APA Members have chosen Diane F. Halpern, PhD, director of the Berger Institute for Work, Family and Children, as APA's next president. The Claremont McKenna College psychology professor--a former psychology department chair at California State University, San Bernadino--began her term as president-elect Jan. 1, and will become president on Jan. 1, 2004.
Although her most prominent work has been in two areas--examining how to help adults improve their critical-thinking skills and investigating how cognition is similar and different in men and women--Halpern's work has spanned a number of other subjects, including handedness, international psychology and student outcomes assessment.
More recently, Halpern has focused on work-family issues, especially since 2001, when she joined Claremont McKenna to establish the Berger Institute. The institute draws upon psychology, economics, sociology and public policy to study the challenges that face workers, families, communities, labor and business. For example, Halpern and the institute are helping a large adoption organization determine which of its services are effective.
She says she plans to draw upon her varied experience as APA's president. "It's an incredible opportunity to take my professional life and make a meaningful contribution," Halpern explains. "It's a chance for me to say, 'All of these years of my work, how can I use it in a way that's going to be meaningful for things that I care about?'"
Her presidential goals
One such issue that's near-and-dear to her heart is international psychology. Halpern was a Fulbright Scholar at Moscow State University in 1994, and a visiting professor at Boggazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1999, and has also taught in Canada and Mexico.
"It has influenced my way of thinking incredibly," she says. "It's impossible, I believe, to see your own world view unless you step out of it....A psychology that's based solely on information that we know about Western industrialized cultures may very well not be the psychology of all people."
A reflection of Halpern's international interests is that one of her presidential initiatives will be to incorporate more multilingual content into APA's Web site. "We have incredible new ways of communicating with the world," she says. "We could get to almost any remote corner of the world, and we have information that could be used to promote peace and reduce racism."
Halpern is also keen on promoting peace within psychology, emphasizing the common ground of psychology's diverse constituencies. As evidence, even though she comes to the presidency with a higher education background, she says practitioners' issues, such as navigating managed care, will also be a top priority.
"We all suffer when poor people can't get the care they need or therapists can't deliver the kind of care they know their clients need," she explains. In addition to addressing managed care, she will also support psychologists' pursuit of prescription privileges for qualified psychologists. "I think a lot of people misunderstand [the initiative]," she says. "If anything, ours is the discipline that will be prescribing less drugs than others. I will work very hard with Practice and with others to get that message across."
She'll also draw on her own expertise to bring more focus to work-family issues, such as encouraging policy-makers to create family-friendly legislation, and applying psychology's scientific knowledge of learning in the classroom--"something that's actually done rarely even by those who do the research," she explains.
She also seeks to create a structure that will tap the talents of retiring psychologists who might still want to be involved in psychology or their communities. "There's an incredible wealth out there that we don't want to lose," she says of her baby boomer generation. A mechanism connecting retired and semi-retired psychologists with organizations that could use their services wouldn't necessarily have to be psychology-specific, she explains--just a way "to make it easier to use our many skills."