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Mikaela Spruill


Dalmas A. Taylor Memorial Summer Minority Policy Fellowship Report 

Mikaela Spruill, Cornell University  

I had the honor of holding the Dalmas A. Taylor fellowship this year and it was one of the most transformative experiences of my graduate career thus far. Behavioral science has the ability to deeply inform policy in a practical and effective way, and over the span of 9 weeks I garnered an in-depth look at how these two worlds intersect.  

My time as the Taylor Fellow began with getting acclimated to D.C. culture and interfacing with several amazing scholars that stand in the gap between research and implementation through policy. Although virtual, I felt immersed in the happenings on the Hill and attended numerous briefings, congressional hearings, and meetings amongst advocacy groups. With SPSSI’s wonderful Sarah Mancoll serving as a guide for me into this new domain, I gained practical knowledge on the intensive work involved in advocacy. I was able to write a policy brief regarding juvenile justice reform and hear firsthand how advocates are strategically working towards the passage of more age-appropriate and fair accountability measures for children who come into contact with the criminal justice system. 

The second phase of my fellowship was comprised of both working with APA’s Public Policy and Engagement team in their Advocacy Office and participating in APA’s Minority Fellowship Program’s Psychology Summer Institute. These experiences were deeply enriching as I was able to aid APA’s staff in finding and applying some of the latest psychological research on a range of issues, like DACA and federal reparations. Further, through the Minority Fellowship Program Psychology Summer Institute I found a great mentor and met an amazing cohort of early career scholars who understood my experience in academia and research questions with refreshing ease. This fellowship also afforded me the opportunity to meet with my own Congressional representative’s legislative aides, in which I had the privilege of advocating for trauma-informed practices in schools with Representative Bobby Scott’s office. 

My time as a fellow concluded with SPSSI’s annual conference, which I had the privilege to present some of my empirical work at. This fellowship has opened innumerable doors for me by providing me with tangible skills and countless professional connections. This opportunity has impacted me personally and professionally for the better and I am grateful to have been chosen for the position this year. As I look towards my future in academia, I know that the questions that I ask and the way that I investigate those questions will directly be informed by my experience in the policy world as the 2021 Taylor Fellow. 

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