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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 53, Number 4 Fall 2020

Student Issues

Edited by Camilla Cummings, DePaul University

SCRA Transitions

Written by Jessica S. Saucedo, Michigan State University

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Hello to all SCRA members!

Before I introduce myself and my goals as a student representative, I would like to acknowledge the land that I currently occupy, which is now known as East Lansing, Michigan. The following statement was written and approved to be published in printed material by the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program at Michigan State University (MSU).Hello to all SCRA members! 

I acknowledge that MSU occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. In particular, the University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. I recognize, support, and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally recognized American Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. By offering this Land Acknowledgement, I affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold MSU [and SCRA] more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.

It is important that we be mindful of the past and present history of colonialism, reflect upon the land we occupy, and be intentional in our actions to be supportive of Indigenous and all people.

I am delighted to have been voted into the student representative position, as this opportunity allows me to amplify student voices on the SCRA Executive Committee (EC), work towards reparations and justice in my role on the EC, and opportunities to develop professionally. I am currently pursuing my PhD in Ecological /Community Psychology at MSU and completed my undergraduate studies in Psychology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I am #CSUmade! My research interests broadly include addressing community-identified health disparities among Native American, Indigenous, and Latinx communities through prevention, intervention, and evaluation. My current work explores Native culture and language as buffers against obesity among 2- to 4-year old children enrolled in Tribal Head Start programs across the United States.

In the process of writing my letter of intent of running for the position, it was a priority for me to think critically about how I can meet the needs of national and international undergraduate and graduate students. Since submitting my letter of intent, many events—internal and external to SCRA—have occurred that have impacted how I view my role as a student representative on the SCRA EC. With that being said, my goals since writing my letter of intent have become more specific. As a first-generation, Chicana student who comes from a low-income family, I find it extremely important to intentionally uplift the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as those with additional identities, into all spaces and conversations. While having the lives of BIPOC colleagues across the United States and internationally in mind, my goals for the next two years:

  • Work closely with SCRA members and the EC to establish a sustainable, positive racial climate within the organization. A top priority of mine is to assist in working towards organizational racial healing to foster sustainable positive racial relations.
  • Amplify undergraduate and graduate student priorities while working with the EC. I hope to organize virtual meetings for students to share their challenges in and out of SCRA with Camilla and me. The information shared will help inform Camilla and I advocate for solutions students seek. It is important for students to be included and feel that their involvement in SCRA is acknowledged, valued, and taken into account by the organization and its members.
  • Increase the visibility of community psychology among undergraduate students by connecting and collaborating with undergraduate student organizations at various universities, with and without community psychology programs. Before applying to graduate school, I had not heard of community psychology if it wasn’t for my mentor. Thank you, Dr. Morales! With that said, it is important that undergraduate students be presented the opportunity to learn more about our field sooner rather than later. As Camilla, the second-year student representative, once told me, “Just because there isn’t a community psychology program at a school does not mean there aren’t students doing community work.” Thanks, Camilla!
  • Facilitate creating a stronger SCRA student community. In addition to hosting events where students can share their challenges, I hope to organize virtual community-building events where students have an opportunity to extend their networks, get to know each other, receive communal support, and celebrate professional and personal wins.
  • Advocate for transparency of all actions and processes that occur at all levels. SCRA is an organization that remains active and prospers through the support of its members, all members should have accessibility to actions and decisions conducted by the organization.
  • Continue the work of my predecessors and promote initiatives to support student travel grants and thesis and dissertation awards. It is immensely important that students are supported to develop professionally through attending conferences, and SRs can have a role in reducing barriers for students.

My outlined goals align well with the work Joy and Camilla have focused on achieving during their tenure. I plan to continue the good work Joy and Camilla have done, while emphasizing the importance of elevating the needs of BIPOC students and colleagues.

I am immensely thankful for Camilla for being wonderful to work with from the start. I think we will work well together to support students throughout the year. I am also thankful for my colleague and friend, Tatiana Elisa Bustos, for her continuous encouragement to step out of my comfort zone since my first day in graduate school. Lastly, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve SCRA student members through collaboration with the EC. 

SCRA is a great organization with a great vision: “[It] will have a strong, global impact on enhancing well-being and promoting social justice for all people by fostering collaboration where there is division and empowerment where there is oppression.” I look forward to supporting the vision of SCRA and advocating for all student members, especially BIPOC students. It is of utmost importance for both Camilla and I to hear from students, so please feel free to connect with one of us. As student representatives, we want to listen to students’ ideas, concerns, comments, and questions!

SCRA Transitions: Aligning with our Values

Written by Joy Agner, University of Hawai‛i at Mānoa

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Dear SCRA Community,

For the past two years I have served as one of the SCRA Student Representatives (SR) alongside two impressive, compassionate, hardworking, justice-oriented students: Erin Godly-Reynolds and Camilla Cummings. As I transition out of this role I would like to share a bit about what Iʻve come to appreciate about SCRA, my accomplishments as a SR, and my hopes for our organization in the future, specifically in terms of addressing student wellness and ableism.

One of the highlights of this postion has been getting to know SCRA students from around the country and around the world. I am consistently impressed by the academic and social justice work that students complete despite the multiple constraints of being a graduate student. When I began, my main goal was to increase resources for SCRA students in the form of research and travel funding. In collaboration with fellow SRs, I successfully advocated to raise the award amount for student research and travel grants, increase the number of grants, and amended the reimbursement process to make it less onerous for students who receive the awards to collect the funds. In total, we oversaw the allocation and disbursment of $13,000 to 26 SCRA students for research or conference travel. Other SR duties included serving as The Community Psychologist editor for the student column, advocating for students on the executive committee (EC), hosting student-focused events, and soliciting student feedback and sharing it with SCRA. Communicating with students, and meeting with many of them at the Biennial, engergized me and filled me with hope and optimism for the future of our field. As an SR I learned that funding for student grants has consistently been one of the largest budget items for SCRA. This indicates a commitment to contribute to student growth.

While acknowledging that commitment, I would like to encourage greater attention within SCRA to structural factors that impact student health and wellness. It’s no secret that graduate students suffer poor psychological and physical health outcomes. Students are in relatively low power positions with chronic stress. Many juggle mutiple responsibilities as a parent or caregiver and student, or work multiple jobs outside their department in order to survive. Some have no health insurance or sick leave. Some have harmful or abusive mentors and little or no options for safe grievance processes. Nearly all experience fiancial insecurity based on meager student wages, and for some, this leads to housing and food insecurity.

Students are responding to these inequities around the country and around the world by attempting to unionize, striking, and truly putting themselves at risk for retribution. The potential impacts of backlash are higher for students of color, those with chronic conditions or who are living in poverty, women, first-generation students, and low-income students. Therefore, SCRA leaders, particularly senior scholars and practitioners who have higher power and security,should be at the forefront of movements to support student on a meaningful scale. If we make structural changes within our own professional organization, departments and universities (e.g. opportunities for collective bargaining, meaningful grievance policies for abusive situations, etc.) and promote cultures that enhance wellness within academic departments, we will have been successful as a field. Otherwise, we will tout a set of values that we are not actualizing in the places where we have the most power and influence – our own departments and professional organization.

Through my position as an SR I have also become aware of ableism within our organization, and I hope to see a serious attempt to address it in the future. In the last Biennial feedback survey, several students raised concerns about accessibility. Navigation between buildings, visual accessibility of slides, auditory acessibility during presentations and mobility during lunch and poster sessions were all raised as issues by students. When I shared these findings with the disability listserv I received responses from members who had stopped attending Biennials due to the lack of accessibility. Despite our stated attention to diversity and value for inclusion, there are people within our organization who still cannot physically access our conferences. This is a major issue that is solveable and inexcusable in 2020.

I raise these issues because I see SCRA as an intellectual and professional community that I want to be a part of, and I think we can do better. My time on the EC has made me believe in the potential of this organization, but serving in this role was emotionally challenging and stressful at times. While serving as an advocate, I also occupied the lower power position as a student. However, I am inspired by several SCRA members and leaders, at mulitple career levels and from multiple backgrounds, who are working for meaningful change within our organization. I am heartened by those working for racial justice and bravely pointing out internal work we need to do. As I step out of this role, I welcome Jessica Saucedo as the new SR, and I hope to continue working alongside her and others who are ready for our organization to become more just, more equitable, more uplifting, and more aligned with our stated values. Thank you to every student and SCRA member who is and has been doing this work.