Feature

Each September, a new class of APA congressional fellows embarks on an exciting and often career-shaping year on Capitol Hill. Following an extensive orientation in public policy and the ways of Washington, fellows begin work with a member of Congress or a committee office.

The fellowship program offers considerable benefits for the fellows, as well as policymakers and the field of psychology. "The goal of the program is to foster a bidirectional educational experience in which policymakers benefit from the fellows' skills and psychological expertise, and fellows acquire an insider's view of the legislative process," says APA's Nida Corry, PhD, who directs the program. 

APA fellows are also able to explore unconventional — and rewarding — career paths and serve as ambassadors for psychology. "They have a long-lasting impact on the field by infusing public policy approaches and perspectives in their work throughout their careers," Corry says.

Here is a look at the achievements of the program's most recent alumni.

Edwin Tan, PhD

Office of Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif.

Tan is the Jacquelin Goldman Congressional Fellow, funded by the American Psychological Foundation through a bequest by Jacquelin Goldman, PhD, to support psychologists with expertise in child development.

Tan received his doctorate in psychology and social behavior from the University of California–Irvine. His previous experience includes work with Psychology Beyond Borders and investigating the role of parents in promoting children's adaptation and well-being.

As a fellow, Tan worked on portfolios in education, veterans' affairs, mental health and children's issues, and coordinated the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus. He says his training gave him an essential skill set that enabled him to be "methodical and analytical and to critically consider the implications of policy." For example, training under a social ecological perspective informed his work in education policy by helping Tan, in recommending wrap-around services, to consider the whole child and not just his or her cognitive abilities.

Tan encourages the scientific community to engage and share knowledge with policymakers. "There are so many competing interests that vie for both attention and money in our nation's capital," he says. "If you are not there to be a voice and advocate for what you believe in, your program may be underfunded or cut." 

The fellowship experience has led Tan to accept a permanent position in public policy as deputy district director in Honda's San Jose, Calif., office. 

Jacquelyn White, PhD

Office of Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

White is this year's Catherine Acuff Congressional Fellow, a position reserved for midcareer and senior-level psychologists.

She is professor emerita of psychology at the University of North Carolina–Greensboro (UNCG), where she served as psychology professor and associate dean for research in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. She earned her doctorate in personality and social psychology from Kent State University. Her research on gender issues, aggression and intimate partner violence has many significant implications for public policy.

White says that her work as a teacher, researcher and administrator "helped me feel more nimble at responding to the ever-shifting topics and activities that occur on the Hill." In particular, her academic research allowed her to work effectively and with confidence on DeGette's Research Participants Protection Modernization Act, which seeks to improve protections for human subjects. 

Among White's duties as a fellow were gathering data and developing talking points for a politically charged debate on the House floor for DeGette, a co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and a strong advocate for women's health.

After the fellowship, White continued her public policy work in the area of violence against women, in part through a position at UNCG as a research scientist in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development.

Micah A. Haskell-Hoehl is the administrator of APA's Congressional Fellowship Program and senior policy associate in APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office.

Spend a year working in the federal government

APA seeks applications for its Congressional Fellowship and Executive Branch Science Fellowship programs. These opportunities allow a select number of psychologists to spend a year in Washington, D.C., where they receive first-hand experience with federal policymaking and agency research and funding.

Congressional fellows work as special legislative assistants in congressional member or committee offices and engage in a range of policymaking activities. APA offers specialized congressional fellowships for midcareer/senior professionals, experts in health and behavior issues, and developmental and clinical psychologists with experience working with children.

Executive branch science fellows gain crucial experience in science policy and research coordination and funding working in a federal science agency.

Both programs offer a yearlong stipend and funds to support relocation, travel and the purchase of health insurance. For more information, visit Fellows or call the Public Interest Government Relations Office at (202) 336-5935 or the Science Government Relations office at (202) 336-5932.

Applications must be postmarked by Jan. 3.