APA has launched a national, campus-based grassroots network to promote psychology education and training to members of Congress. The advocacy effort, called the Federal Education Advocacy Coordinators (FEDAC) network, will call on psychology faculty to petition their members of Congress on issues pertaining to psychology education and training.
At first, FEDAC's efforts on Capitol Hill will focus on gaining more funding for graduate psychology training programs, such as asking Congress to provide the Administration on Aging with funds for psychology students seeking graduate training in gerontology. Later, the network plans to expand its efforts to advocate for other psychology education issues, including psychology's role in elementary and secondary schools.
"Having a grassroots network is critical to advancing psychology education and training," explains Nina Levitt, EdD, APA's director of education policy. "Not everyone realizes how effective writing letters, making phone calls and visiting your congressman's office can really be."
"[Congress] people are interested in talking to us as educators, as psychologists and as individuals from their home district," adds FEDAC regional coordinator John Klocek, PhD, an associate psychology professor at the University of Montana. "We can show them how psychology education directly affects the people in their home districts."
Klocek and FEDAC's other regional coordinators learned the value of their congressional outreach when they attended the network's first annual advocacy training session in December. Former Capitol Hill staffers and other advocacy experts gave the coordinators an insider's view on the machinations of the legislative process as well as advice on how to write letters, place phone calls and visit a member of Congress. The FEDAC coordinators then put their new skills to use by visiting the offices of several senators and representatives to rally support for the funding of the Graduate Psychology Education Program through the Bureau of Health Professions. The program, which subsequently gained a $2 million appropriation from Congress, will fund psychology students to provide health-care services to underserved populations (see article in next month's Monitor for details).
"The training really helped us get across a very concise and specific message that psychology has a big role to play in health care and that psychology graduate training is an absolute must to provide comprehensive health care services," says Sarah Cook, PhD, an assistant professor of community psychology at Georgia State University. As one of 12 FEDAC regional coordinators, Cook's job is to recruit FEDAC volunteers on college and university campuses across the Southeast and alert them when federal legislation related to psychology education and training arises.
Meanwhile, FEDAC coordinators are recruiting psychology faculty at doctoral education and training programs to serve as campus representatives, who would advise their fellow psychology faculty and administration when e-mails, phone calls and letters are needed to gain support for psychology-friendly legislation.
When fully implemented, the FEDAC network hopes to include members from the full spectrum of psychology education: university undergraduate and graduate departments, training programs, professional schools, high school teachers, and academic and administrative leaders.
So far, says Cook, she's been impressed by her colleagues' and APA's support of FEDAC. "I really feel that it will make a huge difference in the coming years," she explains. "There is a direct relationship between psychology's efforts in supporting the legislation and the financial benefits we receive for our training programs."