Cover Story



Fourth-year clinical psychology student at Spalding University

As I entered the Washington, D.C., convention center, I was instantly amazed. Not only were there several thousand psychologists scurrying back and forth in search of that next great presentation, but there were also students, looking not as confident, but present nonetheless. You may ask why this was amazing. Well, for me, APA's convention is a time to have my graduate student batteries recharged. It is a time to reconnect and meet the countless other students who are in the same proverbial boat as I am. It is a time to listen to preeminent psychologists in the field and dream of one day sharing the stage. Where else but APA's convention would I have access to such a diverse group of graduate students?

The APAGS programming at this year's convention was stellar. The APAGS presentations maintained a high level of professionalism and were varied in a wide range of topics. A personal favorite was the APAGS subcommittee meeting. This presentation consisted of APAGS leaders explaining the organization's myriad committees. This was an opportunity for graduate students to learn more about APAGS and become involved if they so choose.

The quality and variety of the presentations left me with every day filled. APAGS presentations were my perennial favorites, as I was able to connect with other graduate students. Shaking hands and exchanging business cards, I left convention ready to go another year in graduate school. I departed excited to be a graduate student and arrived home one day closer to being a psychologist.



second-year clinical psychology student at Nova Southeastern University

I would have never thought that one day I would be sitting in the suite of Div. 42--Psychologists in Independent Practice--with three prominent psychologists, talking about everything from old Cosby comedy shows to my fears over starting my practicum. It was amazing to me that Stanley Graham, Frank Froman and Jeffrey Barnett had not lost their character, sense of humor, or humility after all their success, and found it just as important to hear about my life as to speak with their distinguished colleagues. I will never forget how they made me feel so comfortable that I could share my concerns about seeing clients for the first time and disclose my own insecurities. They saw the potential and positive in me that I had forgotten.

The APA convention was the most crucial part of my first year of graduate school, as it motivated me to remember why I started down this career path. As graduate students, it seems easier to think of the things we still don't know and focus on our uncertainty about what lies ahead than to see where we came from and what we have already learned. We often look at others with admiration and--let's admit it--sometimes envy, hoping that one day we will be where they are. This reality of what could be, but not yet is, may often leave us frustrated. However, the incredible moments that happen along the way keep us going and will eventually connect the dots to the end.

I encourage you to think outside of your school, step outside your comfort zone and attend the conventions, especially those held in a different state than yours. There is so much to be gained from these experiences, from meeting other students from around the country who share your frustrations and dreams, to running into previous advisers and teachers, to having conversations with those you had only read about in magazines and books--even going to places you may never have traveled to otherwise. We all could use moments like these, and I hope you open yourself up to finding them.



fifth-year counseling psychology student at the University of Notre Dame

For the first time, I attended the convention in the company of my adviser, George Howard. George was gracious enough to arrange for me to meet and have dinner with two of his psychologist friends, Don Polkinghorne and Lisa Hoshmand, both of whom I respect tremendously for their work and contributions in the areas of counseling and the philosophy/methodology of psychology. One aspect of attending conferences that I've come to appreciate and look forward to is meeting the individuals behind the research articles I've read and forming social relationships with them. Meeting Don and Lisa was memorable and rewarding not because the dinner conversation focused on psychology topics. On the contrary, over topics ranging from Notre Dame football to their next international trip, I observed and absorbed the type of interaction that is the basis of many fruitful professional relationships. Above all else, these researchers like each other as friends and enjoy seeing each other! I look forward to creating more of these personal relationships in my own professional life.

APA's annual meeting gives students the chance to strike up a conversation with a noted researcher or glean useful tips at workshops on everything from dissertation funding to launching an independent practice.

Students at this year's convention took advantage of those opportunities, and even created some learning experiences of their own.

In this "Point of view" guest column, three students describe their convention experiences.