The Diversity Initiative and the State Leadership Conference 2013: Leadership, Connection and Support

The Diversity Initiative and the SLC have been extremely successful in involving ethnic minority psychologists in membership and leadership positions, in facilitating the growth and development of leadership skills for many psychologists from diverse backgrounds, and in enhancing diversity within governance at the state and national levels.

By Takako Suzuki, PhD, and Phyllis Bolling, PhD

The origin of the Diversity Initiative of the Committee of State Leaders (CSL) dates back to 1994, when APA’s president worked with the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA) to establish a Commission on Ethnic Minority Retention, Recruitment and Training in Psychology (CEMRRAT), and funds were allocated by the APA Council of Representatives (COR) to carry out the goals and recommendations of the commission. From these funds, OEMA made several small grants available to state, provincial and territorial psychological associations (SPTAs) to promote ethnic/racial diversity initiatives. Due to insufficient funds, the committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP) provided matching funds. From these beginnings, the Committee of State Leaders (CSL) originated the current Diversity Initiative. Through grants, the initiative sought to develop diversity within governance at the state level by supporting the participation of ethnic minority members of SPTAs to the State Leadership Conference (SLC). The first Diversity Delegates (DDs) came to SLC in 2000 and to date; approximately 200 DDs have participated in SLC.
In recent years, the original focus of the initiative was broadened from ethnic minority psychologists to include the diverse groups recognized in APA’s overall definition of diversity which includes race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender, age disability, class status, education and religious/spiritual orientation. However OEMA’s portion of the funding is designated for ethnic minority psychologists only.

Since its inception, where 13 DDs participated, the number of DDs attending SLC has continued to grow and the initiative itself has also grown. Changes include: the creation of the Diversity Liaison position and inclusion of an APAGS/Division 31 DD, and in 2009, the Diversity Liaison began serving as a full voting member of CSL, and the Chair of the CSL's Diversity Subcommittee, which addresses diversity programming for the SLC.

The Diversity Initiative and the SLC have been extremely successful in involving ethnic minority psychologists in membership and leadership positions, in facilitating the growth and development of leadership skills for many psychologists from diverse backgrounds and in enhancing diversity within governance at the state and national levels. A general review of past records reveals that to date, approximately 30 percent of the 200 total DDs have moved into elected leadership positions in their home SPTAs and/or within APA committees, sections or divisions, of which over 40 percent have become president/president-elect of their SPTAs.

This year, the Diversity Sub-committee of the CSL selected and funded 20 DDs. In addition, seven DDs were funded by their own SPTAs. Thus a total of 27 DDs were selected, of which 26, plus the Diversity Liaison from 24 states attended the 2013 SLC.

There are several events that are the highlight of the 2013 Diversity Initiative program. The program began with the Pre-SLC Diversity Recognition Award dinner which was attended by a record of 50 individuals (26 DDs and 24 supporters/guests including leaders of the CSL and APA). New DDs were matched with experienced DDs, and participants had opportunities to get to know each other and network. The highlight of the dinner was the presentation of the Diversity Recognition Award. This year, the award was presented to Josephine D. Johnson, PhD, Member at Large of APA BOD and COR from Div. 42, for her longstanding history of contributions to the SLC Diversity Initiative. Past Recognition awardees include: Bertha G. Holliday, PhD; Melba Vasquez, PhD; Jennifer Kelly, PhD and Alberto Figueroa-Garcia, MBA. The Dinner is traditionally sponsored by OEMA, and this year additional funding was received from several Public Interest Directorate offices (SES, WPO and Office of the Executive Director of PID). We are very grateful for all of their generous contributions.

The DDs’ orientation session included two breakout groups to address diversity initiatives: “Developing and Implementing Diversity Initiatives within your SPTA” facilitated by Cathy McDaniels Wilson, PhD, past DD and APA Board of Professional Affairs and “Difficult Dialogues” facilitated by Melba Vasquez, PhD, past APA president. We were fortunate to have the support of these leaders who shared their experiences, wisdom and guidance to facilitate the development of DDs in becoming effective leaders. We continued to discuss and exchange ideas such as how to create a Diversity Committee, and issues related to establishing a Cultural Competence CE Requirement for state licensure throughout SLC.

A major highlight of the 2013 SLC was the diversity workshop where a distinguished panel of diverse leaders in APA and SPTAs (Norman Anderson, PhD, CEO of APA; Jennifer Kelly, PhD, ABPP, recording secretary, APA BOD; Mabel Lam, PhD, member-at-large, CSL; president, MPA; Sandra L. Shullman, PhD, chair, APA Good Governance Project; and Discussant: Dinelia Rosa, PhD, Division 31 representative, CSL; president-elect of NYSPA) shared their rich experiences in taking leadership positions and navigating the complex issues and challenges of diversity and leadership. The workshop included a lively audience response in which the desire to have opportunities to dialogue on various diversity topics was expressed. Participant comments were greatly appreciated and we are delighted to continue efforts to provide opportunities where people from diverse backgrounds come together to exchange honest opinions in an authentic manner in order to advance the field of psychology.

DDs were also visible in their participation at the State Leaders' Town Hall and CSL Elections meeting. This year DDs expressed the need to infuse diversity in all the workshops and presentations at SLC and requested that CSL discuss with CAPP how to address this issue. We also supported the nomination and election of Felicia Smith (former DD and president of Kentucky Psychological Association) for the member-at-large position in CSL and she won. The KPA and Smith were also honored as the recipient of the SLC SPTA Diversity Award.

Although SLC's schedule is tight, DDs often make time for networking and connection — hanging out together in the evening after dinner and/or for breakfast or lunch when possible. Attending the SLC as a DD is a rich and rewarding experience where a strong bond is established with DDs and allies for many years to come.

Information on the Diversity Initiative will be available on the Division 31 website under Diversity Initiative in the near future.