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Few people know that APA began as an international organization, said former APA CEO Raymond D. Fowler, PhD, at a session on international psychology at APA's 2007 Annual Convention. In fact, APA's founders, including psychology luminary William James, PhD, were inspired to organize a national psychological association after they attended an international psychology conference in 1889, Fowler said. But American psychologists quickly forgot their global roots.

"Seventy years later when I began studying psychology, my adviser said, 'It's important to study the literature, but just ignore anything not published in the U.S.,'" said Fowler.

However, the wall between American and international psychology has begun crumbling, said Merry Bullock, PhD, director of APA's Office of International Affairs. Psychology students increasingly seek out research and training abroad, and psychology professors cross oceans to expand their understanding of human nature, she noted.

"We are in the middle of a seachange in how international collaboration is viewed in psychology," Bullock said.

Still, participating in international psychology takes planning and extra effort, said Amina Mahmood, the APAGS committee's member-at-large, diversity focus. Such collaboration still isn't the norm in many departments, and few graduate students travel abroad, she said. However, she and the other panel members offered these tips for getting started:

  • Read international journals. The old view that international psychology publications don't carry the prestige of their American counterparts is changing, said Bullock. Consider submitting papers to journals such as Applied Psychology: An International Review and The International Journal of Psychology. It's a great way to introduce your work to colleagues around the world, said Mark Leach, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. "I receive more requests for reprints when I publish in international journals," he noted.

Students can also volunteer to review articles for such journals, Bullock added.

  • Go to meetings abroad. At international psychological association meetings, you can learn about worldwide research in your subject area, said Nadia Hasan, APAGS chair. You can also meet colleagues and start new collaborations, she said. If travel budgets are tight, consider attending U.N. meetings or conferences in New York, said Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, a psychology professor at Pepperdine University and one of APA's representatives to the United Nations. Through APA, psychologists can get one- or two-day passes to these meetings, and sometimes even speak as experts on topics including racism, aging and mental health. "Recognize that we are indeed global citizens. And as global citizens we really want to encourage you to get involved internationally," said Bryant-Davis.

  • Entertain visiting colleagues. Psychologists from dozens of countries attend APA's Annual Convention, as well as local and state psychological association meetings, said Bullock. Attend international social hours and introduce yourself to far-flung colleagues. Once you've made professional connections, offer to host visiting psychologists in your home, she said.

  • Seek international training and research opportunities. The International Psychology Information Clearinghouse (www.internationalpsychology.net/Resources/Clearinghouse.pdf) offers information on international research funding, travel grants, postdocs and internships. Working abroad can help you polish your language skills-or learn new ones-and spark professional relationships that last decades, said Michael J. Stevens, PhD, a psychology professor at Illinois State University.

Stevens first started collaborating internationally in 1995, when he won a Fulbright scholarship to translate a personality test into Romanian. That project grew into work with a Romanian police department and collaboration with psychologists at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, in Romania. Now, Stevens is an honorary professor there, and he travels to the country every year to work with students and faculty.

“It’s impossible to predict how these collaborations will pan out, but if you put in the time and effort...there’s no limit to the possibilities.”

Michael J. Stevens
Illinois State University