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Patrick R. Grzanka


From Our President:
SPSSI’s Guiding Vision in a Moment of Change

Patrick R. Grzanka, SPSSI President, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Even though it’s still dangerously hot across much of the U.S. and the world, fall is upon us in the Global North and brings with it the excitement and promise of a new year for those of us in academic settings.

This past summer was a season full of dramatic social and political news, including the unstoppable phenomenon of “Barbenheimer”; massive, organized labor strikes; and the fourth criminal indictment of former President Donald J. Trump. The judicial and legislative landscape was dizzying, as well, with many courts blocking enforcement of various anti-trans laws only to see some key decisions reversed. Abortion rights are in constant flux, as most notably evidenced by the recent decision in South Carolina and the ballot referendum initiative in Ohio. The horrific fires in Maui and suffocating heatwaves globally signaled a potentially new phase in the planet’s reckoning with global climate change. And mass shootings and violence continue to affect far too many people, especially in the U.S. Indeed, as I write this, the nation is grieving over yet another weekend of mass violence from coast to coast, including a racially motivated mass shooting that killed three Black people in Jacksonville, Florida.

As social issues researchers, policy-oriented psychologists, practitioners, teachers, activists, and advocates, these numerous challenges mean, on the one hand, that we have a lot of work to do. On the other, the public’s need for clarity and solutions about seemingly intractable social problems gives me such hope and energy about the year to come in SPSSI.

The brilliant research presented both at the SPSSI conference in Denver and at SPSSI’s programming during APA’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. this summer showcased the vibrant and incisive work of SPSSI members, who are confronting these challenges with the powerful tools of psychological science. John Jost addressed the myth of simplistic polarization and the problems with both-sideology in political psychology, Sara McClelland addressed the methodological challenges of studying abortion stigma, and Stephanie Fryberg explained the consequences of the systematic marginalization of Native people in psychology and society, to name just a few of the trailblazing presentations we heard in Denver and D.C.

This fall, we will continue to host a series of exciting webinars on fostering policy relevant research through a multidivisional collaboration led by SPSSI’s past-President Abby Stewart. We are thrilled at our new slate of elected council members and our new President-Elect, Professor Heather Bullock of the University of California-Santa Cruz. The incredible quality of our slate of candidates—thanks in no small part to the valiant efforts of the Nominations committee—is a testament to the strength, commitment, and engagement of our membership. After eight years of amazing service to SPSSI, our Policy Director Sarah Mancoll has decided to move on to new professional opportunities. While we are all extremely sad to see Sarah go and grateful beyond words for her stewardship of SPSSI’s policy work, this represents a moment of forwarding-thinking change for SPSSI’s staff, led by the formidable Anila Balkissoon and supported by the imminently capable Justin Belsley. We are searching for a new Policy and Communications Director and hope you will join us in sharing this job announcement widely. This new staff member will help chart the future of our outward-facing and internal communications, as well as the critical role SPSSI continues to play in creating and disseminating empirically supported policy solutions in D.C. and beyond.

Sometimes it feels like our world couldn’t be more difficult, or the problems we face collectively more perplexing and immutable. But SPSSI has always felt like “home” to so many of us, because of the work you all do to illuminate and demystify social, behavioral, and structural complexity while suggesting a way to imagine our worlds otherwise. Thank you for passion for the psychological study of social issues and your collective service to SPSSI, which is a guiding vision for me when I feel lost or discouraged. I am excited and humbled to embark on this journey with you this year as President. And I am wishing you all a productive, joyful, safe, and fulfilling season ahead.

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