APA lauds Counseling Psychology diversity
By Corinne Steinbrenner
A new gold-and-silver trophy in the Lynch School lobby pays tribute to the Counseling Psychology doctoral program’s outstanding commitment to diversity.
The American Psychological Association (APA) presented the program with the 2013 Suinn Minority Achievement Award at the association’s annual conference in Hawaii over the summer. The award recognizes graduate programs in psychology that have exceptional records in recruiting, retaining, and graduating ethnic minority students.
“The Counseling Psychology program at Boston College is very deserving of this prestigious award and can be proud of its accomplishments in the education and training of psychologists of color,” said Beth Boyd, chair of the APA’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training in Psychology Task Force.
The honor is a welcome acknowledgement from an outside body that Boston College’s program does more than “talk the talk” when it comes to diversity, says Professor Lisa Goodman, former faculty coordinator and director of training for the program. She notes that approximately one-third of the candidates admitted to the Ph.D. program each year are students of color, and that the department offers several courses specifically designed to enhance students’ sensitivity to issues of race and culture. But the program’s commitment to diversity goes beyond that.
“The social justice focus of our program—which is slightly different than just a diversity focus but assumes that [role]—is the distinguishing characteristic,” says Goodman. “And it’s what we highlight in our accreditation and marketing materials.
“Not only do we have a course called Multicultural Issues but we infuse those issues into all of our courses, even classes you wouldn’t necessarily associate with diversity.”
Students in the program note that their faculty’s expertise and interests range widely, from the impact of stereotypes about African Americans to the psychosocial development of homeless children to the bullying of LGBT teens.
“As a student of color, I’m able to do research that’s very aligned with my own personal experiences and my own passions,” said Dericka Canada, Ph.D. ’17, one of two students who nominated the program for the Suinn Award. Through the Lynch School of Education’s Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture, Canada is currently researching body image and colorism among black women.
Ethan Mereish, Ph.D. ’14, a sixth-year doctoral student who nominated the program along with Canada, said he has had “great experiences here with faculty mentors, who are affirming of me being an ethnic minority and affirming of my research interests, which are related to ethnic minority health disparities.”
Canada and Mereish are both recipients of the University’s Doctoral Diversity Fellowship.
In creating the Suinn Minority Achievement Award, Goodman says the APA recognized that if the mental health system expects to expand its reach in minority and low-income communities, it will have to provide those populations with more relevant services.
“I think that bringing in a diverse group of students enables us to reach both those goals,” she says. “It’s good to have people of color—and other types of diversity—represented among the community of mental health service providers; it’s also good to have the ideas and energy of a broader, more diverse group of people figuring out what kinds of services make the most sense to offer.”