Degree In Sight

APAGS members have elected five leaders to represent psychology students in APA governance and the field at large.

These committee members come at a time when health-care reform and emerging areas in psychology promise to change the face of the field, says Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD, the associate executive director for APAGS. "The diverse backgrounds and expertise of these new members will allow them to pave the way for students in this exciting future."

The APAGS committee works with graduate students and APA governance bodies, such as the Board of Directors, to include students in the decision-making process and to advocate for students' learning, funding and academic needs. The new committee members are:

Ali Mattu, chair-elect

Background: Mattu is a sixth-year clinical psychology student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His previous APAGS experience includes serving as the member-at-large, diversity focus, from 2008–10. He is working on his dissertation on trichotillomania, a condition in which people consciously or unconsciously pull their hair. Mattu is using an existing data set on the habits of 1,500 adolescents, young adults and older adults to better understand how the condition changes over time and to develop treatments specific to each age group.

Goals: As chair, Mattu hopes to help alleviate the pressure the internship imbalance places on many graduate students. He plans to work with APA and APPIC to create a point-by-point plan to ease the imbalance by 2020. He is also is encouraging more dialogue among students regarding the future of psychology. Mattu also hopes to disseminate more psychological research to the public and investigate the impact of health-care reform on practicing psychologists.

In his downtime: Mattu never leaves home without a camera. "Photography lets me study human nature from a very different perspective than psychology," he says.

Rachel Becker, member-at-large, diversity

Background: Becker's first APAGS experience was working as a campus representative at the Catholic University of America while earning her master's degree. She currently serves as a representative at the University of Miami, where she studies counseling psychology with a focus on immigration and social justice. As a practical extension of her research, she runs groups with immigrant children and teens who were detained during their journey to the United States. She also works within a network of mental health and legal professionals to serve these children, many of whom came to the United States to escape abusive homes or to reunite with parents who had recently immigrated.

Goals: Becker plans to raise awareness around intersectionality, the theory that people have multiple group identities that combine in complicated ways to affect how they are perceived and treated by others. Becker wants to disseminate research on intersectionality using electronic resources, such as webinars and podcasts, and organize convention programming on the topic.

In her downtime: This year, Becker learned to kayak, a great way to recharge her academic energy, she says. She enjoys the feeling of paddling between Florida's white sand beaches and vast ocean. "You have to be in the moment and can't think about anything else," she says.

Ethan Mereish, member-at-large, membership, recruitment and retention

Background: Mereish is a third-year counseling psychology student at Boston College. As the regional diversity coordinator for the APAGS Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, he helped organize APAGS programming at APA's 2010 Annual Convention, including a program on racial issues in graduate psychology training and a funding workshop for ethnic-minority students. Mereish studies how prejudices such as racism and homophobia play out in different contexts, including friendship, school and peer groups and how these prejudices can diminish through close, trustful friendships. He's also interested in the effects of prejudice and discrimination on the health, psychosocial and developmental experiences of underserved populations.

Goals: Mereish is focusing on recruiting and retaining members from diverse and underserved backgrounds by collaborating with groups such as APA's Div. 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues) and Div. 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues). He plans to work with undergraduate student organizations such as Psi Chi to generate new membership. He also hopes to initiate a member satisfaction survey for all APAGS members and advocate for more professional training and scholarship opportunities for all students.

In his downtime: Mereish enjoys twice-weekly five-mile jogs along Boston's Charles River. "I find it peaceful and rejuvenating in so many ways," says Mereish.

Lyra Stein, member-at-large, research/academic

Background: Stein, a fifth-year social psychology student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., helped plan programming for research-oriented students as a member of APAGS's convention committee. Her research is on boredom at work, particularly on which individual variables predict performance and reduce boredom on automatic tasks, such as data entry and assembly-line work. In addition, she examines which interventions can improve performance based on a person's level of introversion and extroversion.

Goals: Stein plans to join the ongoing work of the APAGS Science Committee and APA's Science Directorate to secure better funding, publishing and fellowship opportunities for research-focused students. She also hopes to encourage participation of science-focused students in APA through Facebook, listservs and convention programming.

In her downtime: Stein tackles two triathlons a year, often traveling to compete. In 2010, her third year competing in triathlons, she will race in Webster, Mass., and Sandy Hook, N.J. She spends five months preparing for the half-mile swim, 15-mile bike ride and five-mile run that make up the competitions. "I enjoy racing against my own clock," she says, "challenging myself to do better than I did before."

Shanda Wells, member-at-large, practice

Background: Wells is a fifth-year clinical psychology student at Midwestern University in Downer's Grove, Ill. She is also the communications chair for the Illinois Psychological Association for Graduate Students and the creator of the online newsletter The Graduate Quarterly, which discusses the activities of the Illinois Psychological Association of Graduate Students. Her research focuses on the ways family dynamics, such as parent-child communication, household rules and familial roles, affect childhood obesity.

Goals: As a student who knows how hard a good internship can be to find, she plans to work with APAGS and APA to solve the internship imbalance. Wells also aims to publicize information about emerging developments in psychology, such as innovations in integrated care, by writing on listservs and creating convention programming for students.

In her downtime: On almost any night, Wells works in her kitchen, tinkering with recipes and blogging about the meals she created. "Cooking helps me de-stress," says Wells. "It's great because you end up with a nice finished product that you get to enjoy."

Other student leaders

The five new leaders will join the four previously elected APAGS committee members who are returning this fall. Those returning are:

  • Susan M. Wilson, Ohio University, chair
  • Rachel Casas, University of Iowa, past chair
  • Kimberly Smith, Pepperdine University, member-at-large, education
  • M. Cristina Cruza-Guet, Lehigh University, member-at-large, communication

Also representing graduate students are five subcommittee chairs, appointed by the APAGS executive committee. This year, they are:

  • Michael Scullin, Washington University in St. Louis, chair, Science Committee

  • Ben Campbell, California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, San Francisco, chair, Advocacy Coordinating Team.

  • Karen Kersting, Virginia Commonwealth University, chair, Convention Committee

The APAGS committee has not yet selected the chairs for the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns or the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs. Check for updates on these representatives.

Learn more about your APAGS representatives, and get their contact information.