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Tina R. Lee


Committee Reports

SPSSI: The bridge between academia and social justice for graduate students

Tina R. Lee, Teachers College, Columbia University

As the incoming chair of SPSSI Graduate Student Committee this year, it has been a privilege to work alongside other passionate students amidst a turbulent yet awakening time. Throughout the year, we worked on projects ranging from political education on social justice issues to policy/advocacy workshops. Among our many accomplishments, GSC completed a webinar series entitled Societal Psychosis: A Meta-analysis of Systems that Make it Difficult to Determine and Connect with Reality. Topics included: 1) Public Reckoning with the Criminal Justice System, 2) The White Supremacist State through the Racial Triangulation of Black, Asian, and White Communities, 3) A How-To Webinar on Producing Policy.

We also revamped GSC’s writing accountability group, our student-run newsletter Social Issues from Student Perspectives, ran an international decolonizing psychology essay competition for both undergraduate and graduate students, and hosted a virtual conference social hour through Gathertown where our aim was to grow the diversity of our membership. We built relationships with community organizations, scholars, activists, journalists, and talented students around the world.

Since I joined SPSSI as a first year PhD student, I knew it would be my professional home. Every interaction at SPSSI sparked a new idea or project grounded in the nexus of psychology, community, policy, and advocacy. A topic frequently discussed among GSC was the recurring dissonance we felt between academia and the daily lives of those communities we wanted to serve, particularly for BIPOC. In fact, for students of color, academia can be a very difficult place to navigate and thrive in. Enduring structural barriers, a dominant culture of whiteness, lack of mentorship and representation, and negative assumptions about our competence before we even enter academic gateways can impede professional success. Women of color constitute only 8.4% of tenured positions, and men continue to significantly outearn women at all faculty levels (Catalyst, 2020). Progress is slow, to say the least.

For GSC, SPSSI was the bridge to advancing ideas and causes we cared deeply about as students, in an environment where we could openly work with like-minded partners. To this day, SPSSI not only keeps me laser-focused on critical social issues but it also grounds me in the application of my work to real lives and concerns, especially to those voices that will never get to academic halls.

To that end, our committee’s pre-conference program on June 23rd (hosted in San Juan, Puerto Rico) will focus on The Intersection of Social Justice and Your Professional World. We will hold workshops, panels, activities, and discussions on navigating positionality within academia, industry, and professional spaces. Additional topics will include imposterism/gaslighting, colonized mentorship models, navigating dominant identities, pursuing careers at social justice-oriented institutions, building/negotiating capital, and early career development.

For those who can make it, we truly look forward to seeing you in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And, if not, we look forward to crossing paths at another nexus of social justice.

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