Speaking of Education
In this, my final column, I will address APA and its mission, and my hopes for its future. I will always treasure the memories of working with such a talented staff, executive management team and CEO — all of whom are so dedicated to APA's mission. I shall miss them dearly.
The mission of APA is to "advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives." To support this mission, APA has large public education, communications and publications programs to disseminate psychological science and a strong advocacy program to advance psychology in serving societal needs. APA is the world's largest publisher of psychological science — publishing over 75 scholarly journals, 75 scholarly books and references each year, and creating/distributing seven scholarly databases of psychological knowledge and information. We also have well-developed campaigns to inform the public, including the Psychology: Science in Action, Mind/Body Health and Healthy Workplace programs. We advocate vigorously for the use of knowledge from psychological science in the public policy process and for the allocation of resources to scientific research, education and access to health care. These programs are highly valued by the membership as documented in membership surveys.
Over the years, I have worried that some APA members do not understand the APA mission. Sometimes I hear comments such as, "What is APA doing for me?" Yet APA is a charitable and educational organization. Its raison d'être is to advance psychology in the public interest. I don't hear similar comments about membership in the National Audubon Society or the Sierra Club. In fact, APA created a companion organization, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO), to advance the professional interests of psychologists. APAPO is an important mechanism to promote guild interests and it needs our support, but its viability also rests on the respect that society holds for the discipline and profession itself. Thus, APA's mission to advance psychology is essential to the future health of our discipline and our profession.
APA's mission is also advanced through the contributions of its members through teaching, research, practice, administration and work in the policy arena. Every directorate disseminates vast educational resources. The Education Directorate has also been committed to providing professional development experiences that facilitate the learning needed by our members. Given the explosion of knowledge, the decreasing half-life of knowledge, the dramatic changes in both higher education and health care, the need for new skills and the discipline's responsibility for leadership in serving societal needs, learning cannot be considered a discrete event in the course of one's career. Education is a lifelong endeavor; it is for science, for practice and in the public interest.
As a 501c3 educational association, we want to foster members' learning by engaging them using 21st century resources. For example, we have expanded the offerings in APA's Online Academy from traditional CE programming to learning opportunities for a broad community of faculty, student and K–12 teachers. Ideally, we would like to provide a mechanism for every APA member to develop an individualized professional development plan with links to resources that can facilitate their learning and leadership skills. APA could be the premier source for integrating existing educational opportunities as well as continuing to develop new learning and leadership resources for its members. We need to foster a culture of connectivity and collaboration around learning via live events as well as mobile and social technology. Our membership is actually one of our most valuable resources in advancing our mission.
As I look to the future, I hope APA will continue to invest in becoming a learning organization that helps prepare members to be the best psychologists they can be — so that psychology can benefit society and improve people's lives. I invite all psychologists to become part of a community committed to that purpose — advancing psychology in the public interest.
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