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Division 52 Report: Reflections on 2007

Michael J. Stevens reflecting on everything he accomplished while sevrving as the President of APA's Division 52 - International Psychology in 2007.

By Michael J. Stevens

by Michael J. Stevens, PhD, DHC, President, Division 52

I am honored to have served as President of APA’s Division 52 – International Psychology in 2007.  I have deeply appreciated the encouragement and support of colleagues and friends.  I was very fortunate to have followed in the steps of outstanding past-presidents who guided Division 52 from its birth to its maturity and on whose vision and legacy I drew throughout the year.

Division 52 has seen tremendous growth over its brief history. My mission, as president, was to consolidate the Division’s gains while enlarging the scope of its contributions to international psychology. Let me highlight some notable accomplishments in 2007, the tenth anniversary of Division 52, and identify a few goals for 2008 and beyond.

The State of the Division

Division 52 is one of the few APA divisions not to have suffered a downturn in membership over the past several years. At present, Division 52 has slightly more than 900 members. Our international and student affiliates have increased appreciably, which is critical to the diversity and future of the Division. We have distributed a survey to assess the needs of our early career professionals, whom we are committed to mentoring as future leaders of Division 52 and international psychology, generally. Our efforts to recruit new members will soon include an online powerpoint template that can be used by Division 52 members attending conferences to inform others of the opportunities available with membership in Division 52.

Division 52 is stable financially because of income generated from dues and investments as well as thoughtful expenditures. However, because of rising costs, the Division has been increasingly constrained in financing worthy projects, such as producing an educational video with interviews of international psychologists and co-sponsoring conferences relevant to international psychologists. Consequently, Division 52 agreed to raise dues in 2008 by $5 across all membership categories, except for international affiliates. The Division’s decision will provide fiscal leverage in advancing its agenda into the foreseeable future.

Presidential Initiatives

2007 was a year not only for a number of presidential initiatives, but also for heightened visibility, expanded networking, and enhanced diversity in terms of membership and appointments to leadership positions on Division 52 committees and task forces. With regard to visibility, Division 52 has taken an active role in supporting or providing input on important action items proposed within the APA system.  Four, in particular, commanded our attention as international psychologists: Resolution on Emancipating and Rehabilitating Enslaved Persons and Prevention of Future Slavery (draft submitted to the APA Council), Ad-Hoc Task Force to Investigate the Merits of Adopting an Evidence-Based Practice Policy for Applied Psychologists (proposal submitted to the APA Council), Resolution in Support of Education for a Sustainable Future (proposal submitted to the APA Council), and Resolution Against Genocide (will come before APA council for approval in February 2008).  In addition, two unique Division 52 international projects were prominently featured in the Monitor on Psychology: the Adopt-a-Psychologist Program and Mentoring Program, both designed to facilitate ongoing collaboration with psychologists from around the globe.

As for networking, Division 52 has agreed to work closely with the International Section of Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) on joint conference programming both at the upcoming International Counseling Psychology Conference and at future APA conventions, as well as to cooperate on projects of mutual interest, such as internationalizing the psychology curriculum. In a related vein, Division 52 has connected with Division 2 (Teaching) through the joint Task Force on the Internationalization of the Teaching of Psychology, whose purpose is to develop collaborative international networks and co-sponsor conference symposia and workshops in this emerging area. Of course, Division 52 continues to work closely with CIRP and the Office of International Affairs (OIA), and is taking unprecedented steps to establish bi-directional ties with APA directorates on matters that have an international focus. Division 52 also maintains a speaker exchange with the Society for Cross-Cultural Research and seeks to expand such exchanges with other national and international organizations in psychology and related disciplines.

The following presidential initiatives are of special significance:

Conference Sponsorship. Division 52 was a cooperating organization for the July 2007 China-U.S. Conference: Youth At-Risk in Beijing and Shanghai. The conference aimed to initiate partnerships with the Chinese youth-at-risk network. The U.S. Steering Committee and Global Interactions, Inc. are planning a China-U.S. Summit on Partnerships in April 2008. Division 52 is invited to work with teams of Chinese from universities, organizations, and schools to arrange visits with U.S. partners and form new partnerships that address China’s at-risk youth.

Endorsement of the Social Psychology Network. Division 52 has endorsed the Social Psychology Network (SPN), a scientific and educational organization that serves psychologists worldwide. The SPN boasts an interactive directory of psychologists from 35-plus countries, source material in 15 languages, and over 1,000 links to web sites outside the U.S. With representatives from eight other divisions, Division 52 moved at the February 2007 Council meeting that APA support the SPN financially.

Extra-APA Connections. Division 52 supports an initiative to broaden the Division 52 membership base and partner with state, regional, and international psychology associations. In August 2007, the Division 52 Outreach Committee and Past-President networked with leaders of the International Council of Psychologists in San Diego to strengthen existing ties and explore future joint ventures.

Promoting Psychology. Division 52 received an interdivisional grant to establish a nationwide speakers bureau that will bring experts on international psychology to present at nearby high schools, colleges and universities, and community groups. The Speakers Bureau reflects a recommendation of the APA Policy and Planning Board to enhance the visibility psychologists and psychological knowledge.

Ethics in International Context. In consultation with the Ethics Office and OIA, the newly established Ethics Committee is addressing ethical challenges faced by U.S. psychologists engaged in international scientific and applied practice. Data are being gathered from APA members on ethical dilemmas encountered in international contexts. These data will clarify the needs for guidance that arise as psychologists interpret ethical principles and standards in international settings.

The APA Convention in San Francisco
The 2007 APA convention was an unparalleled success for Division 52. The Division’s convention and hospitality-suite programs were highly informative and very well-attended, as were the awards ceremonies that honored those whose contributions to the Division and/or to international psychology were unusual and outstanding. Division 52’s tenth anniversary meeting was meaningful and memorable thanks to the creativity, energy, talent, and dedication of our membership. 

In addition to programming and awards ceremonies, highlights of the convention include Division 52 approval of a new mission statement:

Division 52 seeks to develop a psychological science and practice that is contextually informed, culturally inclusive, serves the public interest, and promotes global perspectives within and outside of APA. In addition, Division 52 established an Early Career Professionals Committee and formed a task force to explore the merits an online or print journal.

2008 and Beyond
Looking ahead, there are two emerging areas of importance in which Division 52 is invested: internationalizing the psychology curriculum and advocacy. Both reflect the globalizing of psychology and the importance of becoming proactively engaged in this juggernaut. In addition to producing an educational video with interviews of international psychologists, Division 52 is committed to conference programming that advances the internationalization of the undergraduate and graduate psychology curricula. Such a conference recently took place at St. Francis College in New York City. Follow-up conference proposals will be submitted to regional, national, and international venues, and an edited book on internationalizing the psychology curriculum is in the planning stages.

I believe that Division 52 has attained a level of maturity commensurate with taking on an advocacy role.  As socially responsible international psychologists, we should embrace advocacy as a means to further social justice. If Division 52 is to assume an advocacy role, it must first identify its international legislative and policy priorities in order to establish a clear focus for future advocacy efforts. Second, Division 52 must learn effective advocacy strategies that will empower it to influence federal legislative and international policy-making processes. I cannot imagine a more auspicious time to be an international psychologist – to network and advocate with colleagues at home and abroad on the myriad challenges that we face in an ever more interconnected and hard-pressed world. Division 52 is indispensable in identifying, understanding, and meeting these global challenges and I am confident it will do so!