State Leadership Conference

Bradford Chang, PhD, would not let a broken foot stand in the way of attending his second Diversity Initiative program at the State Leadership Conference (SLC). The Washington State Psychological Association's delegate stood before his peers and proudly thanked APA for its "commitment to breaking barriers."

Indeed, with the support of APA's Committee for the Advance- ment of Professional Practice (CAPP), Office of Ethnic and Minority Affairs (OEMA) and matching funds from state associations, 18 ethnic-minority psychologists attended SLC as Diversity Delegates. Pointing to his crutch and cast, Chang reminded his audience of the prime strategy for diversifying state associations: "We all need to persevere."

True to Chang's wish, the prospects for continuing--indeed expanding--the Diversity Initiative are promising. The program debuted at the 2000 SLC, when OEMA and CAPP each donated $7,000 in grants to help state associations increase their diversity. CAPP asked the Committee of State Leaders to recommend how best to use the money in support of multicultural diversity among the state associations and within the practice community.

The result was a call for nominations from state associations and the selection of 12 ethnic-minority psychologists and one graduate student as delegates to SLC. The delegates were able to relay such valuable lessons to their state associations after the first Diversity Initiative that the Practice Directorate wanted to expand the program. In fact, participation has grown 50 percent this year, according to APA's Executive Director for Practice Russ Newman, PhD, JD.

"The states that sent a delegate last year contributed to their return on a sliding scale," Newman explains. "This gave us additional resources to fund six more psychologists."

This boom of support not only enables delegates to return to relate how the Diversity Initiative affected their work in their state associations, but also promises that multicultural diversity will continue to increase. The program is also significant, because it will eventually help ensure that "the leadership of the state associations and of professional psychology looks more like what America looks like," says Newman.

The Diversity Initiative indeed places ethnic-minority psychologists in a position to become leaders. During a reception, workshop and discussion group, the 18 delegates networked with APA leaders and representatives of the profession from all over the country, learning about psychology's advocacy agenda.

SLC attendees, in turn, learned how various state associations are striving to increase diversity. Among the most frequently raised concerns were:

  • Cultivating future leaders to continue diversity initiatives.

  • The importance of recruiting any psychologists interested in diversity as opposed to solely minorities.

  • Creativity and open-mindedness as the keys to resolving internal frictions when forging change within a state association.

  • The need for a graduate or continuing-education curriculum for diversity training.

But perhaps the Diversity Initiative's most valuable contributions to SLC were not the engaging discussions, but the delegates themselves. As Washington State Psychological Association President John Moritsuqu, PhD, said: "Diversity is not abstract; it is the identity of the person--individuals who become leaders and supporters who are just as important as the issue itself."