APA members have elected psychologist Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD, a clinical and social psychologist with a 30-year career as a professor, author and academic administrator, as the 2007 APA president.
A professor at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington, Brehm previously served as chancellor of the 38,000- student campus. Before coming to IU, she was professor and director of the college honors program at the University of Kansas, dean of the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at the State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton, and provost at Ohio University.
As APA president, Brehm will focus on two major issues in psychology: Communicating psychology's value to the public as well as a broad range of constituencies and securing psychology's future in a complex, challenging world.
Her emphasis on communication will be broad in scope. For example, she believes that there is a great need to advocate psychology's value and significance to state and federal legislators and agency officials. In addition, she would support the continuation of a public-education campaign focused on practice issues and the initiation of a public-education campaign focused on science. Brehm believes that the public typically has a positive overall view of psychology, but that many individuals do not have sufficient information to understand the full range of the discipline.
"APA can and should remedy that lack of knowledge," she says.
Brehm also looks forward to a significant development of APA's public Web site. She wants it to be maximally user-friendly and a resource for people from every walk of life.
"It should be possible for the high school student to find interesting materials for a psychology class, for the college student to consider various careers in psychology, for the Nobel Prize winner to locate research on a specific psychological topic, and for anyone seeking psychological help to obtain information on how to find it," she says. "A great Web site is itself a public-education campaign."
In addition, Brehm will encourage APA to develop a symposium series that would position the organization as a major think tank. Drawing together top experts in education, practice, public interest and/or science, each symposium would address a topic of significant interest to psychology and the public. The proceedings of the symposia would be posted on the APA Web site and published in appropriate print media, such as books, special journal issues and specific articles.
Finally, Brehm says she will aim to be reachable not only by APA members but by the public as well, perhaps via a Web page and an e-mail address. Brehm says she wants an open communication channel as a way to hear from people with a wide range of perspectives on psychology.
Her second objective is even more farsighted. Brehm wants to make sure that APA stays focused on the future. The first place to start, she says, is to build strong, attractive programs for students (from junior high through graduate school) that will encourage the study of psychology and to recognize those students and teachers who make a particular contribution to the field. APA already has many such programs, which Brehm will support and, if appropriate, encourage their expansion and/or modification. Early-career psychologists are another basic pipeline for psychology's future, she says. Brehm believes that over the next 5 to 10 years, APA must significantly strengthen its support of new educators, practitioners and scientists.
Psychology must also attend, says Brehm, to the rapid changes in the demographics of the discipline. Within the United States, efforts aimed at increasing psychology's diversity are crucial, she says. By 2050, the United States will be a "majority-minority" country, without any one racial or ethnic group having a majority.
"If psychology doesn't have ethnic diversity in its students, practitioners, scientists and teachers, psychology will find it very difficult to maintain its current success," according to Brehm.
But because psychology extends beyond the United States, Brehm strongly supports efforts that increase international exchanges for students and psychologists. International conferences, small and large, also play a vital role in the internationalization of psychology.
"Psychology must be seen as a worldwide discipline," says Brehm, who applauds the effort to strengthen APA's Office of International Affairs.
In the future, psychology will also be called upon to be a major player in addressing some of the most pressing issues that the United States will face this century, says Brehm, pointing to three areas in particular:
Science and math education. To retain its economic status and compete effectively with other countries, the United States must improve the effectiveness of science and math education. Brehm believes that psychology can make a vital contribution in developing new teaching methods that can help students excel in math and science.
The aging population. As millions of baby boomers reach retirement and join the ranks of the elderly, psychologists will increasingly have to be prepared to help society and individuals deal with the consequences of aging.
Integrated health care. Since most physiological problems have a psychological component, either in terms of the illness itself and/or its treatment, psychologists and physicians must work closely together to improve their treatment outcomes. Integrated health care will be particularly important in addressing the needs of a rapidly aging population.
Brehm officially joined the Board of Directors as president-elect on Jan. 1. She says she looks forward to working with the other members of the board, with the APA staff, and with as many APA members as she can reach. And she hopes to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the association and to the long-term future of psychology.
A professor of psychology in the clinical and social programs at IU Bloomington, Brehm assumes the presidency on Jan. 1, 2007.
A 1967 graduate of Duke University, Brehm earned a master's degree at Harvard University then returned to Duke for her PhD. She joined the psychology faculty at the University of Kansas in 1975, and then from 1990 through 2003, Brehm served in administrative posts at SUNY Binghamton, Ohio University and IU Bloomington.
At APA, she served four terms on the Executive Committee of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (Div. 8), two terms as Div. 8 representative to the Council of Representatives, and two terms on the APA Finance Committee. She is a fellow of four APA divisions, and a member of five additional divisions and the Indiana Psychological Association.
Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Board of Directors of the Bloomington Area Arts Council, and the Medaille College Board of Trustees.
Brehm says she believes that her past experience in many organizations will be useful in her new role as APA president. As she develops a specific set of goals for her presidency, she will be consulting with many individuals and groups among APA's constituencies.
She says she is very well aware that it will be challenging to provide leadership for a large, complex organization with a large range of interests and concerns, but is optimistic and excited about this opportunity.
"Leadership is always a learning experience," she adds, "and I look forward to studying with many extremely knowledgeable teachers."
- C. Munsey