Grading papers, writing abstracts, running data — it's all too easy to become hyper-focused on grad school's many responsibilities. But before you get buried in assignments, take a minute to consider the big picture: What we, as students, need to do to ensure policymakers understand how psychological research and training is critical to the nation's well-being. You may doubt that students can make a difference. I know I did. Then, as a first-year psychology grad student at Loyola University Maryland, I joined a group of students and psychologists who were trying to convince Maryland legislators to alter the laws governing the sequence of psychology training in the state. Eventually, we persuaded them to allow students who have accrued enough supervised training in grad school to practice psychology right after graduation. By eliminating the required postdoctoral year of training, they made it easier for students to become full-fledged psychologists, bringing therapy to underserved populations — and helping these new psychologists pay off their student loans more quickly.
I have also seen the power of graduate students demonstrated on a national level throughout this year. In October, an APAGS letter-writing campaign saved 22 psychology interns from being terminated in New York state. In February, APAGS won final approval from APA's Council of Representatives to launch its student-run journal, Translational Issues in Psychological Science, which will publish cutting-edge scientific review papers and give students the editorial training they need to be future journal editors and peer reviewers. We've also successfully lobbied for maintaining and expanding federal funding for internship positions through the Graduate Psychology Education program.
Though we still face many challenges — the internship crisis tops my list — it's clear that we students can move mountains when we work together.
So, before you dive into that sea of assignments, consider these ways to get involved this year:
Keep up with APAGS's efforts to advocate on behalf of students by joining our listservs and following us on Twitter or Facebook. Checking in just once a week can keep you abreast of what's going on in the field.
Lurking is fine, but you can really begin to get involved by joining in the conversation on listservs or Facebook. Contribute to the dialogue and make the process more robust and representative of diverse perspectives. And don't just chat with fellow students — contact your lawmakers and let them know why graduate psychology education is important to you.
Share your enthusiasm with your friends and colleagues. Ask their opinions on the latest issues in psychology and where they want to see the field advance. Encourage them to join their professional associations if they aren't members already. Invite them to join the listservs that you are on and bring the dialogue to life in your own program.
Join the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team as a campus representative. These representatives receive regular advocacy alerts and relay them to their programs, while also reporting their communities' concerns to APAGS representatives and other national psychology leaders.
Would you like to shape student-focused programming at APA's Annual Convention? Or perhaps you want to ensure that science-focused students' concerns are heard? Then apply to head an APAGS subcommittee or even run for elected office.
As you can see, there are many different ways to get involved, so it's easy to find a level of activism that suits you. Just remember, we can make a difference.
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