Volume 47 Number 4 
Fall 2014

Living Community Psychology

Written by Gloria Levin

“Living Community Psychology” highlights a community psychologist through an in-depth interview that is intended to depict both personal and professional aspects of the featured individual. The intent is to personalize Community Psychology as it is lived by its diverse practitioners.

Meg Bond

For this installment, we profile a community psychologist who has long and ably served the profession. Widely recognized for her promotion of gender and ethnic diversity through her advocacy, research and teaching, learn how she came to that mission.

Meg Bond, PhD
Professor, University of Massachusetts
Lowell, MA

Meg was born in Pasadena, CA, the third of 4 children, to an attorney and a stay at home mom. Undoubtedly, her parents’ community involvement and commitment to social diversity influenced her greatly. While growing up, her father George, a skilled problem solver, was engaged in community boards and with the public school system. He was active in city-wide efforts at school integration and resultant busing issues. He had grown up on a farm but had a business orientation. Always a hard worker, when he was still in high school, he and his mother founded a business, Bond’s Ice Cream, which was well known in northern New Jersey. Meg’s mother, Winnie, was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where her father worked for the YMCA to promote community development through youth involvement in sports.  After age 5, Winnie grew up in Mt Vernon, NY, where she was valedictorian of her high school class.

Her parents met as scholarship students at Swarthmore College during World War II. Winnie came to Quaker-affiliated Swarthmore as a Quaker, but George Bond was a non-Quaker. When selecting a church for their family, they eventually negotiated the difference by affiliating with the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, chosen because of the minister’s commitment to community service. Both parents were very bright and well read. After graduation, her father served in the Navy, and her mother entered a Radcliffe College certificate program in personnel management. During that year, she was placed in a practicum at a factory, working on an assembly line so as to learn about work life from the inside. Winnie’s cohort was among the first women to break through the glass ceiling. However, she never worked for a paycheck, instead raising four children.

Meg’s sister was the oldest by seven years, followed by a brother, Meg four years later, and a second brother two years younger. Although raised in a Caucasian neighborhood, Meg attended local secondary schools which were both economically- and racially-mixed. Her high school’s student body included about 40% African Americans, 40% Caucasians, and the rest were primarily Japanese and Mexican. Thus, she was in a racial minority throughout much of her schooling. Her parents were very committed to public education and wanted their children to experience a diverse environment. In fact, the theme of Meg’s 1970 salutatorian speech was the value of being in a diverse school setting, foreshadowing her later career focus.

She tried to do it all in high school, academically and socially. She was involved in student government, a leader in several clubs, on the homecoming court and a cheerleader, actively involved in many diverse roles. Although Meg was a straight-A student, she attributed that accomplishment to hard work rather than natural brilliance. The Bond children all knew they were destined for college. “My big family rebellion was to go to Stanford rather than to Swarthmore which was attended by my parents and both brothers.”

At Stanford, she had the rude awakening of lacking an adequate academic grounding, struggling at first. Having gone to an urban public school, she found herself behind her private school classmates. “But I finally figured it out, with a lot of hard work.” She eventually declared as a psychology major but had no concept that she could ever obtain a PhD in that field. “I still lacked confidence in my abilities.” Her plan was to work after college and then go to law school.

By sheer happenstance, in the fall of her senior year, a friend jolted her by asking about her applications to psychology graduate schools. She had never given it a thought. “My thinking was so simplistic at the time. I wanted to be a lawyer so I could help people. Psychologists help people. Ergo, maybe I should be a psychologist.” Last minute, she scrambled to apply to clinical psychology programs, assuming that was the only route in psychology to “helping.” Her applications must have revealed her lack of focus because, although she graduated from Stanford with distinction, she was rejected from all but one program – the University of Oregon. And she had only applied there because they imposed no application fee. Happily, Oregon’s offer included four years of funding, “so I thought, what the hell, I accept!”

Meg betrayed her lack of serious intent during orientation to graduate school, when she asked (the source of later teasing by her classmates): “Can I take physical education and can I take a leave of absence?”

Her grades at Oregon were strong, but, having come to graduate school straight from college, she came to believe that she lacked the kind of focus and life experience, at age 22, to take on the serious responsibilities of a clinical psychologist. Her only jobs had been temporary summer jobs. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt almost unethical, feeling I needed more life experience before advising others about their lives.”

After her second year, she took a two-year leave of absence. In 1976, dropping out of school was more common than it is today. She obtained a terminal master’s degree but left herself the option to return, which she fully intended. She moved to Colorado, first working as a counselor at Planned Parenthood and then as a counselor at a residential treatment center for adolescent girls.

Meg acknowledges the irony of having left school on account of not feeling competent to do clinical work, yet ending up working in two difficult clinical situations. She explains, however, that she was not working as a traditional clinician, was part of a team, had supervision available from an experienced staff and joined a feminist therapy network in Denver. “I felt capable because I was operating more within my realm of experience.” While in Colorado, she was politically active, helping to organize a conference in Denver on feminist therapy.

After two years in Colorado, her University gave her an ultimatum: Return now or lose your funding. She was ready to resume school, aiming to be a child clinician “because that’s what women did.” Happily, the psychology faculty had changed in the interim, “from mostly squabbling, middle aged white men who could not get along with each other,” to a more community focused approach. Her first advisor was Lonnie Snowden and, upon her return, she took Jim Kelly’s Social Adaptation course that involved an in-depth, community-based project – developing a curriculum on preventing sexism. She strongly resonated with the community approach as a way to merge her political instincts with her education. “This was a degree that would work for me,” she thought. She became a community/clinical student, with an emphasis on social system change. As a teaching assistant to an organizational psychologist, she helped design a course in systems change.

Meg returned to Denver, to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, for her clinical internship, 1981-2. Although it was advertised as having a community component, it instead was a traditional clinical, mostly psychoanalytic, placement. This exposed her to a whole new world; however, Meg found much value from the internship. She found it useful to a community psychologist to pay serious attention to microdynamic interactions with others, especially from analyzing, line by line, tapes of her therapy sessions. Meg maintains her licensure as a clinical psychologist to this day, although she does not practice.

Her dissertation was based on a comparative case study design, comparing women’s social networks in Junior League chapters with those among members of boards of directors of feminist, battered women’s shelters. The methodological reputation of her dissertation advisor, Robyn Dawes, a highly-regarded experimental social psychologist, lent needed credibility to her argument that her design was the most appropriate for the questions she was addressing.

Meg moved to Chicago after her internship, where she collected two more organizational cases for her dissertation, and was employed full time by the state-funded Illinois Institute for Developmental Disabilities (IIDD), affiliated with the University of Illinois/Chicago. She was successively supervised by two community psychologists, Cary Cherniss and Chris Keys. Her team provided organizational development consultation and management training to DD agencies all over Illinois. Although she operated as a practitioner there, the Institute gave her access to the resources needed to finish her dissertation. She obtained her Ph.D. in 1983. Following completion of her dissertation, she became active, eventually serving as president for two years, on the board of a feminist shelter that had been part of her study.

During her six years in Chicago, she became increasingly active in SCRA. From 1983-7, she co-chaired the Women’s Committee, first with Jean Ann Linney and then with Anne D’Ercole. Building on prior committee work, to identify barriers to women’s professional development, they learned that 25% of women SCRA members surveyed reported being sexually harassed when they were graduate students. “The issue got a lot of traction within the field,” she remembers. “Women came to understand they were not alone, and men leaders were challenged to pay more attention to these concerns.”

While the prospect of pursuing an academic career had never occurred to her, Meg very much enjoyed adjunct teaching and research, having experienced the social relevance of research when working on the issue of sexual harassment. In 1989, Meg married and moved with her husband to Boston, where they both worked for a private psychiatric hospital. However, she was turned off by the hospital’s lack of a true community oriented approach and left to teach at Lesley College, a teaching college for women which valued her practical experience.

At the time of her interview at Lesley, she was newly pregnant with her first child, daughter Arlyn. Once her pregnancy became obvious, the College dropped the full time job offer to half time, claiming a “misunderstanding.” (“Always get the offer in writing, before you tell them you are pregnant,” she advises.) She taught in the management and human services departments. However, her position was abruptly cut from the budget while she was on maternity leave, leaving her with an infant but no job.

Fortunately, the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (UML) announced an opening for an assistant professor in community psychology at the exact time she arrived on the job market, late in the traditional hiring season. The fit was good from the start, and Meg has now been there for 26 years, rising to Full Professor. Along the way, she had a second child, Erik.

In 1998, the Dean asked Meg and economist Jean Pyle to co-direct the university’s Center for Women and Work (CWW), upon the death of its founder. When Jean retired, Meg became the sole director of the Center, assisted by a multi-disciplinary leadership team. CWW has grown into a vibrant research center which focuses on gendered conditions of work. (See CWW raises most of its own funds through contracts and grants and recently received a few large grants, one from the National Science Foundation to promote women in academic STEM careers.

Meg’s primary position is as a Professor in the Psychology Department, now teaching 2 courses per semester, and engaged in multiple research projects which continue to focus on gender and race/ethnicity, always with an applied focus. She was brought into one of her longest term projects with a manufacturing firm by one of her prior students. She applied a community psychology perspective in this organizational consultation with the firm, as captured in an ecological case study that she published as a book, Workplace Chemistry: Promoting Diversity through Organizational Change (2007).

Although she finds UML to be a “great fit for applied scholarship,” she was desirous of energizing experiences outside of her own workplace. She affiliated with and has taken sabbaticals at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center which she cites as a model – “an amazingly supportive community of scholars and activists.” There, she is a Resident Scholar where she interacts with a wide range of approximately 60 colleagues.

Meg has been a continual stalwart for SCRA, serving several terms on SCRA’s Executive Committee and multiple terms on journal editorial boards. In addition to membership on and chairing of multiple working committees and task forces over the years, she was elected SCRA’s Member at Large (1988-91), Secretary (1992-95), and President (1997-98), all the while advocating for greater diversity within SCRA. In 2009, Meg was awarded SCRA’s ethnic minority mentoring award. She currently chairs SCRA’s Publications Committee.

She has served in similar leadership positions for SPSSI and APA. Meg is actively involved in APA governance, including representing SCRA on APA’s Council of Representatives. She served as chair of the APA Committee on Women and is currently on the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI). More recently, APA invited Meg and her long-time colleagues, Chris Keys and Irma Serrano-García, to co-edit a handbook of community psychology which will include a daunting 63 chapters.

Meg’s vita is thick with her publications, conference presentations, consultations, community advisory boards, trainings and evaluations. Her main areas of expertise include diversity within workplaces and professions, workplace climate, feminist issues, collaboration and empowerment. But her overall philosophy can be found in her invited presidential address at the 1998 APA annual meeting, “Gender, race, and class in organizational contexts.” She describes her approach to advocacy as “connected disruption,” grounded in her belief that “in order to advocate for change, it helps to both respect and establish a connection with those you hope to nudge in a different direction. You can respect someone even if you feel they are terribly misguided. And establishing connection helps to enable the kind of disruption that change involves.”

When asked how she keeps organized and focused, given her large number of responsibilities, Meg explains her time management system, based on creating “abundant lists and re-organizing them constantly. Every year, I start a new notebook in which I prioritize, and continually reprioritize, a running list of tasks. I could spend my whole day answering emails if I didn’t stay focused on setting priorities.”

High on her list of priorities is her involvement with her children. Mirroring her parents’ example, the Madsen-Bonds chose to live in a liberal, diverse community, Cambridge, MA. Like her parents, she was active in her community’s school system. Like her own high school experience, her children were an ethnic minority in their high school. And like her, what her children lacked in academic grounding in high school, they more than gained in life lessons about the broader world. “I figured that they could always catch up academically, but they could never duplicate in adulthood their diverse educational experience.”

Arlyn lives near Meg (close enough to exercise together at the same gym), having gone to school in Chile and taught with Teach for America in a Mexican immigrant community in Chicago. She has a master’s degree and is an ESL specialist in a public school in Lawrence, MA. Erik spent a semester in Rwanda due to his interest in international conflict situations. He recently graduated from Carleton College and now works in their theater department. Meg’s parents are both deceased. Her siblings’ paths are diverse – a teacher and child-care provider, a class action attorney and a poet.                                                                                                                  

Join Meg in Lowell, Massachusetts in June 2015 to engage in “connected disruption” at SCRA’s biennial conference (marking the 50th anniversary of community psychology), to be held at her University.

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