Letter of Nomination: Laurence Armand French, PhD
Western New Mexico University
The members of our WNMU Psi Chi Chapter, both past and present, would like to nominate Laurence Armand French, Ph.D.'s for the prestigious Regional Faculty Advisor Award. He is the founding father of both our Psychology Club (established in 1993) and our Psi Chi Chapter (established in 1995). He has served as the primary advisor to both student organizations since their inception at Western New Mexico University. He also established the Native American Club and is co-founder (with Dr. Virginia Sanchez) of the student/faculty/community interaction projects with the Mexican border community, Palomas in the State of Chihuahua.
Dr. French is currently on the RMPA Psi Chi Regional Steering Committee working closely with the Regional Vice President in reviewing undergraduate and graduate papers for presentation at the meetings held in Reno/Sparks and Park City. He also participated in Psi Chi Symposia at these meetings. At the state level, Dr. French has engaged the combined Psychology Club/Psi Chi Chapter in the regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor's Associations annual "Silver City Institute" held each August on the WNMU campus. Here, the Psychology Club provides the alcohol-free band and dance during the week-long training while the Psi Chi Chapter provides two scholarships to students to the "Institute" which can be taken for college credit at both the senior and graduate levels. (one undergraduate and one graduate scholarship is provided to a psychology student, many of which have been minorities.) This has been a very rewarding reciprocal relationship providing the Psi Chi Chapter state-wide and regional (Eastern Arizona, West Texas, Navajo Nation, Indian Pueblos, rural border Chihuahua, Mexico) recognition. Indeed, our first Chapter President, Arthur Romero, later became state-president of the New Mexico Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Association. Another WNMU Psi Chi member, Patsy Madrid, is the immediate Past President of this organization and served a four-year term as State Counselor to the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.
Dr. French was awarded the first Educator of the Year Award from NMADACA in 1997 and the Leadership in Research Award for "Outstanding Leadership in Conducting Research on Drug Abuse and Addiction" from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) I 1999. These awards and recognition stem from his "Cultural Psychology" projects vested in the WNMU Psychology Club/Psi Chi Chapter. And last year Dr. French was the first recipient of both the WNMU Regents approved Faculty Excellence in Student and Professional Services Award and the Excellence in Research Award. Again, these awards were based on his Psi Chi-directed cultural psychology projects with social and health issues relevant to American Indians, Anglo-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Mexicans within the region.
As our primary advisor Dr. French has worked closely with the students in establishing proactive, relevant multicultural community projects. After the success of our participation in the Psi Chi national eye glasses project and the subsequent national Psi Chi focus on adopting a social services project, Dr. French guided us toward conducting proactive projects for at-need groups in our region. This included the Indian boarding schools, Mexican schools, Mexican migrant workers families, and impoverished rural Mexican-American and Anglo-American families. Being a small regional state university we conducted these service projects without the benefit of grants or other supplementary funding. By the same token we could honestly present ourselves in an honest fashion without any "hidden" agenda which these populations were leery of. Indeed, we filled a positive niche in Mexico following an expose of the Palomas schools and community by "20/20". We gained the confidence of all the service project groups by asking the question: "What can we do for you?" Indeed, going into these projects without preconceived expectations we learned a lot more about the group and they, in turn, interacted with us at a peer level. Dr. French led us in this experience. The Navajo said that they needed instructional material and books for their early education efforts (k8) as well as sports equipment for their teams. (We were able to get the old baseball equipment and uniforms from WNMU and delivered them to the Fort Wingate Bureau of Indian Affairs elementary boarding school).
Another gesture was the collection of toys for the Indian boarding schools children and the children of the 100 Mexican migrant families working the green chili farms in southeastern New Mexico. This came out of the Psychology Club/Psi Chi Chapter's involvement with the U.S. Marine Corps' "Toys for Tots" program in the Grant County area. Books and school equipment as well as clinical assessments was requested by the Mexican schools in Palomas, Chihuahua. Clothing and food were also requested for the 100 Mexican migrant farm families via the San Isidro Church in Garfield, New Mexico. Sister Marie-Paule Willem, a Belgium missionary nun, runs the migrant family assistance program in Garfield and noted their need at Easter time for traditional subsistence food to carry these families over their period of unemployment. This led to the Psi Chi Chapter's provision of 500 pounds of rice and 500 pounds of pinto beans each year--an effort that is greatly appreciated by the Mexican migrant families. Dr. French then integrated these service projects into the undergraduate and graduate psychology programs at WNMU as well as using them as a basis for student research. The end result was the creation of the course Comparative Multicultural Social Psychology which has as a main component a week-long intensive experiential experience whereby WNMU students, along with students from colleges and universities in New Hampshire, visit the Navajo Reservation, the Zuni Pueblo, Palomas, Mexico and local Mexican-American and African-American (Buffalo Soldiers cemetery at Fort Bayard...) sites. Our Navajo and Mexican-American Psi Chi members host our students at these sites. This is clearly a valuable cultural psychology experience.