President's Column

As Joel Kotkin asserts in his prescient book "The Next 100 Million: America in 2050," by 2040 non-Hispanic whites will be in the minority in the United States. By 2023, non-Hispanic white children will be in the minority. We are becoming a "plurality nation." Because of the dearth of cultural minorities in our training programs, I became concerned that psychology may be ill-prepared to serve clients from South and Central American, Middle Eastern, Asian, African, and Caribbean cultures. This reality struck home to me a couple of years ago when I was invited to give a talk to the Iranian Psychological Association of America. While there, one of its members told me an interesting story: An elderly ethnic Iranian woman was seeing a non-Hispanic white psychologist. During one session she said, "I just want to go home, lie in bed and die." The psychologist saw this as a suicidal threat and had her hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. Her family was dismayed and brought in an Iranian psychologist to see her. When she repeated her statement, the psychologist remarked, "My grandmother says this to me all the time." She was soon sent home and is living a tired but happy life. If her initial therapist had been Middle Eastern or had been more culturally sophisticated, the woman could have avoided her inappropriate hospitalization.

Although we can do more, we have done a commendable job in attracting racial minorities to our professional doctoral programs. However, we need to attract more Hispanic students and students from other cultural minorities so we can better serve a burgeoning ethnic American population.

This realization led me to seek a way to stimulate more diversity among our doctoral programs. Thus, as one of my presidential initiatives, I created the Cultural Diversity Awards to identify up to three innovative programs that admit, retain and graduate students from diverse cultures, recognizing them at APA's 2013 Annual Convention and granting each a $2,500 award.

To aid in this endeavor, I established a working group chaired by APA Past President Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD. The other group members are: Lydia P. Buki, PhD, J. Douglas McDonald, PhD, Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, PhD, and Laura Namy, PhD. After soliciting nominations through an announcement in the Monitor, we received nominations from 19 programs or departments. I am pleased to announce the winning three training sites:

  • University of Massachusetts, Boston, Clinical Psychology Program, cited particularly for reflecting diversity and multicultural understanding in every facet of their program, including classes, practica, research labs, student body and faculty. The program is also recognized for its work to transform all students into allies and advocates for cultural diversity.
  • University of Missouri, Columbia, Counseling Psychology Program, cited particularly for including 64 percent of students who are either from ethnic/racial minorities or from foreign countries. The program also established a Coalition of Cross-Cultural Competence to provide diversity training in psychology practice and offers a minor in multicultural psychology.
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Department of Educational Psychology, cited particularly for having two-thirds of its faculty who are from foreign countries or are from racial/ethnic minorities. The program also created a multicultural advisory board to help identify best practices in training multiculturally competent psychologists and for placing its students in practica and internship settings with multiculturally diverse populations.

I am grateful to the working group for its dedication in identifying the worthy recipients of the Cultural Diversity Awards. I share the working group's pride that so many doctoral programs and departments are retaining and graduating members of cultural minority groups. Every nominee deserves special praise for ensuring that psychology's workforce adequately reflects and is appropriately trained to serve the United States's increasingly diverse and international population. It augurs well for the future of psychology and psychological services as we become a plurality nation in the foreseeable future.