Feature

Faculty aren't the only ones interested in seeing more students involved with advocacy--student activists would also like to see more of their peers involved.

"Too many students feel like they have no control over the profession and have no idea why they are in it anymore, but advocacy can give them a sense of belonging, purpose and professional identity," says Chris Loftis, a graduate student at the University of Florida.

Loftis is chair of the Advocacy Coordinating Team (ACT) of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). ACT works with APA's Practice Directorate and Public Policy Office to guide students in ways they can advance their own causes. Students can participate with ACT in two ways:

  • As campus representatives, students distribute action alerts at universities or professional schools and encourage student involvement with state and regional legislative initiatives.

  • As regional and state coordinators, students establish relationships with state psychological associations, keep their peers informed about state-specific psychology legislation and plan visits to state legislatures.

Becoming involved in ACT is a great way for students to become more empowered, says Michael Gallardo, APAGS state advocacy coordinator for California. "What I am doing on the federal, state and local levels is not only attempting to make the future of the field better, but also the future of practicing psychologists and graduate students."

ACT can also link students to other activities such as:

  • APA advocacy training workshops. APA's Public Policy Office (PPO) sponsors advocacy training workshops that are open to graduate students. Participants learn about the legislative process, how to communicate with members of Congress and their staffs, and visit Capitol Hill to bolster support for initiatives such as education and training opportunities for psychologists.

  • APA's Policy Fellowship. PPO also sponsors the Public Interest Policy Fellowship program for psychology graduate students in at least their third year of training. Interns spend one year working at APA headquarters on public interest policy issues with PPO staff. For more information, visit the PPO Web site at www.apa.org/ppo/fellow.html.

  • APA's Public Policy Action Network. This is an e-mail network that keeps psychologists and graduate students up to date on public policy initiatives. Participants who sign up receive action alerts and information updates on major policy developments. To sign up, visit the Public Policy Office Web site.

  • The APA Practice Directorate State Leadership Conference. This annual conference--at which APA and psychology's state and provincial leaders plan advocacy strategies for the year--offers workshops on advocacy training and sessions about legislative issues affecting the field.

Planning to attend APA's Annual Convention this year? APA Public Policy staff will talk about APA's advocacy efforts and ways students can get involved on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 10 to 11:00 a.m.

--J. CHAMBERLIN

Further Reading

For more information on ACT activities and how to get involved with ACT, contact the APAGS ACT chair, Chris Loftis, at loftis@ufl.edu or visit the APAGS Web site at www.apa.org/apags.