A couple of years ago, an international group of psychology students and psychologists set out to unite psychology students and student associations in a worldwide student organization. This group believed that the time had come for such an organization to be developed: psychological research, education, student life, and professional praxis were becoming increasingly international in character, and long-distance communication was less expensive and more accessible than ever. As the members of this group exchanged views with diverse people from various countries, they grew ever more convinced of the need to create such an association, and of the way to make it work. Acknowledging that the organization would only really exist and have purpose when a significant number of students from a significant number of countries joined it, they began the process of founding and structuring this organization from scratch. Although the process has been long and sometimes difficult, the organization is now a reality and has recently begun to recruit members. But let's start from the beginning.
On August 21, 1999, at the 107th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in Boston, Massachusetts, an exciting conversation hour entitled "An International Student Group for Psychology: Desirable? Feasible?" was attended by approximately 10 psychologists and 15 psychology students. The conversation hour was chaired by Dr. Slater Newman (past president of Psi Chi), and participants included Alette Coble from the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS); Shannon McCaslin, Student Committee cochair of APA's Division 52 (International Psychology); Andrea Perrino, student representative from the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA); and Richard Yuen from the American Psychological Society Student Caucus (APSSC). The event was cosponsored by Psi Chi, Division 52, Division 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), APA Board of Educational Affairs, and APAGS.
Since that first meeting, more discussions on this same topic have taken place at the 108th APA meeting as well as in other parts of the world. Two of the discussions took place in July 2000: one during the International Council of Psychologists meeting in Padova, Italy, and one during the International Congress of Psychology in Stockholm, Sweden. During the meeting in Italy, the conversation centered around the logistics of arranging academic exchanges overseas. A group of Italian students had begun an organization at the University of Padova that arranged international academic exchanges, and they expressed interest in advising our organization on this type of exchange. In Stockholm, approximately 20 students were present, from countries as diverse as Argentina, Belgium, China, India, Sweden, and the USA. During this meeting, Shannon McCaslin met and began collaborating with two other students: Nana Opoku Owusu-Banahene from Ghana and Edward Van Rossen from Belgium, who was serving as president of the European Federation of Psychology Students' Associations (EFPSA).
Most students who attended these meetings expressed their excitement and enthusiasm about launching a worldwide psychology students' organization, and several students expressed their ideas regarding the goals of such an organization. These included the compilation of information about study/exchange programs and the creation of mailing lists to facilitate international discussions, research, traveling, relocations, participation in congresses, etc.
Following the meeting in Stockholm, several substantial steps were made toward the formation of an organisation that would accomplish these goals. First, a voting round was organised among more than 100 students from about 25 countries to decide on the name of the organization and to answer the question of whether or not it should become a student division of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). As a result, the organization continued as a separate entity (but also valued its affiliation with IAAP and has continued to seek other ways to formalize this) and was named the International Psychology Students' Organization (IPSO). Since then, no more voting rounds have been organized, primarily because the Web-based tool that was used for this purpose has been deactivated by the former host. Because of this, and because it is easier to work in a small and dedicated group, further work on the formation of IPSO has been carried out by the authors of this article (Shannon McCaslin, Nana Opoku Owusu-Banahene, Edward Van Rossen, and Malin Gustafsson Wiking). We have composed a mission statement, a list of possible services, and bylaws that are based upon those of the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), thus combining both individual and organizational membership (student members and constituents, respectively). We agreed that the financial threshold for membership should be kept as low as possible, and therefore at present there is no membership fee required.
The bylaws also include a category of professional members, intended for former IPSO executives and for professional psychologists who wish to be involved as advisors or link pins. Most of these members will probably be informal representatives of professional organizations who already have been a great support to IPSO. They have advised IPSO executives, helped them develop a worldwide network of interested students and supportive psychologists, and supported their attendance at international meetings and congresses. There is no doubt that without these individuals, IPSO would not be where it is now, and therefore the current IPSO executives would like to thank these people and organizations on behalf of all future IPSO members: Dr. Kay Greene, former secretary-general of the International Council of Psychologists (ICP); Scott Mesh, cofounder of APAGS; Dr. Slater Newman, past president of Psi Chi; Dr. Pierre Ritchie, secretary-general of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS); Dr. Charles Spielberger, past president of IAAP and Psi Chi and current president of Division 52; Dr. Harold Takooshian, past president of Psi Chi and current president-elect of Division 52; and Tuomo Tikkanen, president of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA). IPSO also thanks the following organizations and institutions for their support: the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), the Organizing Committees of the International Congress of Psychology in Sweden (2000) and the International Congress of Applied Psychology in Singapore (2002), and the University of Leuven (Belgium).
Students who wish to join IPSO should visit the organization's website (www.psychologystudents.org) and follow the application instructions (click on "become a member"). Students who wish to help the current IPSO executives should click on "help."
Students interested in international psychology also may want to consider participation or contact with one or both of the following groups.
The European Federation of Psychology Students' Associations
The European Federation of Psychology Students' Associations (EFPSA) was established in 1987 at the first international congress of psychology students in Portugal, and has met each subsequent year at the EFPSA Congress. The Federation's goals are to improve educational conditions for psychology students in Europe, to promote the exchange of social and ethical ideas in connection to psychology, to promote student exchanges, and to promote scientific cooperation among European psychology students. EFPSA has been an affiliate member of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA) since 2001, a relationship that involves cooperation, the mutual exchange of information, and sending delegations to each others' congresses. At this moment, EFPSA has full member associations from 16 countries and observing associations from about 9 countries. All in all, EFPSA thus represents around 80,000 European psychology students.
The EFPSA website is located at www.efpsa.org. Students who wish to join the EFPSA mailing list (with over 200 individual members) should fill out the (little) requested information at www.efpsa.org/site/index.php?mnu=4&show=45.
Division 52 Student Committee
The APA Division 52 Student Committee was formed at the division's first business meeting at the APA convention in Chicago in 1998. The original Student Committee cochairs were Shannon McCaslin and Kristen Lang. The Student Committee ensures the provision of a forum for students to discuss international issues in psychology and to publish their research and theoretical papers in the division newsletter. It also provides a place where students invested in working internationally in psychology can receive mentoring from established international psychologists through the division's Internet-based electronic mailing lists and chat rooms. The committee is currently seeking students interested in serving in various capacities, including working on the webpage, serving as a liason to other international student organizations, and encouraging participation in the division through the division newsletter, Internet-based forums, and at the annual meetings of APA.
For more information, contact:
Shannon E. McCaslin, MA
PTSD Research Program
SFVA Medical Center
4150 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94116
Telephone: (415) 221-4810, ext. 3103
Division 52 Website: http://orgs.tamu-commerce.edu/div52