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Ashley Votruba


Continuing SPSSI'S Mission:  Connecting Research with Policy

Ashley M. Votruba, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Seven or so months ago I would have anticipated writing this column energized by the 2020 SPSSI Conference. Unfortunately, SPSSI was unable to hold the conference, as planned, in June. Although it feels like a minor point in the context of the struggles so many people are currently experiencing, I’ve really missed being able to see my SPSSI colleagues and catch up on all the research and policy work being done. But in editing this Issue, I am heartened to see that SPSSI’s mission has continued. This Issue provides evidence of the incredible dedication of the SPSSI leadership and membership to furthering the research and social action mission of the organization. Although I wish we could have shared this work in person, I am glad that we can still maintain our sense of community and purpose through these communications.  

In this issue of The Forward, we focus on the good work that is currently happening at SPSSI. SPSSI President, Keon West, encourages all of us to continue to work toward “transformative research and social action.” And SPSSI Executive Director, Anila Balkissoon, considers SPSSI’s legacy and duty of rising to the occasion—even during incredibly difficult times—to continue to improve society through social science.  

In addition to hearing from leadership, this issue also reports on the wonderful work of our SPSSI committees, including: 

  • APA Council of Representatives: Wendy Williams and Janice Adelman report on the work of the Council of Representatives since February 2020 including on various resolutions and responses relevant to current world issues and events.  

  • Communications Committee: Asia Easton provides an update from the Communications Committee, highlighting a series of free social justice-themed webinars for the 2020-2021 academic year. These webinars will cover topics including reproductive justice research methods, honoring black women with social justice research, activism, and teaching, anti-fat and weight bias, and mis- and disinformation during the 2020 election. 

  • Internationalization Committee: Phia Salter shares a new grant opportunity through SPSSI that supports social issues and justice-oriented psychological research in the Global South. 

  • UN Committee: David Livert reports that SPSSI UN Representatives authored the statement: Beyond the Human Rights Rhetoric on “Leaving No One Behind:” Integrating the Elimination of Racism and Racial and Ethnic Discrimination into the Implementation of the SDGs. This statement was endorsed by 85 NGOs in the UN community. 

Focusing on policy, SPSSI’s Policy Director, Sarah Mancoll, discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education, focusing on the widening of existing disparities. This is based on a report by APA-affiliated bodies, which SPSSI members contributed. A link to the full report is provided in the column. This issue also provides reports from the SPSSI fellows: (1) Jaboa Lake reflects back on the impact of the Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Fellowship and (2) Kevin Carriere discusses his work as the James Marshall Public Policy Fellow, working with Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico’s 1st District. 

Typically, in our Summer Issue, we highlight some of the wonderful work that was presented at the SPSSI Conference. Although we were unable to hold the conference in 2020, we still wanted to highlight the excellent research being conducted by SPSSI members and the Keynote speakers. One of the planned keynote speakers, Mary Kathryn Nagle, considers the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Oliphant v. Suquamish and the Violence Against Women Act on Tribal Nations ability to prosecute non-Indian perpetrated crimes. This issue also includes the following columns representing the diverse research planned for the conference: 

  • Benjamin Blankenship: Comparing Partisan Voters and Non-Voters in the 2016 and 2018 Elections and Beyond. 

  • Adam Dunbar: Follow the Money: Racial Crime Stereotypes and Willingness to Fund Crime Control Policies. 

  • Michael T. Schmitt et al.: Imagining Alternative Futures and Environmental Activism 

  • Deborah Wu et al.: The Long-Term Impacts of Female Peer Mentors for Women in Engineering. 

Finally, I would also like to highlight a wonderful piece put together for the Social Issues from the Student Perspective, titled Ten Graduate Students on the Impacts and Challenges of the Ongoing Pandemics, and What They’ve Learned. This column offers multiple perspectives on what it is like to currently be a graduate student.  

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