In recent years, psychology has made solid progress in recruiting more minorities to psychology graduate programs and to APA's membership, partly due to the efforts of APA's Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training in Psychology. The commission's 2008 report, "A Portrait of Success and Challenge Progress Report: 1997–2005," for example, found a 90 percent increase in the number of ethnic minorities who earned psychology master's degrees from 1996 and 2004, and a 36 percent increase in the number earning bachelor's degrees. The report also found that from 1997 to 2004, one-fifth APA's new members were ethnic minorities.

But those successes haven't been enough, said psychologists and students at a town hall meeting during APA's 2009 Annual Convention.

Sponsored by APA's Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention and Training in Psychology and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, the town hall had two goals: identifying the barriers to increased ethnic-minority participation in psychology and brainstorming possible solutions. Facilitator William Parham, PhD, was joined by panelists Fred Leong, PhD, Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, Dick Suinn, PhD, and Bertha Holliday, PhD, senior director of Ethnic Minority Affairs for APA.

Several key points emerged from the discussion:

  • While the statistics show growing numbers of minority students are studying psychology at the undergraduate and graduate level, the data show a slower growth in the numbers continuing on to doctoral-level study. In 2004, ethnic minorities earned 20 percent of EdD and PhD degrees in psychology, compared with 14 percent in 1996. In 2003, they constituted almost 20 percent of new enrollees in PsyD programs, compared with almost 19 percent in 1997. Between 1997 and 2001, new ethnic minority doctoral recipients decreased their participation in postdoctoral fellowships by 26 percent. In addition, ethnic minorities constituted only 12 percent of the nation's full-time psychology faculty in 2005.

    "The number of ethnic minorities on tenure track positions is still far below what we should have," Suinn said.

  • Psychology training programs need to better understand what motivates today's students, said Kermit Crawford, PhD, of the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

  • Training program supervisors need to look at their own professional development to ensure they are competent to work with diverse populations and that their interventions are evidence-based and effective. "Sometimes, students know more about diversity issues than their supervisors do," said Suzette L. Speight, PhD, a professor with the Collaborative Program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Akron.

  • Training programs need to look for new sources of funding to promote diversity recruitment and training.

  • Mentoring needs to be focused and sustained, with greater emphasis on helping students become financially literate. Mentors should provide more information detailing how individual practitioners and researchers from ethnic-minority backgrounds made it to their current level of success, and overcame barriers. According to Naoko Hashimoto, a student at Fordham University, not enough information about how to foster connections with mentors is reaching ethnic-minority students, even though there are many resources available.

    To improve the situation, programs need to become more competent at providing guidance to students on topics beyond coursework and training requirements, to broader topics such as how to become active in APA divisions, Hashimoto said.

    "There's some kind of disconnect there," she said.