UN Matters

Student Intern Experiences on the APA United Nations NGO Team

In this column, Dr. Juneau Gary and Dr. Neal Rubin discuss the group of master's- and doctoral-level psychology interns that assist APA's team at the UN and include personal accounts from the 2010-2011 interns.

By Juneau Gary, PsyD, and Neal S. Rubin, PhD, ABPP

In our initial column, we described the reciprocal relationship the APA UN NGO Team facilitates at the United Nations. The team brings behavioral science perspectives to issues that come before the United Nations community. Concomitantly, the team informs the psychological community about developments related to key issues and the role of psychologists in advocating for those issues in the world today.

In our activities each year, we are assisted by an impressive group of student interns enrolled in master’s- and doctorallevel psychology programs. Working with our interns is truly a pleasure! They have been so talented as emerging psychologists and so energetic as psychology activists, that they inspire the senior psychologists on the team to persevere in our efforts to promote behavioral science and social justice.

The intern program was initiated in 2008. Interns reside in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. They are required to attend the United Nations each Thursday throughout the academic year. On Thursdays, they attend team meetings, NGO committee meetings, and Department of Public Information (DPI) briefings, as well as assist in the coordination of major team events including the annual "Psychology Day at the United Nations." Interns have also become officers of NGO committees, have made presentations on substantive topics reflecting their expertise, and have made presentations at the team’s symposia at the APA Convention that have described UN activities and issues. Through these activities, we hope to foster a dynamic and meaningful year for the students and provide an experience that will propel their individual career trajectories.

The selection process is competitive, according to Dr. Janet Sigal, Coordinator of the Intern Program. Among the selection criteria for interns are effective interpersonal skills; sensitivity to human differences; a collaborative, respectful approach to working with others; and a good academic standing in a graduate psychology program. Interns have been enrolled in local universities, including CUNY, Columbia, Rutgers, NYU, Seton Hall and Yeshiva. Students from outside of the area may also apply if they live in the New York City area during their internship year. Interns have included students from Duquesne (Pittsburgh, PA) and Penn State (Harrisburg, PA), and international students who attended local universities. Recently, international students have included citizens of Uganda and Pakistan. Internship positions are unpaid and will not substitute for an approved clinical or counseling internship.

As a tribute to our accomplished student colleagues, and as a vehicle for readers to have an intimate view of the intern experience, we dedicate this column to our UN interns. The interns' names below link to their account from our 2010-2011 class: In Their Own Words.

Joseph Hamer is a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA). His research interests include the "psychology of citizenship." He is currently in Nairobi, Kenya conducting research for his dissertation, entitled "Where and When Things Fall Apart: Relating Narratives of Post-Election Violence in Kenya."

Brian Davis is enrolled in the doctoral program in Social and Personality Psychology at the City University of New York (CUNY). He continues to maintain strong connections with the UN, including an executive position on the NGO Committee on HIV/AIDS, through his involvement with the Center for Community and Urban Health at Hunter College (CUNY), an NGO.

Samuel Ouma completed his MA program in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University (New York City) in May 2011. His studies were funded by the International Fellowship Program (IFP-Ford Foundation). Samuel has returned to Uganda where he lives with his wife and children (daughter and son). He works at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in northern Uganda and is a part time lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, Makerere University, Kampala. He plans to enroll in a PhD program, in either Counseling or Clinical Psychology, to fulfill his dream of becoming an accomplished psychologist in Uganda.

About the column co-editors

Juneau Gary, PsyD (main representative to DPI) is Professor in the Department of Counselor Education at Kean University in New Jersey. Neal S. Rubin, PhD, ABPP (representative to DPI) is Professor at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University in Chicago. Both are associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information and are co-editors of this column.