya Fouad, PhD, ABPP, each captivated APA members with their data-driven, and anecdote rich overviews of the various issues. (See related article).

Monday afternoon wrapped up with a substantive review of GPE and a detailed discussion of the current status of the GPE program, including the FY 2011 Appropriations situation. ELC  participants also learned about  what to expect on a Capitol Hill visit and were educated again on the request or “ask” to their Senators and Representative to do(i.e., include the $7 million  recommended by the House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee for the GPE program in FY2011). Indeed, the afternoon ended with high energy as Christopher Kush, President of Soapbox Consulting, lead participants in a lively “Round-Robin” role play exercise that enabled everyone to practice their advocacy skills and primed them for Tuesday‘s Capitol Hill adventure.

Finally, with great excitement and some nervousness, on Tuesday morning nearly 100 energized APA members went in groups to Capitol Hill to make their case for increased appropriations for the GPE program. These psychology leader-advocates held 189 meetings total, 78 in the U.S. Senate and 111 in the U.S. House of Representatives and represented 39 states. They not only made a compelling case for the GPE program at a critical time, many of them have become lifelong advocates for the profession in the process.    

Make a difference for psychology. Join the Federal Education Advocacy Grassroots Network!