Volume 54, Number 1 Winter 2021

Education Connection

Edited by Mason Haber, Harvard Medical School

The Council on Education (COE): Continuity and Change in Unusual Time

Written by Mason Haber, Harvard Medical School

Community Psychology (CP) educational councils have existed for almost as long as the field itself (Council on Education, 2019). Over time, the names, types of goals, and composition of the councils have changed in ways that we would argue have resulted in a deliberative body that is increasingly aligned with the values of and better positioned to provide leadership for the CP field.  Despite this progress, the current Council on Education (COE) continues to grapple with some of the same challenges faced by educational councils historically, coupled with new challenges, both internal (to the Council and SCRA) and external (adapting to the pandemic and recession, and responding meaningfully to the social upheaval and protest related to racial injustice). In this column, we consider these longstanding and new challenges and our recent and planned efforts to meet them in ways that we hope will draw ourselves and the Society as a whole closer to our ideals and goals.

Continuity and Change in Council History

At the last SCRA Biennial in June 2019, the COE organized a pre-conference workshop designed to provide a foundation for the activities of the COE moving forward “Community Psychology Education: Collectively Clarifying our Vision for the Next Five Years” (Coulombe & Haber, 2019). The ecological principle of succession suggests examining an organization’s past efforts as a first step in undertaking new ones (Kelly, 2006). Thus, to help kick off the event, we prepared a brief history of SCRA educational councils, in the context of which we shared a comparison of documents developed roughly contemporaneously with two key points of transition in this history. We discuss this comparison and the implications derived from it here to provide necessary context for understanding that although the recent press to respond more effectively to racial injustice is indeed a “new challenge,” the issue of racial injustice and related issues of diversity and equity in our field are both longstanding and worthy of attention beyond the current, pressing moment.


Table 1: Timeline/Table of Council Transitions and Contemporaneous Documents

Education Council History: Transitions From CPDCRA to CEP. As shown in the first row Table 1 (Columns A and B), the first of these was a transition from the form taken by the Council in its earliest years – the Council of Graduate Program Directors in Community Research and Action (CPDCRA) – to the Council on Education Programs (CEP). Representation on the CPDCRA, consistent with the name, was limited to Directors of community psychology training programs. Moreover, those programs were limited to those paying a CPDCRA membership fee. Although this forum was sustained for many years, participation dwindled over time and the council was inactive by 2003. In 2006, in response to an initiative of the SCRA president at the time, Cliff O’Donnell, to re-activate the CPDCRA, an “education summit” was held to develop a 5-year strategic plan (one of our current members, Eric Mankowski, participated in this effort as well). The re-activated group was re-established as part of SCRA without a separate membership fee for participating programs. Members were program representatives rather than being directors per se. The new Council also sought to broaden its focus to encompass undergraduate as well as graduate programs.  

From CEP to COE. The second transition occurred in 2016 (Table 1, Panel C), associated with the renaming of the Council on Education Programs to its current title, the Council on Education. This transition was driven by a desire to further broaden both the participation and scope of activities of the council. First, the decision was made to move from a “member-driven” organization in which participants would be identified through a formal selection process for set terms, to a body open to all that would serve a “Coordinating role for a broader set of activities” (CEP, 2016). To implement this, meetings were re-organized as open calls – any SCRA member could participate at any time. Continuity was to be provided by a small “Coordinating Committee” of 4 to 8 members including a Chair.  

Educational Council History: Continuity and Change across Transitions 

To develop a sense of the types of challenges faced by these successive forms of the council dated approximately a decade apart, we compared two documents contemporaneous with the transitions described above. As shown in the second row of Table 1, for the first transition (Columns A and B), the selected document was a summary of Education Summit proceedings published in TCP, “The SCRA CEP: Reactivating the Council of Education Programs” (Mankowski, Meissen, & COE, 2007). The second document (Table 1 Column C) was the “2016 SCRA Strategic Plan, Education Priority Section” (Society for Community Research and Action :: SCRA Strategic Plan (

Comparison of Summit Report and Strategic Plan documents. By crosswalking the objectives activities across these documents, we identified four cross-cutting themes that were remarkably similar in their framing and associated activities, despite the associated changes in membership and scope of the councils. Table 2 shows these themes and associated activities. Across the decade plus of activities captured in these documents, councils sought to describe community psychology education and training (e.g., through administration of the council’s periodic Graduate Survey of Community Psychology Programs; Haber, Kohn-Wood & COE, 2018), to disseminate community psychology education and training through publicizing community psychology programs and creating training resources, to sustain education and training programs through activities such as program consultations, and enhance community psychology training through the development of research and practice competencies (Christens, Connell, Faust, & Haber, 2015; Connell et al., 2013). The types of strategies proposed to achieve these goals, however, seem increasingly sophisticated, perhaps in parallel with organizational maturation of the Society as a whole; for example, the acquisition of an Executive Director and paid staff support. 


Table 2: Comparison of Historical Documents

Missing: Concern for diversity and racial justice? Of particular note, absent from these documents were specific initiatives, objectives or activities related to social justice or diversity, either in general, or in relation to an issue of particular interest to the society and the COE now, racial justice. In our Education Connection column in the Winter 2020 issue of TCP (Haber, Henderson, Coulombe, and Kohn-Wood, 2020), we explored this  apparent neglect of one of the core concerns of our field, using data from a mini-grant focusing on barriers to participation faced by SCRA members affiliated with Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs). We also examined data from our “Clarifying our Vision pre-conference” summarizing goal statements shared by participants during the pre-conference and, similarly, the relative lack of attention to diversity and equity in education relative to other types of goals. Recognizing this lack of attention as a pressing concern, the COE emphasize diversity and equity in training in its planned activities for 2020, identifying the objective of diversifying SCRA training programs (both racially and along other dimensions of diversity) as a goal in our draft theory of change (see Appendix A), and as a top priority in our proposed program consultation initiative for 2020. In regard to the latter, our plan was to partner with other organizations and councils in SCRA with similar interests in diversity and social justice to recruit and provide consultation to support diversity and social justice in training through helping to sustain or expand programs.   Although we still hope to pursue this initiative, we decided to redirect the focus of our efforts temporarily in recognition of the current moment – specifically, that broader action was needed to address a challenge faced by the entire field, rather than focusing on individual programs.

Educational Council: New Challenges 

The Call to Action on Anti-blackness

As it happened, the timing of the Haber et al. 2020 column was unfortunately prescient – within months, across the U.S. and in other parts of the world saw large scale protests in reaction to the killing of George Floyd, re-invigorating racial justice as a priority for social change in the U.S. both in criminal justice and other spheres of society. As well-known to the readers of this publication, our SCRA members sought to build on this movement by issuing a “Call to Action on Anti-Blackness” to the SCRA community, asking for a swift, substantive response from the organization to neglect of racial justice issues in community psychology practice and training. In particular, the call highlighted a lack of vigorous, sustained attention to anti-racism in community psychology pedagogy and an absence of committed resources to support community trainees and emerging scholars and practitioners from communities of color and their allies in pressing for racial social justice. 

Executive Committee Response to the Call to Action

In response to the Call, the SCRA Executive Committee (EC) prepared a detailed response to demands in the Call for Action. This response included specific expectations for the COE to develop “anti-racist curriculum and practice guidelines,” and a “self-assessment of existing practices” and “identification of new skills, tools, and resources to support transformation.” The COE also responded to the call directly, by convening a meeting of program directors in June of this year to reflect on the status and needs for improving racial justice in community psychology training, and committing to a similar meeting of community psychology students, which we will hopefully schedule in the early part of next year.

COE Response to the Call to Action

The directive of the EC Response to help develop anti-racist curriculum and training guidelines grounded in self-assessment is consistent both with the longstanding commitments of the COE to promote the values of the field in CP education and provides us with an occasion to address objectives of diversity and social justice that we believe need greater emphasis going forward, in a focused, intentional, timely way. During the program directors meeting on anti-racism and social justice in June, we raised the possibility of repurposing our 2020 budget and requesting a supplement to support this work. In addition, because of the historical investment of the COE in developing competencies for the community psychology field, we would like to convene with other committees and councils to discuss possible revisions and additions to these competencies to better align them with our diversity and social justice values generally and our efforts to confront anti-racism in particular. 

Council on Education Activities for AY 2021

Below, Table 3 summarizes our planned racial justice activities for the year. The activities that we have planned relate both to our historical commitments and responsibilities as well as our commitment this year to SCRA’s activities related to anti-racism and include short-term (completed during 2-3 months, through December), ongoing (initiated during the first two months and intended to continue) and longer-term activities (i.e., to be completed by the end of the Academic Year). They include activities to create resources for describing and growing the field (e.g., formalizing an ongoing process for updating our list of community psychology training programs and collecting more in-depth information on these to attract new students), and convening students and program representatives around current and ongoing community psychology education and training issues. We also have committed to pursuing some activities that, while also grounded in these and other historical commitments of the COE, are responsive to the timely emphasis of SCRA on anti-blackness.   


Table 3: Council on Education Activities for 20-21 Academic Year

Exemplifying this commitment to continue to pursue our historical responsibilities as well as address new challenges, we would like to highlight in particular our plans to develop a hybrid program self-assessment tool and program survey. Every three to four years since the 70s, the COE and its precursors have conducted field-wide surveys of Graduate Training programs to collect basic data on the status of CP training (e.g., number of programs, faculty, students) as well as more in depth information on specific topics such as the availability of training in community psychology research and practice competencies (Haber, Kohn-Wood, and the COE, 2018; Haber, Neal, Christens, Faust, Jackson and Scott, 2017). This year, we plan to focus in depth on anti-racist curriculum and training guidelines in community psychology training programs – both at the undergraduate as well as the graduate level – and, as part of this survey effort, pilot a program self-assessment instrument focusing on the same content areas. The program self-assessment and survey will consist of qualitative and quantitative components. The qualitative component is being designed primarily for use of individual programs in guiding their own exploration of the status of their own efforts to develop curricula, pedagogy, and structural supports to reduce racism in training programs. The quantitative component will likely include summary indicators capturing aspects of the qualitative data as well as unique quantitative metrics of the status of current anti-racism curriculum and training efforts.   

Conclusions and … Another Call to Action

If successful, we believe that the activities shown in Table 3, collectively, would make a substantial contribution to the agenda of re-creating SCRA as an organization that is more genuinely and effectively acting on its commitment to diversity and social justice values in regard to race. At the same time, informed by our recent visioning and strategic planning activities, we understand the many ways in which pursuing these new commitments will reinforce and reinvigorate our ongoing commitments to advancing the growth, sustainability, and rigor of the field. We cannot and should not do this work alone. In order to help understand the needs of a broad set of stakeholders in our field, our members have been conducting outreach with a comprehensive list of SCRA interest groups, committees, and councils over the past year’ we plan to submit our findings on this outreach to the next issue of The Community Psychologist. To create greater possibilities for collaboration, we are currently seeking liaisons from these groups to contribute to our activities (currently, the Community Psychology Practice in Undergraduate Settings Interest Group and Research Council are represented).  We are especially interested in recruiting liaisons from groups with a particular interest in anti-racism, social justice, and diversity (e.g., the Council for Ethnic and Racial Affairs, the International Committee). We would also welcome broader participation from individual CP program representatives. Our meetings are open to all SCRA members and allied stakeholders and are held on the third Monday of every month on the SCRA Conference Line, as indicated on the Conference Line schedule: SCRA Conference Line Schedule (  (note that information on joining calls can also be found at this link). We hope you will consider joining us to advance our important work.   


Christens, B. D., Connell, C. M., Faust, V., Haber, M. G., & the Council of Education Programs (2015). Progress report: Competencies for community research and action. The Community Psychologist, 48(4), 3-9.

Connell, C. M., Lewis, R. K., Cook, J., Meissen, G., Wolf, T., Johnson-Hakim, S., … Taylor, S. (2013). Special report – Graduate training in community psychology practice competencies: Responses to the 2012 survey of graduate programs in community psychology. The Community Psychologist, 46(4).

Coulombe S., Haber M.G. (2019, Fall). Community psychology education: Clarifying our vision. The Community Psychologist, 52(3). 

Cruz, M. R., & Sonn, C. C. (2011). (De) colonizing culture in community psychology: Reflections from critical social science. American journal of community psychology, 47, 203-214.

Haber M.G, Henderson D.X., Coulombe S, & Kohn-Wood, L. (2020, Winter). Can SCRA live up to its diversity and social justice values with regard to race? The Community Psychologist, 53(1). 

Haber M.G., Kohn-Wood L., and the members of the Council on Education (2018, Summer). Understanding the perceived health of graduate community psychology programs and its relationships with indicators of sustainability, diversity, and rigor:  Findings from the 2016 Survey of Graduate Programs in Community Psychology. The Community Psychologist, 51(3). 

Haber M.G., Neal, Z., Christens, B., Faust, V., Jackson, L., Scott, T.B., and the members of the Council on Educational Programs (2017, Summer). The 2016 Survey of Graduate Programs in Community Psychology: Competencies in research & practice and challenges of training programs. The Community Psychologist, 49(2).

Kelly, J.G. (2006). Becoming ecological: An expedition into community psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Mankowski, E., Meissen, G., and the Council on Education  (2007, Summer). The SCRA CEP: Reactivating the Council of Education Programs. The Community Psychologist, 40(3).

Appendix A: COE Theory of Change (Draft)