Being APA president
BY BARRY S. ANTON, PHD • APA PRESIDENT
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
— T.S. Eliot
As faculty senate chair at my university, I knew about “herding
cats.” Listening carefully to differing
opinions and seeking compromise are
in my blood. But I have to admit; I have been surprised by the
complexities of the APA presidency, even though I had served
nine years on APA’s Board of Directors.
The responsibilities of the APA president include five major
challenges: planning a convention; organizing a presidential
initiative; leading a newly organized Board of Directors and
Council of Representatives; communicating with constituents
and the public through the Monitor and other media; and
representing APA domestically and internationally. (Oh, and
dealing with crises is also on the menu.)
Perhaps the most exciting responsibility for me is planning
APA’s 2015 Annual Convention, to be held in Toronto, Aug.
6–9. Among the myriad and rewarding convention challenges
are planning the opening session, selecting the opening session
speaker and Lifetime Achievement Award winner from a
slew of outstanding candidates, and developing presidential
programing, as well as crafting the presidential speech and
multiple ceremonial duties. Whew!
I’m also thrilled to be organizing my presidential initiative:
an international summit on integrated care and psychology,
which includes global themes on health disparities, training
and education, access to services and best practices. Streamed
globally from APA’s new Capitol View Conference Center, my
hope is that we will learn from each other and create further
opportunities to collaborate.
As APA’s 2015 president, I will also help implement the
association’s new governance system. Over the last few
years, the Council of Representatives has taken bold steps to
reorganize into a bicameral body where financial responsibility
rests with the Board of Directors and policy decisions lie with
the Council, led by a newly elected Council Leadership Team.
As with all new governance structures, we will fine-tune our
process over time.
I am most awed — and deeply moved — by my duties
representing APA at conferences and other meetings worldwide.
For example, when I attended the International Conference on
Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego last September, I was
on a panel with Nicole Hockley, mother of 6-year-old Sandy
Hook victim Dylan Hockley. Words cannot describe what it felt
like to listen to her pain.
There have been other very meaningful moments
representing APA, such as at the Caribbean Regional
Conference of Psychology in Paramaribo, Suriname. Because
Suriname is a former South American Dutch colony, I was
advised to fly through Amsterdam, where I visited the Anne
Frank Museum during my layover. I was extremely moved by
the courage and prescience that led Anne Frank to document
the Jewish persecution. The experience gave me an opportunity
to reflect on how psychology’s research on discrimination,
stereotyping and hatred can help change behavior. It also
enhanced my appreciation of the Caribbean conference topics,
which included peace and conflict resolution, cross cultural
studies, migration, human trafficking and disability, and
marginalization, among others.
Shortly before I attended the Caribbean conference, I
made presentations at The Chicago School of Professional
Psychology and the Illinois Psychological Association
(IPA). My presentation at IPA, “Creating diverse and
inclusive organizations,” dovetailed nicely with events in
Suriname. These honest conversations reflected my long-term commitment to diversity as a core APA value. Robust
discussions about racism, inclusion, privilege, ethics, and
science and practice figured prominently in our conversations.
Coincidently, Illinois affirmed marriage equality only four
months before my visit, becoming the 16th state to do so. The
conversations around marriage equality and diversity at IPA
were exciting and poignant.
While I am humbled by the extent of my new role, I have not
been surprised by the outpouring of support offered by APA’s
staff, board of directors and my council colleagues as well as by
many friends. Not only am I grateful for this support, I know
that no leader can be successful without it. n