2006 - 2007 APA Science Grant Winner
I really didn’t know what to expect when I began my summer internship working at the head office of the APA as the 2006-07 Psi Chi/APA Science Directorate intern. I applied to the internship because I wanted some exposure to the psychological world before I applied to graduate school. Since taking Psychology 101 at Davidson College, I knew I was interested in the field, but I had no idea what areas of study were available in higher education or what career options there were with a PhD in psychology. Although I didn’t know what I would be doing at the APA, I assumed that I would do a lot of filing and other similar monotonous tasks associated with office work. I hoped that my internship would help me decide if I really wanted to go further with my studies in psychology, and if I did, what career opportunities would be open to me.
Well, not only did I get what I hoped for, but I also drastically underestimated the quality of work that I would be doing in the APA office. Of course, as will be the case of any office internship, there was a small but fair amount of copying, stapling, and sending packages. But I was also able to work on some really interesting projects.
I discovered the Science Directorate is the hub of communication between psychological scientists and everyone else in the world and part of their responsibility concerns public policy and governmental relations. I was heavily encouraged to attend any and all Congressional hearings that pertained to the issues of public health, mental health and addiction, and scientific education and funding. I went to an average of two hearings or meetings a week, some of which were interorganizational meetings in which I sat in on the APA’s behalf. Attending these meetings and hearings was the best way I can imagine to learn the most up-to-date information about the issues concerning psychological science. The summaries that I wrote from these programs provided the basis from which the science policy staff wrote articles for the Directorate’s online publications and newsletters. I also personally wrote two articles for the Science Directorate’s online publications, Psychological Science Agenda and Science Policy Insider News.
In addition to public policy, I was also closely involved in preparing for the APA Convention and other Science Directorate educational workshops. I helped prepare materials for one program that turned out to be the most controversial issue at the convention this year. I worked directly beneath the head of the APA Ethics Department in collecting and organizing materials for a series of convention programs on “Ethics and Interrogation,” which investigated the role of psychologists in U.S. detention centers. I also took full advantage of the APA’s many optional workshops and brown bag lunches. The APA offered weekly brown bag discussions and presentations on various subjects specifically geared toward undergraduate students and interns. Subjects ranged from the organizational structure of the APA to guidelines for getting into grad school and looking for careers in psychology that best fit your individual interests. I also attended several optional training sessions and am now reasonably proficient at HTML code writing and DreamWeaver® web design.
The APA office, although not a research laboratory, is a great place to work and provides a wide range of resources and skills that will prepare you for a professional career in psychology. The Science Directorate staff specifically is made up of a wonderful group of psychology professionals and administrators who were all a delight to work with. I would recommend this internship to anyone who is interested in psychology and in learning more about the scope of psychology’s impact.