Volume 51   Number 4 Fall 2018

Special Feature

In 2015, the Executive Committee of SCRA created a Leadership Development Fellowship Program based upon a proposal created by Nellie Tran, Tiffeny Jimenez, John Moritsugu and Bret Kloos. The proposal was created in response to discussions among SCRA leadership recognizing that individuals from underrepresented groups had fewer opportunities to participate at the leadership level throughout the organization and that the mission and vitality of SCRA could be strengthened by expanding efforts to be more inclusive. Much of the initial framework was modeled on a similar program from the Asian American Psychological Association’s leadership program. We very much appreciate that The Community Psychologist has created a special section to highlight the work of the first cohort of Leadership Development Fellows and to introduce the second cohort of fellows. In the Spring of 2019, we expect that SCRA will recruit a third cohort of Fellows. 

Description and Rationale

The SCRA Leadership Development Fellows (LDF) Program is designed to nurture the professional development of early career psychologists committed to community research and action.  It is also an explicit commitment to develop future leaders for SCRA. The program seeks to cultivate a diverse group of SCRA leaders by providing opportunities for mentoring and leadership experience in SCRA. We expect that Fellows will also serve as leaders in academic, community, organizational, and professional settings over their careers. 

Fellows selected for the 2-year program will participate in individual and peer mentoring, observe and participate in SCRA activities and leadership meetings, complete a year-long project, and present their experiences at a SCRA conference.  Reflecting the values of SCRA, priority in selecting fellows will be given to cultivating leaders from under represented gender, racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.  Similarly, the program will seek to promote leadership for early career community psychologists from a range of work settings to promote diversity of leadership from different career paths. 

LDF Eligibility

Applicants must be SCRA members who have completed their doctoral degrees two years prior to submitting their application.  Preference will be given to applicants who have some prior leadership experience in local contexts (e.g., within their graduate program, community, or current position) but who have not had leadership experience at the national level within psychology (e.g., held formal leadership positions in APA or other national psychological associations or served in any capacity on the SCRA Executive Committee).  Individuals who have had limited opportunities to become more involved in leadership roles within SCRA and other organizations are strongly encouraged to apply (e.g., current mentors are not involved in SCRA, underrepresented professional interests or personal backgrounds).

Structure of the Program

Program Co-chairs.  The program has been coordinated by two co-chairs, Gina Hijjawi and Bret Kloos. The co-chairs are responsible for recruiting and overseeing the selection of Fellows and facilitating formation of the mentoring teams for each fellow. The co-chairs also convene regular cohort professional development calls. The co-chairs serve as liaisons to the SCRA EC. The Co-chairs will be responsible for Fellow Orientations and finding a SCRA colleague to evaluate the Program with each cohort of Fellows.

Mentoring Teams.  Each Fellow will work with the LDF Program co-chairs to form a three-person mentoring team tailored to their professional development interests. The team can include one or more persons from these three groups (a) a leader of an Interest Group, Council, or Committee, (b) a SCRA member selected for her/his professional expertise in an area important to the Fellow, or (c) an EC member. Fellows will work closely with their mentoring teams as they develop a plan for their fellowship projects. Ideally, the projects will create opportunities for SCRA become more responsive to member concerns, encourage linkages between different parts of SCRA, and align with the fellow’s leadership aspirations and interest. Working with the LDF co-chairs, each Fellow identifies a primary mentor and the mentoring team will facilitate planning fellowship activities, professional development, and leadership opportunities.

Participation in an Interest Group, Council, or Committee. To encourage networking and a broader view of SCRA’s activities, each Fellow participates in the activities of a SCRA group/committee/council mutually determined by Fellow, mentoring team, and SCRA group. We expect the chair of this group will include the Fellow in discussion of their strategies and activities in leading the group. Participation, observation, and reflection embedded in the work of the group can provide helpful material for mentoring discussions about leadership and professional development.

Fellowship Project.  During the first year of the LDF, the Fellow and Mentoring team will identify a current SCRA initiative (e.g., strategic plan strategy) or opportunity to improve SCRA to which Fellows can contribute.  Ideally the initiative allows for collaboration with other SCRA members. Discussions with the SCRA leadership (e.g., Presidential Stream, Executive Director) are designed to encourage that the project is relevant to SCRA’s needs and the fellow’s goals, plan of action, interests, and leadership aspirations. The Fellow would lead this initiative and may choose to work independently, within a committee or council, or to lead a group effort.  Each Fellows’ projects will be presented at SCRA biennial or SCRA sessions at APA. The specific goals and outcomes for each Fellow in relation to her/his project will be developed in collaboration with mentors.

Participate in SCRA Executive Committee Meetings.  During the years of the Fellowship, we encourage periodic participation in SCRA Executive Committee (EC) related meetings to become familiar with the opportunities, tasks, and responsibilities of different roles on the EC.  The exact nature of participation will be determined by the Fellow, Mentoring Team, SCRA Executive Director, and the SCRA President.  Ideally, fellows can participate in at least one SCRA Executive Committee Meeting in person during the Fellowship. In person participation affords more networking and relationship building opportunities. The most likely opportunity will be a Mid-Winter meeting where most of the EC business for the past year is reviewed and priorities for the new year are set.

Fellowship Cohort Conversations.  One of the primary benefits of the Fellowship has been building relationships with the other Fellows. These discussions have occurred among the fellows themselves and/or with the LDF co-chairs.  Through joint reflection on their projects and observations of career development challenges, fellows have built a network of professional relationships that can be a resource for future work. 

Contributions of LDF Projects

In this next section, we share the experiences of the first cohort of Leadership Development Fellows. Janelle Silva, Dawn Henderson, and Jennifer Wallin-Ruschmann presented their three projects at the 2017 SCRA Biennial Conference. Each project connected to a different part of SCRA and created opportunities to engage more SCRA members and work toward changes in SCRA practices. We thank the Fellows for their vision and their persistence in creating these pathways for SCRA to be more responsive to member concerns and interests.

Increasing Visibility for SCRA Members of ColorJanelle_Silva.jpg

Written by: LDF Fellow Janelle M. Silva, Associate Professor, University of Washington Bothell (LDF 2015-2017)

Every leadership opportunity that I have sought out, as a graduate student and current faculty member, speaks to my identity as a social justice advocate and academic committed to diversity and outreach. As I reflect on these roles, I also realize that these positions, where I offer mentorship, stand in contrast to the mentorship opportunities within organizations such as SCRA, specifically for faculty of color.  Like SCRA, I too am committed community research and action, and working with communities to facilitate their empowerment within settings that often seek to disempower subordinated groups. I originally applied to be a leadership fellow to increase my connection to SCRA as an organization and help increase efforts to engage community psychologists of color within academia. I have seen many people who should be at SCRA or a member but are not; many who were interested in finding ways to increase their presence and visibility of the next generation of community psychologists of color but were unsure of the process. My goal was to build bridges within the organization to increase the visibility and build community for SCRA members of color.

At the SCRA Executive Committee (EC) Mid-Winter meeting in Washington D.C., I raised questions as to what the committee on Cultural Ethnic and Racial Affairs (CERA) had been working on. This sparked a discussion as to the status of the committee and how this could be a potential space to address my interest in terms of visibility and community for members of color.  With the support of the EC, CERA received the jumpstart it needed to move forward.

As a CERA member, I collaborated with the committee’s Chair-Elect, Dr. Jesica Siham Fernandez (now CERA Chair, 2018-2019) to propose two roundtable discussions at the SCRA biennial in Ottawa, Canada.  With the intention of these panels as being a space to bring together SCRA members of color, we sent an email to the SCRA listserv to gain support and see if others wanted to co-facilitate these roundtable discussions.  We received several emails from SCRA members of color across schools, nations, and profession, who were interested in supporting this work and wanted to know what other opportunities existed within CERA. “Making Space for Community Psychology Graduate Students of Color” was a roundtable discussion facilitated by Angela Nguyen, Alicia Boards, Katina Harris, Marvia Jones, Jesica Fernandez, and myself. Although Dr. Fernandez and I were the conveners of the roundtable, the four facilitators-each current graduate students-at various programs across the U.S. - led the conversation.  “Making Space for Community Psychology Faculty of Color at SCRA” was a roundtable discussion facilitated by Fabricio Balcazar, Kaston Anderson-Carpenter, Jesica Fernandez, Nghi D. Thai, CERA, and myself. Both roundtables were closed to SCRA members who identified as (graduate students/faculty) of color for the purpose of confidentiality and community building. Each garnered an honest and critical discussion of what it was like to be a person of color within SCRA, the need for mentorship programs, and the desire for more opportunities for collaboration and socialization at biennial events.  Redacted notes provided to CERA contained specific goals of how to increase visibility for SCRA members of color, as well as a strong interest to continue to have roundtable discussions at future biennials.

I am grateful for the opportunity the SCRA Leadership Development Fellowship Program has provided me. Above all, I am thankful for this opportunity to increase the visibility for SCRA members of color, to amplify collective interests, and am eager to continue cultivating similar spaces at future biennials and beyond.

Forging Pathways for Community Psychology at Historically Black/Hispanic Serving InstitutionsDawn_Henderson.jpg

Written by: LDF Fellow Dawn X. Henderson, Associate Professor, North Carolina A & T (LDF 2015-2017)

I joined SCRA in 2008 as a graduate student member and drifted in and out of the organization due to graduate school commitments. Somehow, I found ways to serve on some committees (e.g., Practice Council, Outreach Group for the Practice Council, and community psychology practice competencies) but these spaces rarely included racially and ethnically diverse individuals. When I made the transition from completing a doctorate degree to accepting a faculty position at a Historically Black Institution (HBI), the space in SCRA became much more isolating. I discovered a lack of representation in the organization of members from Minority Serving Institutions (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and the overrepresentation of council members from “elite” universities.

I began to perceive SCRA as an organization that was a bit exclusionary or rather a hierarchy of “community psychology” programs. From my perspective, leadership positions, awards, etc., were dominated by this cycle of individuals from Research I, Research Intensive universities, and predominately-white institutions. I wanted to use my involvement in the LDF program to learn more about leadership in SCRA and gain insight in terms of the membership and involvement of faculty and students from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). I wanted to forge a pathway to increase involvement and engagement among faculty and students from these institutions and anticipated the relationships developed with the LDF mentors and other colleagues would support my own personal scholarship.

The LDF project I coordinated focused on understanding barriers to engagement and involvement among faculty and students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). During this time, I discovered two graduate programs identified as community psychology at Historically Black Institutions had no representation on SCRA’s website. I reached out to them, worked with the SCRA’s administrative team to get data on current membership, and contacted members affiliated with MSIs to gain their perspective on barriers to engagement and recommendations to increase engagement. I sent the final report out through the SCRA listserv, members of the Executive Council, Council on Ethnic and Racial Affairs (CERA), and Council on Education (COE). I received some notable feedback, an invitation to serve on the nomination committee of SCRA officers, and some verbal commitments to discuss the findings.

The report revealed members from MSIs expressed a deep concern about a lack of outreach and no intentional efforts by SCRA to support more engagement and inclusion. The report revealed the financial barriers faculty and students face in attending conferences and a lack of “valuing” members at MSIs. This report led to some personal reflection regarding my engagement in SCRA and how it never happened through an invitation but rather a need to discover more about a field. My professional engagement on committees was driven by a need to “matter” in a professional space aligned with my psychologist identity.

I was my own case study and faced similar barriers identified in the report. Trying to be present and represented in an organization that did very little to find ways to include and value my presence was exhausting. After finishing and sharing the report, I realize that the commitment to act on these findings did not tie into strategic priorities. I know that I cannot continue to advocate for the engagement and inclusion of MSIs alone, specifically Historically Black Institutions, nor take on the burden of transforming an organization. I acknowledge my mere presence in the LDF program and on committees has the potential to alter the narrative. My participation in the LDF program and completing the project taught me that the significance of our work and presence may not always lead to immediate change but if we can leave just a little dent then, just maybe, that little dent will one day translate into some bigger. 

Extending the Reach of Community Psychology in Undergraduate SettingsJennifer_Wallin-Ruschmann.jpg

Written by LDF Fellow Jennifer Wallin-Ruschmann, Assistant Professor, Idaho College (LDF 2015-2017)

Participating in the SCRA Leadership Development Fellows (LDF) program was particularly important for me as I began working at an undergraduate institution. While I transitioned jobs during my time in the program, my new context is similar. In both positions, I was in institutions and cities with no other community psychologists, yet I was able to create community psychology courses and mentored undergraduate community-based research at both institutions. In my first position, I was able to add a course in community-based research methods and in my current position, I have cultivated a cultural and community psychology minor.

As a part of the LDF program, I became more integrated into SCRA and made connections within the organization. I purposefully sought teaching focused positions in undergraduate settings and this type of community psychology practice was not often discussed within SCRA. Through conversations with my LDF mentors and inspiration from my LDF cohort, I was motivated to reach out to others in SCRA that might be in similar professional positions. I sent an email to the SCRA listserv in September 2016 to help find folks interested in sharing resources and forming a community of practice, focusing specifically on teaching, research, and mentoring in primarily undergraduate settings. Following outreach, conversations were held across several campuses, which led to collaboration at regional conferences, and the last biennial focused on undergraduate teaching and research. Additionally, Eylin Palamaro-Munsell, Lauren Lichty, and I are editing a special issue of the GJCPP focused on Developing Undergraduate Community Psychology Pedagogy and Research Practice.

Community psychologists working with undergraduates have distinct challenges and benefits in conducting community research and action in our institutional context. Further, many of us working within these settings work in relative isolation from other community psychology practitioners. Building a network to share resources and strategies for this distinct setting was the primary focus of my LDF project. While this focus started as selfish, I wanted a space to connect with colleagues doing similar work with undergraduates, I quickly became aware many others shared my experience and desired to build a community of practice.

As conversations electronically and at conferences developed over the next few months, the need for a designated space within SCRA committed to undergraduate interests became apparent. Lauren Lichty and I formally founded the Community Psychology Practice in Undergraduate Settings SCRA interest group early last fall. Recently we held our first webinar- Undergraduate Community Psychology Research and Mentoring. The listserv for the group has also been used to develop collaborative relationships and presentations across undergraduate campuses and we have hosted semi-regular phone call to develop a community to share strategies and stories.

I am pleased with the increased acknowledgement and attention to undergraduate issues within SCRA over the past few years and I sincerely hope this momentum will continue. Our undergraduate students do not always go to graduate school in community psychology, but many put community psychology principles into action in the variety of jobs they pursue. Those of us working within primarily undergraduate settings have the broadest reach of possibly any community psychologist. Many of us are able to say we have exposed hundreds of students to the field and its associated practices and values. Without my experience and mentorship within the LDF program, I do not imagine I would have been empowered to reach out and begin a conversation around these issues. I hope that a broader swath of undergraduate focused community psychologists can receive more support in doing our work to grow the field. 

Introducing the 2017-2019 Cohort of Leadership Development Fellows

No_Rubn_Chvez.jpgNoé Rubén Chávez, earned his Ph.D. in Community Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2011. He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University in Pediatrics, focusing on prevention of HIV/STIs for adolescents of color. At Columbia, Noé also collaborated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital Lang Youth Medical program to provide mentorship to underrepresented minority adolescents. He also helped advise cultural competency training for Pediatric residents, challenging the training to address issues of systemic racism. Building from this work, during his current Postdoctoral Fellowship at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, he co-authored a chapter in the Oxford Textbook of Communication in Oncology and Palliative Care, focused on a health equity model to improve patient-centered care. He was invited by the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities to author a perspective article on inclusion of racism issues in medical school education. During his current fellowship, Noé has also co-led a multisectoral coalition using youth participatory action research for community health improvement (with support from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) and consulting with Harder+Company Community Research to evaluate and disseminate knowledge from the YMCA San Diego Connections 2020 project improving youth mental health services. Noé is starting a new position on September 2018 as Assistant Professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, where he will continue work on issues of culture and racism in health, youth empowerment, and collaborating on initiatives to mentor underrepresented youth to pursue careers in science and healthcare toward improving communities and systems for health justice.

Jessica_Shaw.jpgJessica Shaw earned her Ph.D. in Ecological-Community Psychology from Michigan State University in 2014. She was a visiting fellow with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in 2015. During her fellowship, Jessica helped NIJ become more systematic and deliberate in their efforts to fund practice- and policy-relevant criminal justice research and to support research-informed practice and policy implementation among criminal justice professionals. Jessica is now in her third year as an Assistant Professor in the Boston College School of Social Work. Her research focuses on improving within and between system responses to sexual assault by relying on community partnerships to facilitate empirically-informed, sustainable change. Like many community psychologists, Jessica is guided by a firm commitment to social justice and action, and bridging the worlds of research, policy, and practice. In her work, she has partnered with crime lab personnel, law enforcement, prosecutors, sexual assault nurse examiners, medical providers, advocacy organizations, and state agencies. She has published on the criminal justice and medical system responses to sexual assault, the national problem of unsubmitted sexual assault kits, the importance of systems-based approaches to research and action, policy change, advanced research methods, and evaluation. Jessica’s work has been funded by NIJ and the DOJ Office on Violence Against Women. Jessica is excited to be a part of the most recent cohort of Leadership Development Fellows, as it provides the opportunity to build community with her fellow community psychologists and become more deeply integrated into the work of SCRA.

Adam_Voight.jpgAdam Voight earned his Ph.D. in Community Research and Action from Vanderbilt University in 2012. His research examines influences on the education and developmental outcomes of young people marginalized by structural forces like poverty and racism. Adam is presently an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Cleveland State University, where he also directs the Center for Urban Education. Under his directorship, Adam helped establish the Cleveland Alliance for Education Research (CAER), a research-practice partnership between the Center, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and the American Institutes for Research. Through CAER, Adam is working to understand how urban schools can and cannot offset the impact of negative structural forces on student outcomes. This work involves embedding and studying youth participatory action research in the formal secondary school curriculum.  Adam has done pioneering research on school climate and student engagement, with publications showing how school climate is associated with important developmental outcomes and identifying within-school gaps in students’ experiences of school climate based on race and ethnicity. His writing has also identified factors that improve school climate, including giving students voice and agency in school decision making. Adam previously worked as a research associate at the WestEd Regional Educational Laboratory – West. His research has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Spencer Foundation. Adam lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with his partner, Lauren, and their children, Otto and Felix.

New LDF Project:  Understanding Experiences of Individuals Working in Settings with Few Other Community Psychologists

The 2017-2019 Leadership Development Fellows are currently conceptualizing a study to understand better the experiences of individuals who are one of a few or the only community psychologists in their work environments. The Fellows want to learn about their successes, as well as challenges that may arise as a result of being a lone community psychologist in their work setting. The Fellows are particularly interested in understanding the extent to which folks may feel isolated. As community psychologists driven by strong values tied to sense of community, diversity, empowerment, and equity/justice, work environments that do not prioritize, or are perhaps antithetical to these core values, create challenges for genuine collaboration to promote these values and development of a sense of belonging. The feelings of isolation and desire for connection may be intensified when certain identity(ies) (e.g., gender, ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, disability) are not valued or respected and intersect with one’s community psychologist identity or values to elicit further feelings of isolation or marginalization. However, it may also be the case, that community psychologists experience opportunities and environments well suited to promoting the core community psychology values as well as supporting the expression of intersectional identities. The currently evolving fellowship project seeks to apply a mixed-methods approach to understand the factors and type of environments facilitating or hindering lone community psychologists’ success in a range of setting as they pursue collaborative efforts grounded in core community psychology values. The action-based aim is to use the findings in partnership with SCRA to develop and implement strategies and initiatives to offer support, resources, or mentorship to community psychologists striving to build authentic collaborations in multidisciplinary settings or environments where there is a greater need for connection. Please keep an eye out for opportunities to participate in this critical endeavor. If you’re interested in learning more, you may also contact the Fellows directly at