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Wendy R. Williams

SPSSI 2017-2018 President


In preparation for writing this column, I reviewed what I had written at this time last fall. I can happily report that we have made progress on each of the items that I reported to you were priorities for the 2017-2018 year (whew!).

New building at 7th Street. Last summer, I reported that we purchased a gorgeous new property in the Eastern Market neighborhood of DC. In the past year, our Executive Director (Anila Balkissoon) has handled all kinds of routine items that homeowners will recognize as part of the “joy” of home-owning (e.g., buying a new HVAC system, new telecom wiring, and minor cosmetic fixes). In addition, she is shepherding us through a variety of additional tasks that are unique to our position as a non-profit (i.e., how to rent the suite of offices on the first floor in the best way to also protect SPSSI’s assets). Together, the staff has also demonstrated the professional and potential of the expanded space by hosting Hill Day visits and a reception for Council members in February. I remain excited about how SPSSI will be able to continue to grow into this property in the coming years.

SPPSI Conferences.  Using the theme “Bridges to Justice: Building Coalitions and Collaborations Within and Beyond Psychology,” the 2018 conference in Pittsburgh had a record number of presentations (312 presentations—compared to 269 in 2016 and 212 in 2017). Given that last year was the first year we moved to having a full conference every year (instead of every other year), we were incredibly pleased with the turnout this year. In addition to the usual talks, posters, and networking opportunities, the conference continued the history of connecting with the local community in two ways. On the first night of the conference, we partnered with the local Science Center to host “Café Psychology,” an opportunity for the community to hear Ted-style talks by Dr. Keith Maddox (who discussed his research on racial bias) and Dr. Mary Murphy (who discussed her research on women’s experience of stereotype threat in STEM). Additionally, across from the registration desk, we set up the IAmPsyched! display, an interactive exhibition about the contributions of women of color to psychology which was created by the APA’s Women’s Policy Office. We paired this display with a panel of women of color psychologists (Drs. Shelby Cooley, Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, and Danielle Dickens) to discuss their careers in psychology, and we invited girls and women of color from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County on Saturday to attend the panel and see the display. Finally, we continued the tradition of both policy and graduate student pre-conferences. The policy pre-conference focused on social media advocacy, whereas the graduate student committee focused on diversity and inclusion issues. Feedback from both was positive, and we’ll be looking for ways to continue to build on the good ideas and energy from them in the coming year.

SPSSI’s 2018 program at APA, “Promoting Social Change with Research, Policy, and Practice,” was also incredibly successful. We received 107 individual presentation and symposia submissions - nearly double the number received the previous year. Having attended many of these talks, I can tell you that our SPSSI members did an excellent job representing our science, teaching, and advocacy. In addition, we used the opportunity to collaborate with other APA Divisions on two particular events. First, in conjunction with Division 44, SPSSI held a pre-convention event designed to help psychologists and graduate students in psychology learn a variety of intermediate-level skills for engaging in LGBTQ advocacy. Second, we continued our tradition of co-hosting a happy hour with Division 8 (SPSP) and Division 34 (Environment). This year’s event was especially well-attended (over 100 members throughout the two hour event).

Bringing Policy Advocacy to SPSSI Council Meetings. As I reported in the spring, SPSSI Council completed its first advocacy day in conjunction with its winter meetings. To extend the opportunity to engage in Congressional advocacy, invitations were sent to other SPSSI position holders and a call was broadcast to DC-area SPSSI members. As a result, twenty-one SPSSI representatives from 13 different states engaged in a total of 50 visits with Congressional staff to discuss the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. Because of the success of the event, at its June meeting Council authorized a second Hill Day to take place in early 2019.

Strategic Plan. To best inform our strategic plan, SPSSI began the year with a survey of our members. This data was then reviewed by SPSSI Council in February. Based on data collected, Council determined that the organization should focus broadly on the following items: (1) infusing diversity and inclusion throughout the organization, (2) strengthening our journals, (3) using our science for policy and advocacy, (4) member engagement, (5) engaging in program evaluation of our activities, and (6) building our capacity, including the capacity of our staff, our use of technology, and our infrastructure. In March, a small group of Council members and staff met in DC to further elaborate on these six topics in order to develop both objectives and goals. In June, Council reviewed a draft document and provided additional feedback. Next, in order to be accountable to our stakeholders (and in good Lewin tradition), a revised version of the strategic plan will be posted online this autumn for a period of comment by SPSSI members. Based on this feedback, the final strategic plan document will then be unveiled by the end of 2018. We are excited about the content of the plan, and look forward to working with our members to continue to make SPSSI the premier organization for research, education, and application of psychological knowledge to social issues.

As I reflect on my Presidential year, the feeling I most want to convey is my gratitude. In addition to these excellent organizational milestones, the year has included my own personal milestones. It is no exaggeration to say that being SPSSI President was a “bucketlist” item for me, and the opportunity to give a Presidential Address at the 2018 conference in Pittsburgh was icing on the cake. You can view my talk, “Considering Carnegie in the time of Trump: A science and policy agenda,”on SPSSI’s facebook page. Moreover, it has been a joy to collaborate with my colleagues on our two conferences, Jason Lawrence and Asia Eaton (for the 2018 SPSSI program in Pittsburgh), and Kala Melchiori and Harmony Reppond (for the 2018 APA program). Your representatives on SPSSI Council, Executive Committee, and our standing committees work hard on your behalf all year long, and I am grateful for the way that the work of the organization is so capably and enthusiastically handled by them. Furthermore, it has been a pleasure to work throughout the year with the dedicated SPSSI staff. Without fail, they not only met my requests with agreeableness and speed, but they were passionate partners in co-creating the successes of this year. My deepest thanks to Anila, Brad, Sarah, Cyndi, and Victor. Finally, to the members of this organization—you continue to buoy me and give me hope. I cannot wait to see what successes you will bring to our organization in the future.

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