In the Public Interest

At the recent multicultural summit, I observed the students watching the lecturer. They were paying close attention and, for some, experiencing something unique, both in what was being said and who was saying it.

Dr. Joseph Trimble of Western Washington University was talking to community college students about cross-cultural psychology, and many of them never had an American Indian psychologist lecture to them. Most fascinated of all was a young Native American woman, a Psi Beta honor student thrilled to see and hear him. Something clicked for her as he spoke--and what had been a possibility, a career in psychology, had just become for her a probability.

Similar experiences took place for African-American, Asian-American and Latino students who observed and interacted with psychologists who perform research, provide treatment services and serve on faculties.

These are unusual experiences because it is the rare undergraduate psychology major who has such an experience: In a field where all the ethnic-minority psychologists combined make up only 6 percent of the total, being taught by a psychologist of color is a rare experience for all students.

What has happened

And that is why the Diversity Project 2000 and Beyond (DP2KB) is so important. It all started in 1992 when Psi Beta--psychology's national honor society for community colleges--approached APA's Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA), seeking to develop a project that would encourage students of color at community colleges to continue in psychology at four-year colleges and go on to graduate and professional schools.

The program offers a four-day institute: two days before and the first two of APA's Annual Convention. Psi Beta honor students are invited and supported, with additional students invited from community colleges in the convention city. Faculty are drawn from Psi Beta faculty and APA members attending the convention. The first Summer Institute took place in 1994, and so far the program has served about 200 students.

For those who look at the academic pipeline into psychology, DP2KB is an example of how that pipeline can be extended into a relatively untapped and growing source of students being educated by community college faculties. Though there has hardly been time for these students to scramble through the pipeline leading to psychology or other careers, the program has provided something that few other projects have been able to do on a consistent basis: It has placed students of color in a situation that permits them to interact with psychologists of color.

No account of DP2KB would be complete without recognizing the people who helped the idea become a reality. On the Psi Beta side, Drs. Sandra Ladd, JoAnn Brannock and Robin Hailstorks breathed life into the Summer Institute. Ladd and Hailstorks performed organizational CPR when it appeared that the national organization was wavering in its commitment. On the APA side, Drs. Nolan Penn, Joseph Trimble, Philip Guzman (former director of OEMA), Bertha Holliday (director of OEMA) and Alberto Figueroa exercised the functions necessary to maintain APA as a viable partner.

What could happen

As the students discuss in the related feature, DP2KB has been a life-changing, highly fulfilling event.

But DP2KB has been and continues to be a modest demonstration project, and the institute logistics and funding arrangements have been difficult each year. DP2KB could be expanded and become a larger institute within APA. The scramble for resources could and probably should be alleviated. (For those who properly ask for process and outcome data, there are plenty in the OEMA files.)

This project, or a reasonable facsimile, could take place at regional and local psychological association meetings. The template exists for replication, and it is likely that Psi Beta members and others would be more than helpful in the development.

Such developments would be in the public's interest.