APA 2017 Convention: Thurs/Fri

Another convention done. What a whirlwind! First order of business – acquire ribbons. Second order of business – spend hours deciding what order to attach them to maximize visual appeal. (PS. How pretty is the SPSSI ribbon?! Well done, division 9.)

Now that we’ve covered the ribbons, here are a few of my favourite moments from days one and two.

One of the best things about convention is spending time with people that I don’t have the chance to see very often. This year I had a mini-reunion with my friend Jessica who lives in Chicago. She was invited to speak at the Alternative Careers program (bright and early Thursday morning!) about her work as a trial consultant and her adventure starting her own consulting firm. Exciting stuff! At the session we also heard from Eddy Ameen, speaking about the notion of “alternative” careers, Melissa Menzer about her job at the National Endowment for the Arts (I had no idea they did so much research!), and Jason Cantone about his work at the Federal Judicial Center (during which I learned the term “baby judge school”). It was a strong start to convention 🙂 Across the programs, the speakers discussed thinking about the transferable skills we gain during grad school and the various ways they can be applied in practical settings, conducting informational interviews (it never hurts to try!), advocating for yourself, pursuing varied (read: non-academic) experiences, and paying it forward when the time comes (and keeping an eye out for mentors in the meantime). Great stuff. Very early though, so I’m not sure how many students had arrived at convention yet.

The APAGS social is also a highlight for me as I have a chance to mingle with some of our great members and learn about different programs all over the US and Canada. This year I had some interesting conversations about the relative absence of training in (and substantive discussion of) spirituality and faith in many (most??) grad programs. At the schools that I have attended, discussions of faith have come up mostly when it related to a student’s research or personal experience, but wasn’t a huge component of my (clinical, and to a lesser extent, research) training. I wonder if this stems from the historical tensions between science and faith, and the division exacerbated by efforts to establish psychology as a “hard science,” through which alternative ways of knowing (e.g., qualitative methods) were maligned and disfavoured. Related to this, and because this year’s convention was in Washington, I wanted to give a quick nod to a local landmark – the Washington National Cathedral – that melds science and faith with its beautiful stained glass “Space Window” which is in honour of the lunar landing and has a piece of actual moon rock in it. Very cool.

On Friday, I participated in a panel on the graduate student experience within the neoliberal university climate. Preparing for this panel I did a bunch of reading on neoliberalism and the impact that this has on higher education. This was a new concept, but provided a framework, tying together a number of issues that I had already been thinking about with regard to higher education. The commodification of higher education, along with the positioning of students as entrepreneurs/consumers, and the increase in precarious employment in the higher ed sector creates a whole host of issues. I won’t touch on them here, and I’ve included a list of some of the books and articles that I found particularly illuminating at the bottom of this post, but I do want to say that I think that universities and colleges should be a point of resistance. Our institutions should protect critical thought, unpopular thought, and focus on educating citizens instead of pandering to private funders and treating education as nothing more than job training. This is a lofty goal, and as students and contract workers within this system, our power to make these changes may be limited at times. However, I encourage anyone who is involved with higher ed to remember how important and powerful education can be, and fight for this whenever possible. Anyway, rant over! The panel was super interesting and the discussion continued over lunch with some folks from the theory division.

APAGS also hosted a panel on the barriers of men of colour in graduate psychology presented by four men from the University of San Francisco. The panel was fantastic, well attended, and the discussion continued long past the hour (until we had to kick everyone out of the suite for a meeting!). Under-representation of men of colour in graduate psychology is a huge issue, with men of colour only representing 6% of all students in psych grad programs, and it seemed like there was a huge need for these discussions and for there to be safe spaces for these discussions to take place.

Friday night we said goodbye to our fearless leader, Convention Committee Chair Kelly Lee, and two of our members, Lora Henderson and Julio Brionez. The APAGS family also said goodbye to outgoing members of our other committees in a lovely Friday night event. Sad stuff, but it was an absolute privilege getting to know and work with them, and I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing them all in the future real soon 🙂

Unfortunately I had to miss the Food For Thought breakfasts with Dr. Alette Coble-Temple and Dr. Kevin Cokley, but I heard they were both FANTASTIC and will be watching them both on the APAGS Facebook page.

Neoliberalism – Further Reading: 

“When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know” (Navarro, 2017, p.6)

Davies, B., & Bansel, P. (2007). Neoliberalism and education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20(3), 247-259.

Di Leo, J. R., Giroux, H. A., McClennen, S. A., & Saltman, K. J. (2014). Neoliberalism, education, and terrorism: Contemporary dialogues. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Heller, H. (2016). The capitalist university: The transformations of higher education in the Unites States, 1945-2016. London, UK: Pluto Books

Navarro, T. (2017). But some of us are broke: Race, gender, and the neoliberalization of the academy. American Anthropologist, 1-12. doi: 10.1111/aman.12888



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