Letter from Jeanne Marecek, Outgoing 2009 CIRP Chair

A recap of CIRP’s 2009 activities

Jane Marecek, 2009 CIRP ChairAs 2009 drew to a close, many of us sighed in relief and breathed a hope that 2010 would be better. 2009 saw CIRP – like other parts of APA – challenged by the mandate to rein in spending until the financial situation improved. We regretted bidding goodbye to staff member Amena Hassan, and welcomed Donald Knight. The fall meeting was cancelled, sending us scurrying to find other ways to complete our activities. CIRP substituted virtual meetings for the face-to-face one -- conference calls, emails, and Skype chats. A silver lining in the dark cloud was that some CIRP members had their introduction to the wonders of Internet telephony and others of us were prompted to experiment with Skype’s more esoteric features.

One of the rewards of being part of CIRP is the opportunity to learn from other committee members and from the OIA staff members. In 2009, the collective expertise of the group spanned the northern and the southern hemispheres, ranging from the Caribbean, Central America, and Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Japan, and Eastern Europe. The group’s scholarly and activist pursuits were equally broad, including environmental issues and climate change, science policy, human rights, development and humanitarian aid, gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls, HIV/AIDS, immigration and racial/ethnic disparities, infant micronutrient deficiencies, and family therapy.

Many of CIRP’s activities centered on locating and drawing together US psychologists engaged in international work. The Office of International Affairs initiated ROMEO (Roster of Members with Expertise Outside the US). The committee laid plans to build upon the network of Fulbright alumni who came together during the 2008 convention. In the fall of 2009, we embarked on an initiative to locate psychologists who have served as Peace Corps volunteers, with the goal of bringing them together at an upcoming APA convention, perhaps in conjunction with the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.

CIRP also began to map the terrain of international projects that APA members are engaged in. Responses to CIRP’s initial inquiries exceeded all our expectations. We learned of an array of projects across the globe: humanitarian, development, and peace-building efforts; foreign study programs for undergrads, graduate students, and trainees; service learning projects; and a variety of educational exchanges, research collaborations, and institutional linkages. With the realization that many US psychologists are engaged in international work, CIRP members began to imagine ways of fostering connections among those psychologists and creating avenues for them to share knowledge and resources.

The 2009 convention was held in Toronto, a venue that imparted an international flavor to the conference. Canada has had immigration policies more welcoming than those of the U.S. and nowhere is the result of this more evident than in Toronto. With half its population born outside the country, Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse and culturally rich cities in North America. Because of my work in Sri Lanka, I know Toronto as home to a large and politically active (Sri Lankan) Tamil diaspora community – families forced into exile as a result of nearly three decades of armed warfare in their ancestral homes. Being in Toronto gave me a chance to visit the neighborhoods where Tamil families live and to learn about mental health programs tailored to their needs.

For the past five years, Florence Denmark has headed APA’s team of representatives to the UN’s Economic and Social Council and Department of Public Information. Under Florence’s leadership, the team members have taken an active part on many of ECOSOC’s committees and risen to leadership positions within them. As Florence’s term of office ends, all of us on CIRP thank her for her extraordinary service. Deanna Chitayat, who is a seasoned member of the UN team and a member of CIRP, will take over as the Main Representative.

My term as CIRP’s chair ended with the year’s end. I’m pleased to turn over the leadership of the committee to Pam Flattau and Guerda Nicolas.

By Jeanne Marecek, CIRP Chair 2009