Cover Story

Gabriel Holguin came to APA's 2000 Annual Convention to do more than pick up career-planning tips and visit the monuments. Holguin, a Mexican-American doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, gave a speech on the steps of the U.S. Capitol about his work with sexually abused Mexican-American children and spoke with legislative aides for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R­Texas) and Sen. Phil Gramm (R­Texas) about the need for better mental health services for underserved communities and more federal funding for graduate students.

 In short, Holguin did his part to ensure that the next generation of graduate students will have more education support than he has had.

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"It is our collaborative work that is addressing the societal and mental health issues of our country today," declared Holguin, to the crowd gathered at the nation's capitol. "Our work as graduate students is undoubtedly infiltrating into the lives of our clients in a beneficial manner. I cannot think of another profession in which the training has such a direct impact in the communities that we serve."

Sponsored by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), the Wright Institute, APA's Public Policy Office and numerous other organizations, including the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC), the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology and the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology, the rally was a forum for students--many waving signs with slogans such as "Psychology students pay to serve"--to tell policy-makers how their work is making a difference in their communities and point out that they need more funding for their education to further their contributions.

"Graduate students are often paying to provide services to patients in some of the most difficult clinical settings--rural community mental health centers, child protective services affiliates and state hospitals," said speaker Leslie Cotrell, the APAGS state advocacy coordinator for West Virginia and a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at West Virginia University. "Increased funding opportunities can ease the financial burden of current students, as well as secure additional training opportunities that will benefit future students and countless rural community members in need of psychological services."

APAGS Chair Carol Williams urged her fellow graduate students to make advocacy an important part of their budding psychology careers.

"It is long overdue for graduate students' efforts and positive impact to be acknowledged and supported by legislation that provides more financial backing for our training and work," said Williams. "However, these legislative changes will only be made if graduate students and psychologists become more involved in advocating for ourselves and the communities we serve by incorporating the role of activist into our identities as psychologists."

Education and training leaders at the rally also touted the unique contributions of psychology graduate students and interns.

 "You are indeed showing us how to do it, and that you will be the leaders of tomorrow, as well as today," said APA President-elect Norine G. Johnson, PhD. "You are the future scientists, educators, practitioners and public advocates for psychology. You are the ones who will continue the work to build a healthy world. And you need, and deserve, appropriate funding."

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Other speakers, including Nadine Kaslow, PhD, chair of APPIC, Henry Tomes, APA executive director for public interest, Cynthia Belar, APA executive director for education, and Beverly Thorn, chair of the Council of University Departments of Clinical Psychology, encouraged students to stay informed about policy issues and build relationships with their members of Congress.

Rep. Ted Strickland, PhD (D-Ohio), also attended, expressing his dedication to helping psychology students get the funding they need.

"I know something about what you are experiencing, having been there and done that and having lived on a sparse income," said Strickland, who addressed the crowd on his 59th birthday. "You do much, you contribute much, and I want to say to you that I will do everything that I can as a member of this House to make sure that resources are increasingly available to you, so that you can contribute to our society as a graduate student, and can live a decent life while preparing to be a professional."

He also urged students to seek his help with their struggle for more federal support.

"You will find my office to have an open door, and my staff to have an open mind, to do whatever we can...to see that graduate students in psychology get a fair shake."

Empowered by the rally, 25 students then visited the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D­Calif.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D­Calif.), Sen. Carl Levin (D­Mich.), Sen. Spencer Abraham (R­Mich.), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R­Texas), Sen. Phil Gramm (R­Texas), Sen. Paul Wellstone (D­Minn.) and Sen. Connie Mack (R­Fla.) to promote psychology's role in the National Health Service Corps. They also called for more funding for the Federal Work Study Program. Many students plan to follow-up with those offices and continue their advocacy work back in their home states.

To prepare for the Senate visits, many students attended the Advocacy Training Workshop offered by APA's Public Policy Office on Thursday, Aug. 3. At the training workshop, students learned how to deliver an effective talk to a member of Congress or a legislative aide through role-playing exercises. They also learned how to craft talking points, how the policy-making process works, ways to get involved with grassroots activities and how to follow up a successful visit to Capitol Hill.

"This is a great beginning for many of us," said University of Florida graduate student and APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team chair Christopher Loftis, one of the principal rally organizers, along with Gilbert Newman, PhD, and graduate student Fatemah Bani-Taba, both of the Wright Institute, after the rally. "If students can carry forth the message they heard here into their communities and back to their schools, we can make significant progress."