Dalmas A. Taylor Summer Fellow 2019 Reflections – One Year Later
Jaboa Lake, M.S., Doctoral Candidate, Portland State University,
A year after my Dalmas A. Taylor minority policy fellowship with SPSSI and APA, I am now working full-time at a progressive policy thinktank as a senior anti-poverty policy analyst while completing the last steps of my dissertation.
Prior to (and after) my time as the Taylor Fellow during the summer of 2019, I worked within social and policy change in different ways. My graduate program in Applied Social and Community Psychology at Portland State University has an explicit focus on research that is socially relevant and responsive, can be used to promote social change, and collaborative with communities. I have also been an active community organizer with groups and coalitions led by communities who are oppressed across intersections focused on creating liberatory systems and providing mutual aid. I worked as an independent research contractor for culturally-specific nonprofits and local governments on projects that aim to uplift the experiences of communities of color in creating social programs and developing policy.
These experiences provided a valuable setup to my time with the fellowship, which expanded my exposure to the policy world in multiple ways. I spent six weeks working with SPSSI’s central office, working on topical human rights issues. SPSSI’s staff connected me directly with professionals working on policy at places such as policy thinktanks, science coalitions, and government agencies for one-on-ones, which have provided invaluable mentorship. I spent another six weeks working with APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office. I worked on issues focused on Black mental health, immigration, foster youth, deep poverty, and others. I attended meetings at congressional offices to provide a social science perspective on policy and to draft bills and resolutions. During my time with APA I also attended the weeklong Psychology Summer Institute with the Minority Fellowship Program, where I was exposed to other justice-focused researchers in psychology and further provided mentorship opportunities and meaningful connections. Both at SPSSI and APA I attended briefings, hearings, and individual meetings in Congress, along with presentations and events at various policy thinktanks, advocacy organizations, law and research working groups, and community-based organizations. This myriad exposed me to the processes, and the complexities that come with it, of the interchanges and overlappings of advocacy, public policy, and research organizations, government agencies, and Congress.
Returning to Portland, OR after three months in Washington, DC, I continued to work with my academic lab on a range of projects and as a research contractor for local organizations and governments. Though this work was familiar, the knowledge and skills gained through the Taylor Fellowship made my work stronger and more focused. As I worked towards completing my dissertation, I made the decision to enter the job market and looked for positions at nonprofit organizations who focused on research and policy towards positive and progressive social change. After a few months and several offers, I moved back to DC to start my career.?
The Taylor Fellowship provided the stepping stone needed to bridge my applied and academic careers with the next step in starting my career in social policy, and was an experience and opportunity that I am fortunate to have had.