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Former Dalmas Taylor Fellows' Experiences

Ty A. Robinson, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2023: It has been an honor to be named the 2023 Dalmas A. Taylor Fellow. I gained valuable experiences at the Minority Fellowship Program's (MFP) Psychological Summer Institute (PSI) in D.C., where I got to participate in seminars covering diverse topics from cultural healing modalities to research result dissemination, meet with a Congressional aide to advocate for increased support and retention of scholars of color through expanding MFP resources, and cultivate meaningful connections with both my cohort and MFP staff. Following PSI, I participated in SPSSI's annual conference in Denver, C.O., where I engaged in poster sessions and discussed disseminating results back to the community and developing new research projects that amplify marginalized voices. I actively took part in interactive discussions addressing the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community. Additionally, I attended a policy workshop focusing on creating and disseminating policy-related pieces across diverse institutions. As my fellowship experience was hybrid, the virtual aspect involved attending virtual events hosted by the Urban Institute, National Academies, and Center for American Progress. The Taylor Fellowship gave me the confidence, tools, and validation to move forward and seek more policy-related opportunities within the community and my organization. I feel confident writing Op-Eds, engaging in community-based participatory research as an activist, disseminating results to the community, and publicly speaking and integrating research into policy-related discussions. Through the fellowship, I also witnessed how psychologists work within offices on the Hill, think tanks, and other policy-related organizations. Today, I continue to seek policy-related opportunities and look forward to applying to postdoctoral positions in policy.

Gina Roussos, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2017: As the 2017 Dalmas Taylor Fellow, I gained a deeper understanding of the steps involved in advocacy work, practiced communicating psychological research to a policy-oriented audience, and made countless professional connections that will help me navigate the job market this year. My activities included attending Congressional hearings and talks at prominent policy research institutes, participating in APA’S Summer Minority Fellowship Psychology Summer Institute, working at APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO), and receiving mentoring from individuals working around issues of public policy in academia and in the private and public sectors. My time at the PI-GRO office at APA has been the highlight of this summer. I was part of a team that drafted and promoted a bill placing restrictions on the use of restraints on pregnant women in federal prisons as well as ensure access to pregnancy-related healthcare in prisons. I accompanied APA staff to meetings with the legislative aides to Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren to discuss ways to improve the health of incarcerated women. I documented and evaluated the laws and administrative policies regarding the use of restraints on pregnant female prisoners for all 50 states. As a result of this fellowship, I am more knowledgeable about the processes involved in crafting, implementing, and promoting policies meant to increase the well-being of vulnerable populations, I can better communicate with policymakers about psychological research, and I have a wide range of mentors, colleagues, and connections who can support my efforts to find a job where I can address racial justice issues using policies and programs informed by psychological science.  

Tejas Srinivas, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2016: My experiences as the 2016 Dalmas Taylor Fellow were incredibly valuable for developing policy skills that I hope to apply throughout my career. I learned the fundamentals of strategic and evidence-based advocacy, reflected on how my own research interests could apply to ongoing policy work, and met psychologists who were involved in different, policy-related stakeholder positions. These included research and academic psychologists interested in the policy implications of their work, psychologists within non-profit organizations, and psychologists who served as advisors for legislators. Meeting a variety of policy-involved psychologists encouraged me to think more deeply about what kind of policy-related role I might be most interested in for the future. Additionally, I had opportunities to work on policy issues of immediate relevance to Congress, including issues that were related to my research interests (e.g., violence against women, immigration), as well as issues with which I had less experience (e.g., solitary confinement, policing reform). I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the work, the chance to continue growing as a well-versed generalist, and the challenge of reviewing and summarizing research in ways that could appeal to non-academic, policy-involved audiences. My experiences have profoundly shaped my ongoing passion for bringing the insights of social science to bear on real-world social policy issues.

Kyndra Cleveland, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2015: I had the honor of holding the Dalmas A. Taylor Fellow position in 2015. During my tenure as a Fellow, I was engaged in a broad array of activities that cultivated my skills in using research to influence practice and policy. For example, I was able to personally speak with legislative staff about my dissertation research concerning parents’ experiences in child protection cases. I also attended legislative briefings, hearings, and mark-ups of bills designed to improve the juvenile justice system. In addition, I had an opportunity to write a policy brief and participate in SPSSI’s 2015 conference, A Road Less Traveled: Forging Links between Psychological Science and Social Policy. Finally, I participated in APA’s Psychology Summer Institute. This intensive week-long seminar connected me with wonderful academic and practice-oriented mentors and helped me develop skills in presenting research to policy audiences.  Through my Dalmas Taylor Fellow experience, I gained a much clearer concept of how SPSSI fulfills its mission of bringing research to bear on important social and political issues. I also have a better understanding of the great need that policy-makers have for sound scientific research when making decisions that will impact the lives of people around the country. Through this fellowship, the lawmaking process became less of a distant activity that was for “other” people, and more of a process that I can now actively engage in both at the federal and state levels. My summer in this role further inspired me to continue to promote social justice by informing policy-makers of research that can help improve the well-being of at-risk families.

Emily Bashah, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2014: Through the Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Minority Policy Fellowship, I gained such training, insight, and understanding of a world that I never believed was within my reach. This opportunity helped me re-evaluate my developing career and future trajectory. Bridging the worlds of science and policy at a glance seems quite disparate, but of course they are not! I learned this invaluable lesson of how the intersections of psychology and policy can serve a greater humanitarian good with an inherent commitment to social justice and human rights principles that are rooted in psychological and philosophical bases. The Dalmas A. Taylor fellowship taught me about the complexities and intricacies that exist within the political arena. I developed an appreciation for the multiple layers pertaining to relevant social issues that expand across NGO’s, think tanks, public and private sectors, policy and government, and psychology and research. I observed and gained understanding into the ways needed to be most effective in advancing social change and progress. The nuances involved in being both strategic and collaborative are integral components of the complex processes involved, as policy level work is truly an art form. This fellowship provided me the advocacy training and greater appreciation of how the psychological community serves an important social justice role. This can be embedded in essentially all that we do – from publications, multi-media outlets, and public presentations, within and even more importantly outside of our psychological communities. I am extremely grateful for having been awarded this fellowship. The invaluable experience I had attained has not only fulfilled, but also far exceeded what the fellowship aimed to accomplish. This was such an enriching experience and I am forever grateful to SPSSI and extremely appreciative to be connected to a community purposefully committed to advancing social change, justice, and societal progress.

Tissyana Camacho, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2012: My time as the Dalmas Taylor Fellow was a truly great learning experience. As an academic, policy implications of research are often spoken about, but not in great detail. Being able to immerse myself in policy and research in Washington, D.C. proved to be a challenging, yet wonderfully rewarding experience. Throughout my fellowship, I worked with the policy coordinator at SPSSI, Alex Ingrams, and all members of the Government Relations Office at the American Psychological Association. Though I specifically focus on immigration, I was able to work on a variety of social issues such as discrimination, human trafficking, and HIV/AIDS. I attended briefings on Capitol Hill, as well at the Center for American Progress and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Several times I was able to meet with legislative aides to discuss social issues and how research helps provide scientific evidence on certain aspects of social issues. The majority of the policymakers I spoke with were enthusiastic about the role of research in policy, which was comforting for the future since there is clearly a gap between research and policy that needs to be bridged. Working on social issues that differed from my own interests was incredibly helpful in understanding social issues in general, the different ways to address social issues, and how to work on prevention and intervention. Overall, I believe the experience as the Dalmas Taylor Fellow will prove promising in my career as I am now a more well-rounded researcher. It has always been important for me to link research and policy together, and I am now much more confident in being able to address the sensitive, yet necessary, relationship between the two.

Amanda Ross, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2010: The Dalmas Taylor fellowship has made such a difference in my life.  I participated in the program during a difficult time in my graduate career.  I was feeling isolated and has lost sight of my dreams and the reason why I had decided to attend graduate school. The fellowship enlightened and inspired me and I returned to my program with renewed vigor and determination.  Since participating in the program, I have led workshops and spoken with my fellow students about becoming involved in policy and I know I have inspired others to strive to affect policy.  The Dalmas Taylor fellowship also provided vital networking and support opportunities.  I met individuals whose careers were incredibly unique and I was bolstered by the MFP fellows’ research and practice plans.  To be able to meet others who came from minority backgrounds and shared my passion for studying minority issues was an amazing experience.  Although it has only been a year since I participated in the fellowship, my research, career plans and life have been indelibly changed for the better, because of my experience last year.  I know that my experience as a Dalmas Taylor fellow will have a lifelong affect on my life.

Besangie Sellars, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2007: While my graduate training taught me how to conduct solid research, the Dalmas Taylor Fellowship taught me how my research could change policies that govern the world in which we live.   It provided me the opportunity to observe how policy is created, and the steps that occur to make an idea into a law.   For me, the fellowship reminded me of why I became interested in research in the first place.  It reminded me that all of my work should be applicable to communities in need in a way that is feasible and understandable.  It put my role as a researcher in perspective through one reoccurring observation: policy makers are not always aware of (and often may not completely understand) the importance of good research.   The Dalmas Taylor fellowship broadened my interest in health disparities, and increased my knowledge of legislation that impacts low-income persons and communities of color.  On a personal level, my experience during the Dalmas Taylor fellowship allowed me to teach my family more about policy (how to look up current legislation, how to find what their senator is or is not supporting), to make them more aware of why my research was so important.  My experience with the fellowship has made a lasting impression on my career as well by exposing me to policy, which I learned more about during my postdoctoral fellowship was with the Kellogg Health Scholars.  As a new faculty member, I plan to teach my students about the connection between research and policy so they understand how their own research can impact the world in which they live.

Cecily Hardaway, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2006: I am very grateful for my experience as the Dalmas Taylor Memorial Summer Minority Policy Fellow for 2006. Through this fellowship, I was afforded the opportunity to meet and work with a wonderful group of people, engaged in interesting and exciting work at SPSSI and APA. During my time as a fellow, I had a wide variety of experiences that exposed me to the world of public policy. In my two months with SPSSI and APA, I attended congressional hearings and briefings; met with a member of the House of Representatives to discuss the intersection of psychology and public policy; and developed informational materials to help garner support for a bill that would enhance, expand, and fund mental health services for children and adolescents. I also had the opportunity to help plan the Minority Fellowship Program’s Psychology Summer Institute and to attend SPSSI’s Biennial Convention in Long Beach, California. Overall, my time as a fellow was tremendously rewarding and educational. The Dalmas Taylor fellowship helped me gain a better understanding of how I can connect my research to public policy, and I learned about the many roles psychologist have in the legislative process. I feel honored and privileged to have had this experience.

Syatta Wallace, Dalmas Taylor Fellow 2000: I was selected as the first Dalmas A. Taylor summer policy fellow in 1999.  As part of the fellowship I worked in the APA Public Policy Office to help inform the first health disparities legislation which was eventually passed and made into law.  Because this was the first year of the fellowship, I didn’t have a sense of what I would be experiencing.  I am so glad I was selected because I can truly say it was the opportunity of a lifetime.  It was very exciting as there was so much to do in terms of informing congressional leaders about the import role of behavioral research and Psychology practitioners in efforts to decrease health disparities.  The work we did was cited in the APA Monitor which was a wonderful added bonus of the fellowship experience.  After my participation in the fellowship, I have stayed involved with APA at various levels including working on task forces and serving on committees.  As a professor, I incorporate in my courses a lot of what I learned about the inner workings of how policy is made as it relates to health.   As an advisor to students, I encourage them to consider policy or government work as a career option.  The fellowship was such a well-rounded experience that I continue to benefit from almost twenty years later.