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President's Column

What’s Happening at SPSSI: Projects, Transitions, and the Spirit of Participation

By Susan Opotow, SPSSI President 2008 - 09

It is a pleasure to update you on SPSSI’s activities over the past three months. In brief, SPSSI continues to thrive and is involved in a broad range of activities related to social issues. This newsletter column, midway through my presidential year, is a good opportunity to update you on what is happening.

On November 19th I represented SPSSI at Psychology Day at the United Nations. This one-day event, Psychology and Social Justice Related to the UN Global Agenda, featured three panels with short talks by psychologist researchers and practitioners. It was co-chaired by two SPSSI members, Florence Denmark, APA’s Main UN representative and Peter Walker, SPSSI’s UN representative. Two former SPSSI presidents were present – Morton Deutsch (1960- 1961), who had presented the Psychology Day keynote in 2007, and Herb Kelman (1964-1965) who presented this year’s keynote address. Council Member Stacey Sinclair and I spoke in the panel, Psychological perspectives on the abuse of power.

SPSSI Council Update
SPSSI Council held its Midwinter meeting on January 31 and February 1 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. Attendees included 12 elected members (4 are elected each year), non-voting members (newsletter editor, historian, early career scholars chair), several visiting members, and SPSSI’s Central Office staff.

At this meeting, Council discussed three important transitions. Council considered SPSSI’s upcoming contract for publication of our three journals, JSI, ASAP, and SIPR, currently being negotiated by Lou Penner. Second, Council appointed Kevin Lanning as incoming editor of Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy (ASAP) to succeed Geoff Maruyama, whose term will conclude at the end of 2009. Third, Council appointed Margaret Bull Kovera to succeed Secretary/ Treasurer Sally Shumaker, whose term will conclude on August 31st. I speak for myself and many others in thanking Sally Shumaker, Geoff Maruyama, and Lou Penner. All three are former presidents who have continued giving outstanding service to SPSSI. We welcome Kevin Lanning and Margaret Bull Kovera to these key SPSSI positions.

Council voted to approve SPSSI’s Strategic Plan, a project begun by the Audit and Finance Committee under Secretary/Treasurer Sally Shumaker in 2007 along with Dan Perlman, then president, to assure that SPSSI’s actions are consistent with our priorities. The plan was refined by Council in January 2008 and SPSSI members via emailed comments and a town meeting in June 2008 in Chicago. Council also approved Irene Frieze’s updates to SPSSI’s Administrative Handbook, a document describing the Society’s procedures that is exceedingly helpful to our many office holders and committee chairs. Thank you Sally Shumaker, Dan Perlman, and Irene Frieze for seeing these two, long-term projects through. Council voted to approve the development of two policy-related initiatives. One, a workshop on the application of psychological research to public policy for early career scholars and advanced graduate students, will be held before SPSSI’s June 2010 conference in New Orleans. Second, SPSSI will soon be issuing a call for timely proposals with policy implications.

Member Engagement
The spirit of participation is clearly robust for SPSSI. In November, SPSSI’s 2009 Program Chair, Michaela Hynie, requested reviewers for proposals for sessions at SPSSI’s program at the APA meeting in Toronto (August 6-9, 2009). Over 150 SPSSI members volunteered. This spirit of participation is also evident in the work of SPSSI’s many committees that are essential to the functioning of our Society. Thank you all for being so helpful and engaged. In December, Policy Coordinator Chris Woodside in SPSSI’s Central Office initiated an RSS feed ( to send out fastbreaking news of interest to members. One message, sent via the RSS feed and our listserv asked members concerned with the two-tiered academic labor system in higher education to respond. Two dozen SPSSI members – contingent and more securely employed – described their experience and interest in this social issue. We will be discussing how to proceed in a virtual meeting.

August 2009: SPSSI in Toronto – Partnering on Social Issues for Social Change
In August 2009, SPSSI will have a three-pronged program at the APA convention beginning as a half-day pre-conference on Wednesday afternoon, August 5th, the day before the convention begins. The pre-conference, Psychology- Community Engagement, will start with a visit by 60 psychologists to a university- community engagement center situated in an economically-challenged neighborhood in North Toronto. The visit will include presentations by community members, agency representatives, psychologists, and other professionals highlighting successful partnerships in this community. We, along with other APA divisions co-sponsoring this initiative, will follow up our visit with symposia at the APA convention on partnering with communities. These sessions will address methods, challenges, and benefits of psychology-community partnerships.

SPSSI’s program theme, Partnering on Social Issues for Social Change, will include symposia, papers, and other sessions from August 6 to 9. SPSSI Day, on Thursday August 6th, will include Beatrice Wright’s Kurt Lewin Memorial Address, SPSSI’s business and award meeting (open to all), my presidential address, and a social hour.

During the APA meeting, SPSSI will have a hospitality suite at a hotel near the Toronto Convention Center. At the suite, members can meet, relax at the end of a long day over wine and cheese, and participate in innovative sessions on research and social issues.

Please plan to join SPSSI in Toronto! We will be staying in the Hyatt Regency Toronto (currently, Holiday Inn on King). Please plan to join SPSSI at APA in Toronto!

Looking ahead to 2010 and 2011
There are two exciting SPSSI meetings already in planning. SPSSI’s June 2010 biennial conference will be in New Orleans. President- Elect Gene Borgida describes a theme of Care-giving that will relate our meeting to ongoing post-Katrina recovery efforts.

In August 2011, SPSSI will celebrate its 75th Anniversary. SPSSI Historian Alexandra Rutherford began planning for this occasion several years ago with an interactive timeline, oral history interviews, and an upcoming anniversary issue of JSI. The 75th Anniversary Task Force, chaired by Council member Michelle Fine, is envisioning a scholarly and musical gala to celebrate SPSSI’s past and present.

SPSSI Newsletter: Forward
With this issue, Naomi Hall and Jon Iuzzini assume co-editorship of the Forward. I welcome them and their fresh ideas for facilitating the passion and commitment to SPSSI members about issues of concern to SPSSI. I thank Rich Wiener for his excellence as editor of the Forward since January 2006 and for making the editorial transition seamless. Beginning with the last issue (Fall 2008), SPSSI began publishing the Forward in PDF as well as html formats so that members can utilize the format that is most convenient. Members can also request a paper copy from the Central Office.

Be Involved
To conclude, SPSSI, a relatively small society, has a long history of involvement in social issues. As this update indicates, we remain energetic and effective. Please be in touch with me with any thoughts, questions, or ideas for your involvement with SPSSI. I’d love to hear from you. (

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