Volume 53   Number 3 Summer 2020

Regional Network News

Edited by Christina Smith, University of Chicago and National Louis University – Regional Network Coordinator

News from the Midwest Region U.S.


Melissa Ponce Rodas, Andrews University; and Tonya Hall, Chicago State University

When‌ ‌One‌ ‌Door‌ ‌Closes‌ ‌New‌ ‌Opportunity‌ ‌Opens:‌ ‌The‌ ‌First‌ ‌Virtual‌ ‌MPA‌ ‌Conference‌ 

Written‌ ‌by‌ ‌Amber‌ ‌Kelly‌, Community Engagement Collective 

On‌ ‌an‌ ‌annual‌ ‌basis‌ ‌students‌ ‌and‌ ‌professionals‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌field‌ ‌of‌ ‌community‌ ‌psychology‌ ‌present‌ their‌ ‌work‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌Midwestern‌ ‌Psychological‌ ‌Association;‌ ‌however,‌ ‌due‌ ‌to‌ ‌COVID-19,‌ ‌the‌ ‌in-person‌ ‌meeting‌ ‌was‌ ‌canceled.‌  
A‌ ‌passionate‌ ‌team‌ ‌decided‌ ‌to‌ ‌take‌ ‌on‌ ‌moving‌ ‌the‌ ‌conference‌ ‌to‌ ‌an‌ ‌online‌ ‌format‌ ‌as‌ ‌opposed‌ ‌to‌ accepting‌ ‌the‌ ‌cancellation.‌ ‌Community‌ ‌Engagement‌ ‌Collective,‌ ‌Society‌ ‌for‌ ‌Community‌ ‌Research‌ ‌and‌ ‌Action,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Midwestern‌ ‌Psychological‌ ‌Association‌ ‌collaborated‌ ‌to‌ ‌create‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌MPA‌ ‌SCRA‌ ‌Virtual‌ ‌Conference.‌ ‌The‌ ‌endeavor‌ ‌required‌ ‌consistent‌ ‌planning‌ ‌and‌ ‌swift‌ ‌movement‌ ‌because‌ ‌other‌ ‌conferences‌ ‌could‌ ‌potentially‌ ‌conflict.‌ ‌Timing‌ ‌was‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌essence.‌ ‌The‌ ‌dedication‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌planning‌ ‌team‌ ‌Amber‌ ‌Kelly,‌ ‌Tonya‌ ‌Hall,‌ ‌Chris‌ ‌Smith,‌ ‌Moshood‌ ‌Olanrewaju,‌ ‌Jean‌ ‌Hill,‌ ‌Susan‌ ‌Torres-Harding,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Michael‌ ‌Bernstein‌ ‌helped‌ ‌to‌ ‌steer‌ ‌the‌ ‌conference‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌right‌ ‌direction.‌ 
Although‌ ‌our‌ ‌movements‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌prompt,‌ ‌we‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌that‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌conference‌ accepted‌ ‌presentations‌ ‌shared‌ ‌our‌ ‌enthusiasm.‌ ‌After‌ ‌multiple‌ ‌confirmations,‌ ‌we‌ ‌drafted‌ ‌a‌ ‌schedule‌ ‌that‌ ‌would‌ ‌allow‌ ‌for‌ ‌attendees‌ ‌to‌ ‌share‌ ‌their‌ ‌work‌ ‌virtually.‌ ‌With‌ ‌a‌ ‌majority‌ ‌of‌ ‌events‌ ‌transitioning‌ ‌to‌ ‌online,‌ ‌the‌ ‌options‌ ‌for‌ ‌platforms‌ ‌were‌ ‌not‌ ‌slim.‌ ‌Zoom‌ ‌was‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌fit‌ ‌for‌ ‌our‌ ‌program.‌ ‌Although,‌ ‌in‌ ‌theory,‌ ‌this‌ ‌appeared‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌simple,‌ ‌there‌ ‌were‌ ‌more‌ ‌logistics‌ ‌to‌ ‌consider‌ ‌(e.g.,‌ ‌team‌ ‌coverage‌ ‌during‌ ‌each‌ ‌session,‌ ‌zoom‌ ‌features‌ ‌to‌ ‌use,‌ ‌and‌ ‌prevention‌ ‌of‌ ‌zoom‌ ‌bombing).‌  
Our‌ ‌biggest‌ ‌questions‌ ‌included:‌ ‌How‌ ‌could‌ ‌we‌ ‌create‌ ‌a‌ ‌sense‌ ‌of‌ ‌community‌ ‌online?‌ ‌Will‌ attendees‌ ‌feel‌ ‌like‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌able‌ ‌to‌ ‌share‌ ‌their‌ ‌work‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌professional‌ ‌format?‌ ‌Our‌ ‌weekly‌ ‌meetings‌ ‌strived‌ ‌to‌ ‌develop‌ ‌responses‌ ‌to‌ ‌these‌ ‌questions‌ ‌that‌ ‌were‌ ‌positive,‌ ‌then‌ ‌our‌ ‌cultural‌ ‌climate‌ ‌drastically‌ ‌changed.‌ 
The‌ ‌death‌ ‌of‌ ‌George‌ ‌Floyd‌ ‌caused‌ ‌our‌ ‌committee‌ ‌to‌ ‌consider‌ ‌how‌ ‌we‌ ‌can‌ ‌leverage‌ ‌our‌ ‌field‌ during‌ ‌this‌ ‌time‌ ‌of‌ ‌uncertainty.‌ ‌We‌ ‌shifted‌ ‌our‌ ‌program‌ ‌to‌ ‌include‌ ‌a‌ ‌panel‌ ‌and‌ ‌community‌ ‌discussion‌ ‌"Race‌ ‌Matters:‌ ‌Even‌ ‌During‌ ‌COVID-19".‌ ‌The‌ ‌diverse‌ ‌panel‌ ‌included‌ ‌multiple‌ ‌community‌ ‌psychologists‌ ‌who‌ ‌could‌ ‌share‌ ‌insight‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌issues.‌ ‌Many‌ ‌thanks‌ ‌to‌ ‌Leonard‌ ‌Jason,‌ ‌Johnny‌ ‌Mullins,‌ ‌Ericka‌ ‌Mingo,‌ ‌Geri‌ ‌Palmer,‌ ‌Rafael‌ ‌Rivera,‌ ‌Dominique‌ ‌Thomas,‌ ‌La'Shawn‌ ‌Littrice,‌ ‌Gina‌ ‌Curry,‌ ‌Judah‌ ‌Viola,‌ ‌Brad‌ ‌Olson,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Psychologists‌ ‌for‌ ‌Social‌ ‌Responsibility‌ ‌for‌ ‌your‌ ‌support.‌  
Panelists‌ ‌sharing‌ ‌their‌ ‌wisdom‌ ‌was‌ ‌not‌ ‌enough;‌ ‌there‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌time‌ ‌needed‌ ‌for‌ ‌reflection‌ ‌and‌ connection.‌ ‌The‌ ‌small‌ ‌group‌ ‌discussions‌ ‌offered‌ ‌an‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌for‌ ‌engaging‌ ‌virtually.‌ ‌The‌ ‌last‌ ‌session‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌reception‌ ‌filled‌ ‌with‌ ‌poetry‌ ‌and‌ ‌live‌ ‌music,‌ ‌giving‌ ‌attendees‌ ‌a‌ ‌chance‌ ‌to‌ ‌relax‌ ‌after‌ ‌our‌ ‌first‌ ‌MPA‌ ‌SCRA‌ ‌Virtual‌ ‌Conference.‌ 
How‌ ‌did‌ ‌we‌ ‌do?‌

Throughout the day, 94 people attended the conference participating in six roundtables, 14 posters, one-panel discussion, one community discussion, and one reception. 

Forty-three percent (43%) of attendees shared their feedback.  Here are the highlights

 95% of attendees rated the conference as excellent or very good

  • 51% of attendees shared this was their first time participating in MPA SCRA
  • 95% of attendees indicated they would attend a virtual MPA SCRA in the future

 "Since I am not in the US, this online conference allowed me to connect with community action researchers in the US very easily, which helped me a lot. Thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity."

 "I applaud MPA SCRA for presenting this conference in such a challenging time of global health, fear, and unrest. It was fascinating to see how fluid it is to use a virtual medium for a conference and inspires me to share this virtual platform delivery with others. People from all over the world, from most economic backgrounds and on crazy personal schedules, can participate. Huge asset. I attend a lot of conferences, and this virtual one had the same feel. Thank you for being one of the many groups that are pioneering pandemic versions of this medium."

 Check out videos from the conference posted on SCRA's YouTube page.

 What's next? 

As a field, as a community, let's continue to find ways to engage with others. Now is not the time to be silent or still but find ways to use your strengths to be an asset during one of the most challenging times in history.

Building a Post-Prison Higher Education Community in Washington

Christopher Beasley, University of Washington TacomaBeasley_JLUSA_Headshot.jpg

Of higher education inequities in the U.S., formerly imprisoned students are among the greatest. In fact, only about 4% of these individuals complete a bachelor’s degree compared to about 30% of the general population. The only other similarly inequitable demographic is former foster care youth, of whom just under 2% obtain bachelor’s degrees (Pecora et al., 2007). Other higher education inequities tend to be in the range of 12-16% for this degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017; Ingels et al., 2012; McFarland et al., 2018). 

While there appears to be a marked higher education inequity for formerly incarcerated people, the vast majority of states and universities neither have programs to address this disparity nor plans for developing them or even discussion about the need to develop such plans. This work appears to be concentrated primarily in four states—California, New York, Washington, and New Jersey, (Lampe-Martin & Beasley, 2019). These programs have developed through a variety of frameworks ranging from grassroots student organizing to professional non-profit programs and bureaucratic initiatives. 

I moved to Washington because of this existing programming as well as the community’s need and readiness for more. The region’s alignment with the values of community psychology made this a place where I knew I could infuse such values into the expansion of post-prison higher education support systems. For example, I have approached this work from a multiple systems approach that attempts to create individual, group, institutional, and community change, with a belief that efforts in each sector support synergistic transformation in others. To that end, I help create communities in which formerly incarcerated people of various educational and disciplinary backgrounds can connect, become inspired by one-another's journeys and accomplishments, develop a positive identity and sense of purpose, share knowledge and resources collectively, and enact informal and formal change in their social and political environment. I expect that investing in people with lived expertise and the development of collective capacity will help promote third-order change in which paradigms become more malleable to change (Bartunek & Michael K. Moch, 1987). 

Some of the post-prison higher education work in Washington I have been involved in over the past three years include co-founding the national Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network, organizing a regional subgroup of this network for the Northwest, establishing the Post-Prison Education Research Lab, spearheading the development of an emerging Husky Post-Prison Pathways initiative at the University of Washington Tacoma and helping students establish a Formerly Incarcerated Student Association on this campus, supporting planning for similar pathways initiatives across the University of Washington system, and helping students across the three campuses become better connected with one-another as well as with other formerly incarcerated college students and community members. This work has already contributed to policy change such as the Fair Chance to Education act and institutional barriers to formerly incarcerated students. Going forward, I hope and expect these communities will continue to grow, strengthen, create even greater change in our state, and contribute to similar work in other states.


Bartunek, J. M., & Moch, M. K. (1987). First-order, second-order, and third-order change and organization development interventions: A cognitive approach. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 23(4), 483–500.

Ingels, S.J., Pratt, D.J., Jewell, D.M., Mattox, T., Dalton, B., Rosen, J., Lauff, E., and Hill, J. (2012). Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002/12) Third Follow-Up Field Test Report (NCES 2012-03). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC.

McFarland, J., Hussar, B., Wang, X., Zhang, J., Wang, K., Rathbun, A., Barmer, A., Forrest Cataldi, E., and Bullock Mann, F. (2018). The condition of education 2018. NCES.

Pecora, P. J., Kessler, R. C., O’Brien, K., White, C. R., Williams, J., Hiripi, E., English, D., White, J., & Herrick, M. A. (2006). Educational and employment outcomes of adults formerly placed in foster care: Results from the Northwest Foster Care alumni study. Children and Youth Services Review, 28, 1459–1481.

Shannon, S.K.S., Uggen, C., Schnittker, J. et al. (2017). The growth, scope, and spatial distribution of people with felony records in the United States, 1948-2010.  Demography 54, 1795–1818 (2017).

U.S. Census Bureau (2017). 2017 American Community Survey. Retrieved from