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A New Beginning

Angel Colón Rivera
James Marshall Public Policy Scholar

Since the James Marshall Post-Doctoral fellowship began in 1983, it has helped train 16 early career psychologists to have an impact in the public policy arena.    Historically the Marshall fellow has been housed at APA and/or SPSSI.  As I begin my tenure as the 17th Marshall scholar, I step into a new model for the fellowship, in which the bulk of my training and policy exposure is being provided by an independent government agency.

The Marshall fellowship has been conceptualized to be, above all, a training opportunity for new scholars who wish to forward a social scientific agenda in the development of sound policy making.  Since I discovered that social scientists could have an impact on the policy making process, I have not looked back.  It has become my philosophy that if social policy is created to regulate human behavior, then it is the ethical duty of scientists who study human behavior to inform the process using science as a tool for social justice. 

I began my career down this path at the University of Puerto Rico’s Social-Community Psychology Program.  A program that I believe not only educates excellent researchers but also instills the spirit of advocacy and change at the very heart of its students.  During my time as a graduate student I also sought out other policy experiences including a joint summer policy fellowship with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and Nebraska Appleseed, as well as the 2009 SPSSI Dalmas Taylor Summer Minority Public Policy internship.  The mentoring these experiences provided me tailored the passion for advocacy into the knowledge of process.  I have since sought out opportunities to continue my involvement in the policy arena and bring out the voice of fellow social scientists.  This path has brought me back to SPSSI.

In an effort to increase SPSSI’s visibility among policy makers and create an experience to maximize the potential training value of the fellowship, SPSSI leadership agreed to collaborate this year with the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission (   This will enable me to get a different kind of experience than has been available to SPSSI’s previous fellows. The Commission is an independent agency of the federal government charged with monitoring and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, economic, environmental and military cooperation within the 56 member States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) including the United States. The Commission is chaired by a Senator and a Congressional Representative, and consists of nine commissioners’ from the Senate, nine from the House of Representatives and three Assistant Secretary level representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense, respectively. It contributes to the formulation of U.S. policy on the OSCE and maintains regular contact with parliamentarians, government officials, NGOs, and private individuals from other OSCE participating States.

As an organization that firmly believes and advocates for human rights around the world, the Commission shares strong ideological and philosophical similarities with SPSSI.  With issues ranging from labor migration and environmental human rights to human trafficking and xenophobia, many benefits can be anticipated as a result of this collaboration. The Commission gains the knowledge of a network of over 3,000 social scientists that make up the SPSSI enrollment and the Society gains another venue in which to play a part in shaping the issues being discussed at the international level.

I’ve just begun my tenure as the Marshall fellow and the possibilities it holds for helping me achieve my professional goals seem endless.  I look forward to the coming year as the James Marshall Post-Doctoral Public Policy fellow and the chances to reach out to many of you, who like me, believe in the mission of our organization. This is just a new beginning.

For questions and comments, please contact me at

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