Volume 44 Number 3 
Summer 2014

New Graduate Programs Group

Edited by Tiffeny R. Jimenez, Brian D. Christens and Emma Ogley-Oliver

In the Fall 2013 issue of TCP, we described the formation of a New Graduate Programs Group that is working to support the development and implementation of new graduate programs that are aligned with the goals of the Society for Community Research & Action (SCRA). This group is currently coordinated through designated co-chairs on the Practice Council (rep: Emma Olgey-Oliver), the Council on Education Programs (rep: Brian Christens), and the SCRA Executive Committee (rep: Tiffeny Jimenez).

In this issue we are featuring descriptions of new graduate programs.  Below, Dina Birman describes the new program at University of Miami, and while the National Louis University Ph.D. program in Community Psychology is about 6 years into their development, Tiffeny Jimenez, et. al., describe how this newer program has been designed to meet the social justice needs of communities.  In addition, Nuria Ciofalo, Susan James, and Mary Watkins describe the incorporation of the SCRA Practice Competencies in the new M.S. in Community Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and William Hartmann and Lauren Reed describe the development of a community program certificate program at University of Michigan. 

University of Miami:  Ph.D. in Community Well-Being

Written by Dina Birman

The Community Well-Being Ph.D. Program (CWB) at the University of Miami is currently in its first year.  Located in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies, in the School of Education and Human Development, the program is grounded in the academic discipline of Community Psychology, and draws on related disciplines in the social and health sciences.  The program is designed to produce community-engaged scholars who can understand and address the real challenges faced by communities in a multi-cultural and global context. We aim to prepare students for a variety of careers in academia, research, and public policy. 

This is an exciting time to join the University of Miami.  The university President, Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, is a great advocate of a wellness and well-being perspective. With the leadership of our Dean Isaac Prilleltensky, the department has developed an undergraduate program in Human and Social Development; a master’s program in Community and Social Change, and now the doctoral program in Community Well Being. 

The CWB program aims to attract applicants who have completed a master’s degree in community psychology or related fields, such as public health, education, youth development, sociology, urban studies, and applied anthropology. We are able to offer CWB students a full tuition waiver for required coursework, and guaranteed stipends for 24 months so that they can devote full time to their studies. Funding for additional years may be available to complete courses and dissertation work. The curriculum is interdisciplinary, and builds on existing strengths in the department and beyond. Through the resources available in the department’s doctoral program in Research Measurement and Evaluation, students get a thorough grounding in quantitative and qualitative research methods.

The CWB core and affiliated faculty conduct research with local community organizations, schools, networks and coalitions, neighborhoods and in other national and international settings.

  • Etiony Aldarondo – Positive development of ethnic minority and immigrant youth; domestic violence; social justice-oriented clinical practices.
  • Dina Birman – Adaptation and acculturation of immigrants and refugees; collaborating with community-based organizations; mental health interventions for children and youth.
  • Scot Evans – Roles of community-based human service organizations in the promotion of wellbeing; social change; social justice.
  • Blaine Fowers – Ethics; values such as knowledge, justice, friendship, and artistic beauty; human flourishing.
  • Courte Voorhees – Community-based participatory action research to promote social justice, environmental justice, and sustainability.
  • Laura Kohn-Wood – Race, ethnicity and culture among diverse populations; mental health; development of interventions in under-resourced urban communities.
  • Guerda Nicolas – Partnerships with ethnically diverse and immigrant communities; culturally effective mental health interventions; racial and ethnic identity development of children and adolescents.
  • Isaac Prilleltensky – Community and critical psychology; prevention; liberation; promotion of well-being.

The Community Psychology Doctoral Program at National Louis University

Written by Tiffeny R. Jimenez, Bernada N. Baker, Suzette Fromm Reed, Brad Olson and Judah Viola

The Community Psychology (CP) Ph.D. program at National Louis University (NLU) works with students in an empowerment framework. The goal is for students to take on leadership roles within their existing spheres of influence, and to continue to collaborate to enact changes in marginalized communities and the broader political structures that impact them. Through a combination of coursework and building on students’ experiential expertise and research interests, we aim for positive change in individuals, organizations, communities, and public policy. We, the students and faculty, try to mutually provoke critical thinking to effectively address social justice issues within disenfranchised communities at state, federal, and global levels.

Students who enter NLU’s Ph.D. program learn methodological tools essential for conducting trans-disciplinary, community-based research and program development and evaluation. With a focus on collaborative skills, students work toward change on a variety of issues such as affordable housing, urban education, child abuse, substance abuse, violence, health, and the physical environment. Contrary to more traditionally-modeled mentorship programs, NLU students set the direction of their research from the start. The students choose their topics with guidance from the faculty, but the project is based solely on their own interests. The students are, or become, the content experts. The faculty, as methodologists, theorists, and critical colleagues, provide guidance and support.

Our students tend to be local non-traditional students in the Chicagoland area with existing work and family commitments. Students commit to a cohort model structure that meets in-person one night each week. In an effort that contextually and flexibly addresses core competencies of CP practice, the program provides coursework in quantitative and qualitative research methods, grant writing, organizational change, evaluation, advocacy, cross-cultural communication, community development, policy change, consultation, and community organizing. Additional opportunities include cross-cohort community-building events, weekend workshop sessions, and connecting with other SCRA, Chicago-area colleagues.

We also have an educational partnership with El Valor, a community-based organization within Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. This is the first CP Ph.D. program that we know of that is primarily conducted in the “community”, rather than primarily on a university campus. One of the goals of El Valor Leadership Through Education initiative is to increase the number of qualified, culturally, and linguistically skilled people in positions of leadership, especially individuals who identify with the Latino/a and other underserved communities. We currently teach one cohort at the El Valor Cantu Center and are working on additional cohorts, research projects, and other means of engaging this rich and diverse urban area. 

National Louis is very proud of its diverse student body whose members typically enter our program with more than a decade of community leadership and/or professional experience. NLU students have begun to offer their insights to the field through scholarship, community collaboration, and involvement with SCRA conferences and publications. The NLU faculty members and students are learning a great deal from each other, and often through shared experiences. We all intend to help the field of CP grow in the 21st century through our community-based work, which we hope will provide new perspectives and directions.

Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology Specialization, Pacifica Graduate Institute

Written by Nuria Ciofalo, Susan James, and Mary Watkins

In Fall 2010 we launched the Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, and Ecopsychology (CLE) specialization within a M.A./Ph.D. depth psychology program at .   This specialization emerged from 15 years of experience conducting a similar program on the application of depth psychology to community and ecological issues. Our new curriculum forges interdisciplinary, transformative approaches to personal, community, cultural, and ecological challenges of our time. Euro-American depth psychological theories and practices are placed in critical dialogue with ecopsychology, cultural studies, community psychology, Indigenous, and liberation psychologies. Students travel to campus three consecutive days a month, nine months a year. See our annual newsletter in our website.

Our teaching philosophy is nourished by our values of social justice, peace building, and ecological sustainability. We believe that critical community psychology must address the causes and the effects of collective traumas caused by structural violence and environmental degradation, and sustain community restoration through participatory praxis, empowerment, and liberatory arts. To examine the intrapsychic dynamics of oppression and holistic restoration it must draw on liberation psychology, ecopsychology, and depth psychologies. Finally, to help insure that psychology does not contribute to further colonizing efforts and to draw on and respect a multiplicity of approaches it must focus on Indigenous psychologies. Our curriculum challenges epistemologies, ideologies, and worldviews—including those of mainstream psychology—to reflect on how these perpetuate injustice and oppression. We seek to legitimize popular knowledge, generate new, inclusive knowledge, develop innovative participatory paradigms, and envision and undertake radical transformative praxis.

Based on the inspiring consultation we received by the Council of Educational Programs (CEP)-Community Psychology Practice Council (CPPC) in 2011, we conduct yearly program assessments applying the SCRA practice competencies.  Students are exposed to diverse ways of working with small and large groups through council practice, appreciative inquiry, restorative justice, and methods such as public conversation that help groups navigate deep differences and complex and contested histories. Expressive and creative modalities flowing from community dreamwork and visioning to Boal’s theater of the oppressed and embodied practices for healing community trauma enable students to work with a broad range of issues and groups, to develop collective solutions and bolster community resilience.

The research portion of our program is based on the foundation of participatory action research (PAR), alongside qualitative methods, visual and Indigenous methodologies, with careful attention to relational ethics that these approaches require. Through engaged fieldwork each student follows his/her passionate interest and creates meaningful ways of promoting psychological, community, and ecological well-being. Visit for examples of student fieldwork. Further, students are exposed to community-based participatory evaluation and apply skills under academic-community partnerships in diverse settings.

When the CEP-CPPC came to our campus, students expressed that they found a nourishing sense of community and belonging within SCRA. One of our students recently earned a scholarship to attend the SCRA Biennial Conference. Further, participating in the conference calls organized by the NGPG is enabling us to learn from the experiences and creativity of other programs. We look forward to expanding our academic and community praxis networks through SCRA to build a strong sense of community with faculty and students at other academic institutions and with community practitioners doing innovative work around the world. 

University of Michigan: Michigan Community Research & Action Student Workgroup, University of Michigan

Written by William E. Hartmann and Lauren A. Reed

It has been more than thirty years since community psychology has been a topic of conversation at the University of Michigan (UM). In the early 1980s our psychology department’s short-lived community psychology area was dismantled and folded into organizational psychology, and later combined with personality to form our current personality and social context area. However, in the past year, there has been a stir of activity and interest across campus in community psychology among graduate students and faculty. At the center of the commotion is the Michigan Community Research and Action Workgroup (M∙CRAW), a graduate student-led organization of students and faculty interested in supporting engagement in community-based, context-rich, social-justice minded, and interdisciplinary research.

Spurred by a sensational community psychology graduate seminar taught by Dr. Joseph P. Gone and the (re)kindling of dormant relational networks among community psychologists at UM, M∙CRAW sprang to life in the Winter of 2013. In addition to regular meetings aimed at community building and professional development, M∙CRAW has hosted bimonthly guest speakers from among UM’s faculty and local practicing community psychologists, sent a delegate of 6 graduate students to SCRA’s 2013 Biennial in Miami, and organized a popular multidisciplinary panel of UM faculty on “the continued relevance of community psychology today” featuring Marc Zimmerman (public health and psychology), Lorraine Gutierrez (social work and psychology), Joseph Gone (clinical psychology), and Stephanie Rowley (education and psychology), with guest Edison Trickett from the University of Illinois at Chicago as discussant. Enthusiasm among panelists and a crowd from several schools and programs across campus generated much excitement and momentum toward reestablishing community psychology at UM.

Moving forward, M∙CRAW plans to continue fostering a vibrant academic environment at UM that includes and benefits from community psychology perspectives by offering a supportive space where graduate students can participate in critical dialogue, access resources for professional development, and organize events across campus. Alongside these activities, there is a major push to craft a curriculum for the formalization of a Community Psychology certificate program informed by competencies outlined by SCRA’s education committee (The Community Psychologist, Fall 2012). Once established, a certificate program will serve as an important next step for instantiating community psychology values and perspectives within UM social sciences and reinserting our institution into larger conversations within the field. We are grateful for the encouragement and support of SCRA’s New Graduate Programs Group, and look forward to working together as this process of revitalizing community psychology at UM moves forward.

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »

You must be logged in to the website leave a comment.