Cover Story

2008 Education Leadership Conference: Internationalizing psychology education

The ELC was organized around the topic of internationalizing psychology education. What does it mean, and how might we do it?

By Paul D. Nelson, PhD


The reality of polar icecap meltdown from climate change and the recent meltdown of financial markets around the world should make us ever more mindful that we live in a truly global community. What has this to do with psychology? Nothing more or less than the fact that human thought and behavior are inextricably related to most phenomena that render us a global community.

It is not surprising, therefore, that in 2001, when the first APA Education Leadership Conference (ELC) was held, participants acknowledged globalization as a prevailing force of the 21st century and recommended that psychology as a major discipline internationalize its curriculum, ensure training in culturally competent research and practice and promote international exchange programs among other initiatives consistent with a global perspective (Belar, 2007; 2008). By 2004, the Carnegie Corporation and the American Council on Education (ACE) funded an opportunity for the American Psychological Association (APA) and several other disciplinary societies to develop guidelines to internationalize their undergraduate education curricula. The work of this project was summarized in an ACE publication (Green & Shoenberg, 2006). The APA task force report was reviewed in addition by APA governance groups under the collaborative leadership of a working group jointly appointed by the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and the Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP). This same working group subsequently proposed a resolution on other ways in which the APA might advance or facilitate internationalization of education in psychology, including what roles and functions it might assume in international quality assurance initiatives related to education in psychology (Belar, 2008; Torney-Purta, 2008).

In the context of this background, the 2008 ELC was held in Washington, DC, on September 6-9, bringing together 159 psychologists from 16 national groups of psychology academic leaders at different levels of education and training, 11 psychological membership organizations apart from the APA, 27 APA divisions, and 15 APA governance groups, and several from other countries. Sponsored by the APA Education Directorate and the BEA, the ELC was organized around the topic of internationalizing psychology education. What does it mean, and how might we do it?

Definitions and issues for guidance in critical conversations

Due to the fact that the term “internationalization” is subject to various interpretations (Nelson, 2007), conference participants were guided in their deliberations by the definition offered by Jane Knight (2003), a scholar of this area in higher education. She writes: “Internationalization is the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of postsecondary education.” This broad definition was augmented for conference participants by the American Council on Education (2003) definition of global learning as: “the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students acquire…that enable them to understand world cultures and events; analyze global systems; appreciate cultural differences; and apply this knowledge and appreciation to their lives as citizens and workers.” From these two definitions, one might conclude the term internationalization refers to an education process adopted by higher education institutions and programs, whereas the term global learning refers to the learning outcomes (i.e., knowledge, skills, attitudes and values) of that education process in the development of students and faculty.

In addition to these definitions, it was helpful for ELC participants to learn more about some of the issues being raised on campuses these days in critical conversations about internationalization. In as much as ACE has been a national leader in this movement, perspectives from that organization’s experience were shared by Dr. Madeleine Green, vice president for International Initiatives; Dr. Christa Olson, associate director, Center for International Initiatives; and Dr. Brian Bridges, associate director, Center for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity. The need to collaborate, even within the same campus between sometimes competing initiatives, was emphasized by each speaker in discussing tensions that sometimes exist on campuses, for historical, philosophical and practical reasons, especially between advocates of internationalization and those for racial, ethnic and multicultural diversity. Seeking the common ground between forces that seek to address issues of social justice that may be idiosyncratic to a particular country or region and those that seek to attain an international perspective on issues of global significance is a challenge. ELC participants also received two ACE publications from a series of position papers on the topic “global learning for all” (Olson, Evans & Shoenberg, 2007; Olson, Green & Hill, 2008). The ACE website is a source of other information about these issues and initiatives being undertaken to address them.

Internationalizing Education: Opportunities for Transformative Learning

One of the earliest and still predominant forms of internationalization, as noted by Belar (2008), is that of the foreign exchange student, one of the great benefits of which is the student’s immersion in a different culture. In her invited address that launched the conference, Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College (and a psychologist by education), told the story of a small group of African American women from a coalition of Atlanta-based colleges, including Spelman, who had the opportunity to study abroad in the early 1960s. Upon their return to the United States, transformed by their educational experiences abroad, these young women became leaders in the civil rights movement of their day. The fact that only about 1 percent of college students in our country study abroad, and racial/ethnic minority students are even less likely to do so, has led Spelman College to include such opportunity in its strategic planning of education goals for all students. Noting that “the undergraduate experience is an excellent time during which to shape a new paradigm of thought about the world, President Tatum commented that “students cannot fully understand their own cultural context until they have experienced the cultural context of others.” Thus, she added, “creating an education institutional expectation of a worldly perspective is critical in developing the future leaders of our nation.”

In student exchange programs, of course, our country is both a sender and receiver nation. Of the more than half a million international students studying on U.S. campuses, only about 2% are here to study psychology (Belar, 2008). Interestingly, among the international students who comprise about 10 percent of those earning a PhD degree in psychology, their major fields are more likely to be quantitative, experimental, cognitive, and developmental in contrast to the areas of clinical and counseling psychology that account for a majority of the PhD degrees earned by U.S. students (based on an analysis by the APA Center for Workforce Studies analysis of earned doctorates in the year 2006). In effect, the pattern of major fields of interest in psychology to the international students who study in this country is more akin to that in our country half a century ago.

Foreign exchange programs are also available for faculty, one of the foremost among such opportunities being the Fulbright Scholars program, now some 60 years old, in which more than 44,000 faculty have participated. In a conference plenary session on strategies for internationalizing psychology, Dr. Michael Stevens, professor of psychology at Illinois State University and past-president of the APA Division on International Psychology, shared with participants his transformative experience as a former Fulbright Scholar and how he has incorporated that experience into his teaching. Dr. Stevens spoke to the experience of having his assumptive world challenged through recognition that there are cultural boundaries to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes one values.

Some colleges and universities combine academic work on campus with short-term trips to other countries, much as one might do on an education travel cruise, though with somewhat more intentional learning. Dr. Daniel Sachau, professor and I/O program director at Minnesota State University, described three variations of such a program on his campus. One is a summer abroad; another, a 2-3 week travel experience; and the third a service-learning trip of relatively short duration for selected community projects. Another example of the short-term immersion was provided by Dr. Puncky Heppner, professor and codirector of the Center for Multicultural Research, Training, and Consultation at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Dr. Heppner noted three programs his university has initiated with university students in Taiwan. One is a bidirectional, 2-week immersion experience for students to visit each country; another is a cross-cultural summer intern program for students of each country to visit the other; and the third is a dual master’s degree program with a focus on the role of psychology in cultures of the world and the cultural context from which students are learning in psychology. The value of knowing a language, Dr. Heppner noted, is probably underestimated, for language is embedded with myriad cultural connotations. Moreover, students discover the psychological construct of “self,” central to Western psychology varies significantly across cultures.

In addition to exchange student programs of immersion in other cultures, among ways in which campuses are attempting to internationalize their education opportunities is through the development of centers focused on international issues, drawing faculty from various disciplinary departments. These centers reach across disciplines in affording students opportunity to develop greater international and crosscultural awareness through coursework and research. An example of this model was provided by Dr. Uwe Gielen, professor and director of the Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology at St. Francis University. In addition to offering courses and research opportunities, the Institute offers special programs for those who wish to major in international and cross-cultural psychology, one of the requirements for which is competence in two foreign languages.

Strategies for internationalizing psychology might also include innovative use of technology using website tools. Dr. Richard Valeyo, professor of psychology at Pace University, offered a number of examples of such technology for teaching and learning with the goals of broadening students’ perspectives across national and cultural boundaries. Technology available today can be used to teach students in other countries as well as in our own; and social networking sites can afford opportunity for students from different backgrounds to share ideas as long as there is a shared language. Dr. Valeyo described in some detail Web 2.0 technologies for instructional purposes, including technologies suited for course management. For most of the more senior conference participants, this presentation was itself an experience of immersion in a new culture…but one in which the younger generations of students and faculty in most countries these days are increasingly well versed.

Internationalizing Psychology Education: Some Student Perspectives

Conference participants were enlightened as well by a panel addressing student perspectives about the internationalization of psychology education. Ms. Nadia Hasan, chair, American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) and currently a doctoral psychology student on internship at the Counseling Center, Michigan State University, spoke of initiatives being undertaken by APAGS to inform graduate students about opportunities to learn in other countries, including a website and a recently published guide for international students, of which Ms. Hasan is a coauthor. She also shared a few of her own short-term experiences as a student participant in international conferences (e.g., World Federation for Mental Health and International Congress of Psychology). From a student’s perspective, one of the interests in attending such conferences is to learn about the role of psychologists and career opportunities in other countries. For such travel, of course, funding is a major concern for students. Closer to home on campus, Ms. Hasan suggested opportunities for U.S. students to meet with international students when the latter have special events on their campus, often in campus centers for international students. As a counseling psychology intern, moreover, Ms. Hasan shared some of the adjustment problems faced by international students studying in the U.S.

Although specific adjustment issues faced by international students, which would include U.S. students in other countries, might vary according to the variance between cultures native to students and that of the country visited, there are likely some universal principles to which student and faculty attention should be invited. Dr. Arwa Aamiry, a citizen of Jordan who earned two separate PhD degrees in psychology (experimental and clinical health psychology) at two different universities, University of Louisville and University of Florida, spoke eloquently about some of these principles based on her longer-term cultural immersion experiences as a female student from an Arab culture in the U.S. She also had been a postdoctoral Fulbright Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania; a visiting scholar at the University of Victoria, University of Minnesota, and University of Munster; and a visiting associate professor at the American University in Beirut. Having this uncommon collage of international credentials as a student and postdoctoral scholar, and now professor of psychology and director of the Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology at the University of Jordan, Dr. Aamiry cited the following issues as being among the more salient universal challenges to students in a new culture:

  • Songs and language

  • What makes something funny

  • The tempo of life

  • The rules of behavior, including dating

  • The definition of self

Unless there are support systems in place, students in this situation face a rather lonely and often inhospitable existence. There are barriers as well to international students even before they come to the U.S. As with students in the U.S., funding is a big issue for students from other countries. Moreover, financial support for study abroad is hampered by the fact that psychology as a field of study is not always recognized in other countries with the same degree of prestige as is awarded to such fields as medicine engineering or the physical sciences. And, specific to psychology, standardized test scores often required by graduate departments pose a barrier to some international students, especially the verbal component of the Graduate Record Examination.

Two faculty discussants on the student perspectives panel also brought different but converging perspectives to bear on these issues, perspectives quite congruent with those expressed by Ms. Hasan and Dr. Aamiry. With many years as a psychology professor at Highline Community College, located near Seattle in one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse areas of the country, Ms. Sue Frantz teaches students among whom about 50% speak a first language other than English. She discussed some of the pedagogical methods used in her classrooms with good effect on student learning, including extensive use of Web technologies by which students can make diverse connections in broadening their understanding of the world.

Understanding multiple worldviews and being able in that context to examine and articulate the basis of one’s own worldview are among the learning goals for all students in an internationalized education. It was the lead point made by panel discussant Dr. Louise Douce, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and director of the Counseling and Consultation Service at Ohio State University. “Helping students find their voice” was a phrase used by Dr. Douce, as we learn to listen to one another through linguistic accents and cultural expressions of language, part of the deeper learning that can come from international exchange. She spoke also of the critical importance of being sensitive to student–faculty power relationships, personal and interpersonal boundaries, the construct of self and personal identity, and a general understanding of social roles in a cross-cultural context in providing systems of support for international students. These perspectives are relevant to the support for any international student, but were discussed by Dr. Douce also in the more specific context of international students who at the graduate level of study are preparing to be counseling or other health and human service psychologists.

Implications for different levels and types of education in psychology

Subsequent to the panels on faculty and student perspectives about internationalization of psychology education, conference participants were assigned to small groups for discussion of the implications of such a process for undergraduate education (facilitated by Dr. Maureen McCarthy, Kennesaw State University), research training (facilitated by Dr. Suzanne Bennett Johnson, Florida State University College of Medicine), applied training (facilitated by Dr. Frederick Leong, Michigan State University), faculty development (facilitated by Dr. Ronald Rozensky, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida), and quality assurance/ mobility issues (facilitated by Dr. Judy Hall, National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology).

For purposes of this summary, discussion points and recommendations from these conference breakout groups are interwoven into three categories of implication: undergraduate and precollege education, graduate and postdoctoral education, and quality assurance/mobility issues. The rationale for doing this is that the goals and institutional cultures related to the two broad levels of education differ; and the category of quality assurance and mobility issues cuts across levels of education, related more to processes and criteria by which education quality is assessed and qualifications of individuals are certified.

Undergraduate and Precollege Education

The historical context of undergraduate teaching in the U.S., one that also pertains to precollege teaching, is that psychology is expected to be taught as part of a general, liberal education, not as a discipline within which technical training or a vocational education is the major goal. Moreover, the roles of faculty in precollege and undergraduate institutions are characterized by predominant attention to teaching activities, albeit as scholars in doing so at the undergraduate level of postsecondary education. In this context and given the fact that psychology is among the most popular undergraduate disciplines on most campuses engaging significant numbers of faculty, it is not surprising that our discipline has a long and substantial history in the scholarship of teaching, another higher education meta-theme of the past decade advanced by those who have had major roles as undergraduate faculty.

The flagship journal of APA Division 2 (the Society for the Teaching of Psychology), Teaching of Psychology, is a splendid testimony to this division’s strong orientation to the scholarship of teaching, a journal in which attention to such topics as internationalization of the curriculum can be given on a regular or periodic basis, as is done for other topics of pedagogy, e.g., technology in teaching and learning. As such, it is a significant resource for undergraduate and precollege faculty. There is also a newsletter for these faculty published by the APA Education Directorate in which various topics related to precollege and undergraduate curricula are addressed.

For faculty responsible for undergraduate education in psychology, APA Division 2 has sponsored other important professional forums for the exchange of ideas among scholars. In collaboration with regional psychological associations, for example, annual teaching institutes offer excellent venues through which to give attention to such issues as internationalization of the curriculum. Likewise, the annual APA convention provides a forum for these division members to focus on issues related to teaching. Attesting to the significance of the theme of this year’s ELC, members of this division now have an elected officer position of “Vice President for Diversity and Internationalization.”

Yet another very useful resource for faculty is the APA Division 2 website link to the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology developed by faculty whose primary orientation is to undergraduate teaching. There, one can find an annotated bibliography, a list of relevant resource organizations, and specific course suggestions. Updating these resources with an emphasis on internationalizing the curriculum in different subject areas of psychology was agreed by ELC discussants to be of high importance. APA Division 52 (International Psychology) also has sponsored annual convention sessions on this topic and also has instituted a clearinghouse of teaching resources.

Textbooks, on which undergraduate education in psychology is heavily dependent, tend not to reflect in any systematic way the internationalization of psychology, though more in recent years attend at least modestly to multicultural issues in our discipline. Undergraduate faculty and students, therefore, must rely on other sources of information for guidance in how they might internationalize the curriculum. In addition to the preceding resources for such information, it was suggested that undergraduate psychology departments urge their campus libraries to subscribe to some of the more relevant international journals in psychology so that students and faculty could be more exposed to international scholarship in our discipline.

With a focus on undergraduate learning outcomes, the APA has promulgated a set of guidelines for undergraduate majors in psychology, one section of which is focused on the learning goal of achieving sociocultural and international awareness. Broad objectives under this goal include: psychological knowledge from an international perspective; methodological issues in international research; awareness of how the discipline of psychology is developed, studied and applied in and across cultures; psychology and interpersonal understanding; and how psychological knowledge can be used in addressing the human condition from a global perspective. Materials related to these developments were available to ELC participants to facilitate discussion. Parenthetically, one might add, these learning objectives could validly serve for graduate students as well as for undergraduate majors in psychology!

In addition to these learning outcome guidelines, one of the participants suggested the development of a Web 2.0 site to facilitate an ongoing dialogue among faculty about how international or multicultural issues might be infused into coursework in different areas of psychological study. It was pointed out that APA Division 2 now has a Wiki and how that might identify a section on internationalizing psychology education. Faculty development on creative uses of these and other technologies for teaching in general, as well as for purposes discussed here, is strongly encouraged.

Finally, with the attention given by national higher education organizations (e.g., ACE and Association of American Colleges and Universities) to internationalization of the curriculum and assessment of learning in a liberal education at the undergraduate level, some of the participants suggested that psychology faculty become familiar with internationalization initiatives of other disciplines on their campus and, accordingly, adapt or collaborate in their teaching of psychology to complement the teaching in other disciplines. Such an approach to internationalization might facilitate learning across the disciplines through reflective and critical thinking, a general goal of liberal education. As one of the participants noted, too, this type of learning outcome should be emphasized in programs that allow students to study abroad just as it should be in the classroom at home.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

While research experience and related scholarship is introduced to students at the precollege and undergraduate levels of education, it is expected to be a prominent activity for faculty and students at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, especially in PhD programs. Although there are some differences in this expectation between master’s and doctoral degree programs, as well as between the PhD and PsyD degree programs at the doctoral level, the research experience is one in which significant variations might be expected with an internationalization of education. Foundational paradigms for research and the epistemological bases for such can be highly divergent across different cultures and histories of civilization in the world. Such divergent paradigms can be reflected in topics and methods of research, as well as in the emphases of journals within which scholars publish their work. For the graduate student, broad exposure to and discussion of these differences should be a part of their education, especially at the doctoral level for the PhD degree, the primary goal of which is to prepare scholars. Preparing graduate students to be reflective about their work as scholars should include their exposure to alternative epistemologies of science and practice, certainly one of the expected consequences of internationalizing education at this level and in postdoctoral work.

Toward these ends, many universities have research or policy centers focused on multicultural or international issues, centers that are multidisciplinary in their faculty and graduate student composition (including international exchange faculty and students). Such centers thereby offer exposure to a broader array of methodologies and underlying epistemologies in addressing common sets of problems than typically do separate disciplinary departments. In such centers and through other academic departments or schools, moreover, psychology might also learn from other disciplines that have made advances in internationalizing their graduate or professional education perspectives, e.g., political science, international relations, law, and business. Even schools of medicine, engineering, and architecture for some time have been increasingly inclusive of more global perspectives. Psychology already has a history of partnering with these other disciplines in many of its own areas of research and practice, and, consequently, might benefit from the same in the internationalization of curriculum domains.

One of the more important aspects of preparing graduate students to be scholars in the discipline, one that typically receives less attention in our country, is their preparation as teachers. It was for this purpose that the national initiative on Preparing Future Faculty was begun nearly two decades ago, resulting in most major doctoral degree granting universities now having opportunities in teaching and learning centers for development of faculty and graduate students in methods of pedagogy. Psychology as a discipline continues this initiative at the graduate department level and consequently affords its graduate students opportunity to learn more about teaching in the discipline. The faculty resources discussed in the previous summary of implications for undergraduate education are pertinent to the development of university faculty and their graduate students as well. Thus, to the extent that future undergraduate education goals include more emphasis on international perspectives, graduate students preparing for careers as undergraduate faculty need to be aware of that and familiar with the resources available for such faculty.

Areas of applied psychology that now attract the majority of graduate students, especially those in areas subject to doctoral and postdoctoral education accreditation, have increased attention given to multicultural issues over the past decade or more. Whether preparing for practice of their area of psychology in the U.S. or abroad, as might be the case for organizational psychologists employed in global corporate settings, issues of cultural context have become increasingly important. Consequently, it is vital for graduate students to develop sensitivity to cultural differences and some degree of competence in working with patients or clients of diverse cultural backgrounds. Graduate students also should have access to the many international journals reporting on applied research and practice, and, at the postdoctoral level especially, to participate in international conferences on specialized topics of research and practice. International exchange programs for study might also be explored at the postdoctoral level, perhaps more so at that level than at the doctoral level due to remaining challenges in the internationalization of program quality assurance and psychologist certification issues that are critical for international mobility.

International Quality Assurance and Mobility Issues

During the past two decades there has been significant increase of attention given to quality assurance mechanisms related to education and certification of psychologists in areas of applied psychology, especially important for mobility of psychologists across national and international boundaries of practice jurisdictions. Although significant progress has been made in working toward a common framework for recognition of psychologists’ education credentials for practice among European Union countries, as well as among different provincial and state jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S., respectively, there remain many challenges for a truly international set of guidelines to be developed due to historical and cultural differences in foundational education and credentialing of individuals certified to practice psychology. The answers to such fundamental questions as “who is a psychologist?” and “what are psychologists authorized to do in their practice?” can vary among countries and sometimes between regulatory jurisdictions in the same country.

In light of this dilemma, more emphasis is being given to defining the practice of psychology in terms of broad competencies expected, rather than focusing exclusively on levels or type of education. This approach has been given particular attention over the past decade in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., from which lessons learned have been shared in the Trilateral Forum that annually engages psychologists from these three countries on topics of education and credentialing to facilitate information exchange. Graduate students have been included in these discussions in recent years as well. European Union countries likewise are working on the definition of competencies for psychologists to practice, as are other countries. Through an international conference on professional education and credentialing in psychology, sponsored every 4 years by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Associations (ASPPB), psychology is becoming a global community in regard to at least the exchange of information about issues of quality assurance in education and professional certification of individuals.

The focus on competencies is clearly the emphasis of accreditation standards for professional psychology programs in the U.S.. Likewise, Canada includes such an emphasis in its accreditation system for psychology, as do the U.K. and the European Union systems, of quality assurance under development. One of the charges to the BEA/CIRP task force of APA, referred to in the introduction to this article, is to determine what if any role the APA should play as a national organization of psychologists to advance international quality assurance agreements, policies and procedures for different levels of educational attainment and areas of psychology. In her invited address to the conference, Dr. Sandy Shullman, managing partner, Executive Development Group-Ohio, and chair of the task force, addressed this charge.

The theme of Dr. Shullman’s address, as it was for the BEA/CIRP task force on quality assurance in international Education and Training, was “becoming a learning partner.” The characteristics APA should manifest as a learning partner, in collaborative efforts with other organizations on an international basis, include: developing a consistent and trusted presence; sharing knowledge and expertise when and where invited and to learn from others’ examples; collaborating with colleagues in other countries when invited to do so; and seeking to work as a learning partner in the development of a framework for international policy. Core values for APA in an international exchange about quality assurance should include: collaboration, inclusion, mutual learning, respect, focus on enabling mechanisms, commitment to enhancing capacity, sensitivity and respect for multiple contexts within which psychology functions, and acknowledgement of multiple approaches to quality assurance and education standards, extending these core values to a discussion of what people do cross-culturally over time to become effective “thinking leaders.” Dr. Shullman concluded her presentation by reminding ELC participants that “U.S. psychology is not global psychology” and that “we have to learn to make psychology an international discipline.”

How is psychology to become an international discipline?

Dr. Anthony Marsella, professor emeritus of the University of Hawaii and recognized scholar of multicultural and international psychology, shared his perspective on the question posed above. In an invited address toward the end of the conference, a presentation compellingly passionate and well reasoned, Dr. Marsella summarized the forces that place us today in a global society and the human consequences of these forces. For significant portions of the world’s growing population, he noted, these consequences are negative in terms of quality of life, e.g., increasing numbers of displaced populations and significant numbers who are marginalized, disenfranchised, impoverished, or otherwise subjected to physical and psychological abuse. How psychology as a science and a profession responds to the challenges presented by these forces, he suggested, “will shape our definition, identity, growth, and survival as a discipline and profession” (Marsella, 2007; 1998).

In the context of the conference theme of internationalization, Dr. Marsella noted that while there are 192 nations participating in the United Nations today, there are more than 5,000 identifiable ethnocultural groups in the world. Thus, internationalization must include attention to diversity within and between national boundaries, diversity based on ethnocultural histories. “The key to internationalization of psychology,” he commented, “is the construct of culture.” Noting that North American and Northern European psychology reflect the assumptions, values and priorities of Western cultural context and history, Dr. Marsella further suggested that many ethnic minority and international populations from other parts of the world perceive such psychology as biased and inappropriate to their cultural histories.

Thus, if we are to internationalize psychology, Dr. Marsella concluded, “we must think transformationally!” Being sensitive to the cultural constructs of our own assumptive world in psychology, as well as asking new questions, setting new horizons, and being responsive to global issues must become part of our professional orientation. The outcome of this could be the development of a new psychology, one that is “multicultural, multisectoral, multinational, and multidisciplinary.” He concluded his remarks by suggesting a number of ways in which the APA and academic departments might advance this agenda through education, and appealed to psychologists to assume more active roles as citizen scholar advocates for human rights and justice in society.

Apart from the ELC, but quite related to the arguments advanced by Dr. Marsella, a provocative article titled “The Neglected 95%: Why American Psychology Needs to Become Less American” was published in the October 2008 issue of American Psychologist (Arnett, 2008). Toward the end of developing a broader and more culture-based psychology, the article likewise offers several recommendations for APA journals, for undergraduate majors in psychology, and for such government agencies as NIH and NSF related to international research grants for faculty and graduate students.

Planning for the future

Concluding the discussion of internationalization of education in psychology, Dr. Barney Beins, professor and chair, Psychology Department, Ithaca College and BEA member, facilitated a lively plenary session on “lessons learned” from the conference using clickers to afford instant feedback of conference participants’ answers to questions, followed by discussion. On many questions, there was considerable variance of opinion among participants, an outcome not surprising given the diversity of backgrounds and roles represented among psychologists present, not to mention the complexity of the issues about which questions were addressed at this conference.

One of the lessons learned from this exercise is that as in any domain of inquiry, one must be clear about one’s definition of terms, much as was done at the start of the conference. For example, when the question posed was “do you have to be an international psychologist to teach international psychology,” great variance of response followed. In the discussion that ensued, it was discovered that participants had different ideas of what it meant to be an “international psychologist.” It seems that there is a key here also to being an effective learner in a multicultural, international conversation, namely that one’s own cultural framework of assumptions and definitions may not hold true for others.

Following a short small-group breakout session for discussion of how what was learned might be implemented back home on respective campuses, conference participants were generally of the view that we are probably not ready yet for development of a guide on “best practices,” but that we might to good advantage collect information in a systematic way about local campus experiences, noting what works and what doesn’t in the context of local institutional structures, cultures and educational goals. Again, what works on one campus may not work on another, in part because of different institutional histories and cultural contexts. This, too, is an important lesson in learning to be a partner in critical conversations of an international and multicultural nature about education in psychology.

Internationalization of education in psychology, when implemented with full recognition of the diverse historical and cultural contexts such implies, is a goal toward which we as a discipline must be oriented for the graduates of our education programs to be effective participants as citizens, scholars and practitioners of the profession in the new century. Yet, it will take time and, in most instances, will likely succeed only to the extent that it becomes part of the strategic fabric and culture of the educational institution in which psychology is taught. Olson, Green, & Hill (2008, p. iii) share the following observations based on early initiatives of the American Council on Education to internationalize education in a selected sample of postsecondary institutions:

It demands multiple interrelated changes…one program or policy change produces a cascading series of subsequent changes. We observed how internationalizing the curriculum required new attention to faculty development and interdisciplinarity, and new discussions about global learning outcomes and general education. These developments, in turn, necessitated new approaches to assessing student learning, rewarding faculty, and working across departments. Comprehensive internationalization challenges faculty and staff to rethink the content and methodology of their teaching and research. It is a long-term undertaking, involving many people, usually requiring five to 10 years to become embedded in the fabric of the institution, and even longer to work its way into every department, program, and campus office.

Psychology as a major discipline on most college and university campuses can be among the disciplinary leaders in moving toward the goals of internationalization in education.

Having our voices heard

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Marsella spoke to the fusion of personal pursuit of meaning, responsibilities as a citizen and responsibilities as a professional as the foundational rationale for our becoming more engaged in the internationalization of psychology education. It must be such for psychology as a scientific discipline and a profession to have a recognized public voice in the world of the 21st century.

Pursuant to that end, the ELC was conceived as a forum in which psychology educators, practitioners, scientists and public policy leaders might have a voice through the exchange of ideas and debate about issues related to education and training in psychology, from that related to precollege students through the lifelong learning of psychologists. It has become a successful forum in this regard and affords psychologists of diverse backgrounds who have a common interest in education to have their voices heard at the conference, but equally important to take lessons learned from the conference to their home campuses so that other colleagues also can benefit in a common cause to advance the teaching and learning of psychology for the benefit of society.

In this same vein, the ELC is also a forum each year from which psychologists concerned about issues of education and training can become citizen-scholar advocates on behalf of those issues through having their voices heard by their state and local jurisdiction members of Congress. This is the advocacy component of the ELC, one that is also critical if psychology is to advance as a science and practice to benefit society. Led by APA Education Directorate Associated Executive Director for Government Relations Dr. Nina Levitt and her staff, ELC participants are afforded a legislative issues overview, special advocacy training for those new to the advocacy process, and specific role playing opportunities to prepare for Congressional visits to advocate for the issues selected each year.

Ms. Jenny Smulson, senior legislative and Federal Affairs officer, and Ms. Sheila Forsyth, Advocacy/Grassroots consultant to Dr. Levitt’s office, enhanced each year by their consultant and role-playing facilitator, Mr. Christopher Kush, president, Soapbox Consulting, have major roles in facilitating this section of the ELC. In addition, a presentation was made again this year by Dr. Linda Demaine, director, Law and Psychology Graduate Program, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, on strategies and tactics of science-based persuasion for leaders in education.

This year, participants were briefed on new legislation related to college mental health services, what to expect with the next Congress and a new administration, what to expect on their Capitol Hill visits, and interactive strategies for those visits. More than 100 ELC participants visited their representatives and senators, following which there were opportunities for debriefing with APA staff. Their message to the Hill this year was to advocate for inclusion of the Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act and Campus Suicide Prevention Program in reauthorization of the Substance Abuse/ Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the next Congress.

Advocacy by psychologists in their citizen-scholar roles is not limited to this one session of the ELC each year. Rather, it is a continuous year-round effort facilitated by a grassroots network of psychologist educators around the country. The role of these leaders and their regional coordinators is vital to the future of psychology in the legislation of our nation. Each year, a highlight of the ELC is the Education Advocacy Awards luncheon, an event at which awards are presented for distinguished service. This year, awards were presented to: Dr. Joanne Callan, Alliant International University- San Diego, for the Members At- Large Award; Dr. Michael Roberts, University of Kansas, for the Members of the Education Advocacy Grassroots Network Award; and Mr. Josh Jacobs, legislative assistant to Senator Patty Murray, for the Friend of Psychology Award. Presentations were made by Dr. Gilbert Newman, chair, BEA, and Dr. James Bray, president-elect, APA. For more information about the awards, see the Education Advocacy website.

For psychologists who are not yet engaged in education advocacy efforts, but who might be interested in preparing for such activity in the future, the Education Directorate Government Relations Office offers advocacy Webinar training sessions. To sign up for or obtain more information about this opportunity, you may contact Jess Goshow of that office.


Special acknowledgement is given to the following members of the Board of Educational Affairs, in addition to Education Directorate Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Belar, who chaired and facilitated discussions during different sessions of this year’s ELC: Drs. Gilbert Newman (BEA chair), Barney Beins, Ronald Brown, Pamela Reid, and Jacquelyn White. Acknowledgement likewise is given to the Education Directorate staff whose technical and professional support made this conference possible. Finally, the success of this ELC could not have been realized without the year-long planning by the Education Directorate staff and the Board of Educational Affairs, in collaboration on this year’s theme with the Committee on International Relations in Psychology and the APA Office on International Psychology. Among the many benefits of participating in a learning culture that is international in scope, examples of which include teaching and learning with scholars of other countries, publishing one’s scholarly work in international journals, and attending international conferences of scholars, is the opportunity to meet and perhaps even work with colleagues from other countries and backgrounds. In this context, ELC participants were privileged to have as guests at their conference reception this year, welcomed by American Psychological Association Chief Executive Officer Dr. Norman Anderson and American Psychological Association President Dr. Alan Kazdin, the Honorable H. E. Francisco Villagran, Ambassador, Embassy of Guatamala; Interamerican Society of Psychology President Dr. Andres J. Consoli; and President, Executive Committee Ms. Maria del Pilar Graziosso of the XXXII Interamerican Congress of Psychology.


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