This year’s APA Division Leadership Conference focused on
finding new ways to engage early career psychologists.
BY REBECCA A. CLAY
The aging of APA’s membership represents a potential crisis for the association, APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, told nearly 100 attendees at
APA’s 2012 Division Leadership Conference.
Engaging the next generation
In her welcome, Johnson emphasized the urgent need to get
younger psychologists involved in divisions and APA as a whole.
In 2010, she said, the mean age of APA members was 54-plus
and the mean number of years postdegree was almost 21. Both
numbers are increasing.
While members of APA’s divisions tend to be younger, said
Johnson, their average age is still more than 40 and most are
a decade or more postdegree. Just 20 percent to 25 percent of
early career APA members join divisions, she said, adding that
there’s a link between division membership and “staying power”
Those numbers prompted Johnson to make engaging young
psychologists one of her presidential themes. But more senior
psychologists can’t be the ones to figure out how to achieve that
goal, she said.
“We need reverse mentoring, with early career psychologists
mentoring us,” she said.
To make that happen, Johnson invited seven early career
psychologists to the conference to give divisions feedback on
how to best include early career psychologists in the future.
The group’s recommendations included reduced division
membership rates, special outreach efforts during the transition
from student to professional, two-way mentoring relationships
with more senior members and designated slots on executive
boards, an early career psychologist council and other
“Early career psychologists don’t just want membership in a
division,” says Debra Major, PhD, of Old Dominion University,
who co-chaired the working group of young psychologists with
John Westefeld, PhD, of the University of Iowa. “They really
want a role.”
Ensuring board effectiveness
Also new at this year’s conference was a keynote address on how
to create a high-performing executive board.
Gary P. Latham, PhD, a past president of the Canadian
Psychological Association and a professor of organizational
effectiveness at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of
Management, urged attendees to become “activist presidents”
of their divisions. He offered several tips on how to achieve that
• Find allies. New division presidents need key allies,
including a “sage” who can share his or her institutional
memory and past presidents and other champions who can
offer support and advice. Latham urged presidents-elect to
ask those with historical knowledge of the division what three
things the best and worst presidents did and what three things
they’d like to see that no president has ever done.
• Create a vision and goals. To craft a vision that members
can rally around, Latham suggested, ask why your division
exists, who would miss it if it disappeared and what makes
division members angry. When Latham headed APA’s Div. 14
(Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology), for
instance, his vision was enhanced visibility that would allow the
division’s knowledge to benefit society. Use very specific goals
and timetables to measure progress, he advised.
• Acknowledge your board members. “Let people know
they are heard and appreciated,” said Latham. In addition to
soliciting input, use phone calls and emails to check in with
board members regularly.
• Keep your dream alive. Continue to be an activist even
after you rotate out of the presidency, said Latham. Persuade
board members to run for president and then convince division
members to vote for them. Said Latham, “That’s how you get
your dream to live on.” n
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.