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President's Column


 Partnering at SPSSI
 by Susan Opotow


As SPSSI’s president, the year moves quickly.  On September 1, 2009, Gene Borgida will assume SPSSI’s presidency, James Jackson will be SPSSI’s President-Elect, Margaret Bull Kovera will begin a three-year term as Secretary-Treasurer, and I will be SPSSI’s Past-President. It has been an honor to lead SPSSI, an extraordinarily complex, dynamic society. Consistent with my scholarly interest in inclusionary processes and contexts, in my last column as your president, I want to discuss the inclusionary culture operationalized in SPSSI that welcomes diverse approaches to social issues research and member involvement. As president I have been attentive to connections that can facilitate member engagement and foster SPSSI’s influence in psychology and the larger world. Partnering at all levels of analysis has been a theme that has informed my presidency.

Member Engagement
One of the great pleasures of my presidency is being in touch with you. The generosity, enthusiasm, and capability of SPSSI’s members are outstanding. This year alone, more than 250 members have been involved with SPSSI as members of Council, editorial boards, and chairs and members of SPSSI’s thirty-six committees. Appointments generally last one to three years, resulting in considerable turnover -- a healthy process bringing fresh perspectives, insight, and energy to our Society. Many committees decide on the grants and awards that recognize and support social issues research for masters and doctoral students and early-career, mid-career, and senior scholars. SPSSI’s committees, much like the Society, are diverse and include junior and senior scholars with various areas of scholarly expertise. SPSSI’s future will be in good hands as members continue to be involved in the Society and assume leadership roles.

SPSSI’s Influence

A relatively small society, SPSSI has a storied history and considerable influence in psychology. SPSSI is an independent organization, but it is also a division of the American Psychological Association and a member of the larger psychological and social science community, nationally and internationally. SPSSI’s 75th anniversary will be celebrated in an upcoming Journal of Social Issues. We are justifiably proud of work on social issues from 1935 to the present, and our 75th anniversary will be an occasion for our publications, conferences, and website to detail SPSSI’s impressive contributions over time.


SPSSI is well positioned to influence policy. Sound policy is based on sound science, and since 1937, SPSSI has issued 19 position statements (available on SPSSI’s website; see the Policy tab) including recent statements on the death penalty and interrogation and torture. These statements describe research with relevance to particular social issues. SPSSI’s policy mission is facilitated by the Policy Committee. In upcoming months, the Policy Committee will be commissioning more position statements. We have three policy positions in Washington, DC: a policy coordinator in the Central Office, a pre-doctoral Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Minority Policy Internship and a post-doctoral James Marshall Public Policy Scholar, who are both at SPSSI and APA. Occasionally, we have a Sabbatical Scholar who works on policy for a semester or year in Washington, DC.


Internationally, SPSSI has representatives at the United Nations in New York and Geneva who are active in the international NGO community. Although the United States government and the American Psychological Association did not send representatives to the April 2009 Durban II meeting on racism and xenophobia in Geneva, SPSSI sent our Geneva UN representative, Astrid Stückelberger, who reports on the meeting in this newsletter. Also in this newsletter are reports from UN representatives whose work concerns racism, environmental change, aging, health, and related social issues.


Much of our scholarly and policy influence is based on the outstanding reputation of SPSSI’s publications. Two of our journals, Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP) and Social Issues and Social Policy Review (SIPR) publish policy related scholarship, and both our edited and authored book series publish research relevant to social policy and programmatic interventions. Although the Journal of Social Issues (JSI) is not directly policy related, it publishes work that is often relevant to policy. 


I am pleased to report that we have just concluded a seven-year publishing agreement with Wiley Periodicals (now home to Blackwell products; see the Publications Committee Report in this newsletter). SPSSI looks forward to a close and productive working relationship with Wiley in the years ahead.  


SPSSI’s Internationalism

SPSSI’s internationalism was part of its early history in the 1930s and 1940s as European psychologists emigrated to the United States. SPSSI remains an international organization today. The 2008 report from Wiley indicates that more than 2,200 libraries have access to our journals; 80% of these are outside the USA. In addition, 40% of Journal of Social Issues articles published in 2008 were by authors outside the USA. SPSSI members from Chile, Switzerland, and England were elected to Council in May. Many SPSSI committees include international members, and three have an explicit international focus: Internationalization, International Conferences, and United Nations.


SPSSI Gatherings

Our annual meetings are an opportunity to gather and celebrate our own scholarship and the work of the Society. The theme of SPSSI’s 2009 meeting in Toronto at the APA Convention (August 6-9) is Partnering on Social Issues for Social Change. This newsletter describes our program, a three-pronged affair: a terrific program at the convention, a SPSSI suite at the InterContinental Hotel for informal gatherings, and a pre-APA visit to two economically challenged neighborhoods to learn about successful partnerships from community members and their partners in Toronto.


The community visit will be on August 5th, from 12:30-5pm and requires pre-registration (the registration page can be found at  Eleven APA divisions (8, 9, 17, 27, 32, 34, 35, 39, 44, 45, & 48) and the APA Office of Socioeconomic Status have co-sponsored this initiative, which was spearheaded by Michaela Hynie, SPSSI’s 2009 APA Program Chair, and me. The community visit will be followed up in APA’s convention program, which will be suffused with 20 sessions on partnering with communities that were organized by SPSSI and co-sponsoring divisions. We hope you’ll join us! Many SPSSI members will be staying at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which can be booked at reduced rates through the APA convention website.


Please note the next three SPSSI meetings on your calendar.

·         Our 2010 meeting will be a stand-alone in New Orleans, June 24-27, 2010. 

·         In 2010 there will also be an APA meeting in San Diego, CA, August 12-15, 2010. 

·         In 2011, SPSSI will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in Washington, DC before and during the APA meeting from August 3-7, 2011 with special sessions and festivities that are currently being planned.


To conclude, there are many ways you can connect with and support SPSSI:

  1. Be in touch with me or SPSSI’s incoming president, Gene Borgida, if you would like to be involved in the Society’s activities.
  2. Let SPSSI Policy Coordinator Chris Woodside  know of your policy expertise and interests, or of forthcoming issues.
  3. Give a gift membership ($10 each, 5 for $40) to your colleagues and students.
  4. Contact book series editors with ideas for books or the JSI editor with proposals for special issues. Submit individual papers to ASAP and SIPR.
  5. Attend SPSSI’s 2009 meeting in Toronto.
  6. Submit a session proposal for the 2010 meeting in New Orleans (the program call will be available shortly) or simply attend the meeting.
  7. Contact me with any ideas, suggestions, or concerns.


I want to thank everyone I’ve worked with this year. There are too many people to list, but I especially want to acknowledge SPSSI Council, the Executive Committee, the Central Office, and the many committee chairs for being so engaged, effective, and collegial.


The statement on the inside cover of the Journal of Social Issues has always embodied SPSSI for me: The Society seeks to bring theory and practice into focus on human problems of the group, the community, and the nation, as well as the increasingly important ones that have no national boundaries. It is through your efforts that SPSSI continues to do this important work and remains a vital and effective force within psychology and society.

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