Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue;
it makes it a requirement for survival.
—René Jules Dubos
Dubos’ perspective is no doubt informed by his microbiology background and the fact that genetic variation increases an organism’s chances of survival. In psychology, there is a great deal of psychological research that supports embracing diversity-affirming stances. Variables such as openness to experience, cognitive flexibility, adaptability, general clinical competence, among many others, have been related to diversity-embracing attitudes and beliefs. Diversity-affirming stances are productive for individuals, and also in organizations, showing positive outcomes in schools and work settings. Our profession has explicitly stated diversity-affirming values through the ethics code of our major professional association, the American Psychological Association (2010), as well as through the Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists (2003).
With the start of the second decade of the 21st century, Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, continued on its trek towards improved integration of diversity issues with the creation of a new Director of Diversity post. The vision for this initiative was summarized in an affirmative commitment: "Psi Chi shall ensure that the Society reflects the rich diversity of people and perspectives in psychology.”
Three main goals were articulated for achieving this affirmative commitment:
Goal 1: Develop infrastructure for attending to diversity issues within Psi Chi.
Goal 2: Support diversity in the science and practice of psychology.
Goal 3: Develop methods of assessing the degree to which Psi Chi is meeting its diversity, initiatives goals, assess the goals in a timely manner, and use the resulting data to develop and implement additional action steps.
The first goal was addressed with the creation of the Director of Diversity position as well as the Diversity Advisory Committee. The Psi Chi Board of Directors also put significant financial commitment behind this initiative, approving $7,500 in expenditures for fiscal year 2012 to ensure the success of their efforts. Goals 2 and 3 will be addressed through actions at many levels. The ball is already rolling! I attended the National Latina/o Psychological Association meeting in late fall of 2010, where Psi Chi hosted a student movie and pizza night. Early this spring, I attended the National Multicultural Conference & Summit to speak directly to members and solicit committed volunteers for the Diversity Advisory Board. I am currently drafting proposals for new awards and grants that will shine a spotlight on our members’ efforts to promote diversity in their research.
These are the first steps in a long list of ideas for ensuring that Psi Chi’s diversity-affirming values are clearly evident to our members. Consistent with an understanding on the complexities of recognizing and celebrating diversity, specific initiatives may vary over time and circumstance. Currently a major focus is addressing issues of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability. In order to meet the three main goals, initiatives will span their reach across areas including diversity in membership, Central Office staff, elected officers, and programmatic activities, grants, and awards.
Some specific planned actions include:
- Attendance at specialty conferences where diversity issues are central
- Establish awards and grants on diversity topics
- Increase diversity of grant reviewers for Psi Chi grant competitions
- Increase number of diversity-focused submissions to the Eye on Psi Chi and the Journal of Undergraduate Research
- Increase diversity of reviewers for the Journal of Undergraduate Research
- Support regional psychological associations’ efforts to infuse diversity in their conference programs
- Develop an on-line resource bank on diversity issues that would be helpful to our members
- Encourage charter applications from minority-serving institutions
This is a long list, and progress will proceed in stages. However, the list can grow. I will depend on members’ input as to what you think needs to be added. I welcome specific ideas as well as global observations.
Psi Chi has devoted significant time and effort to evaluating and supporting diversity since 2002, when Dr. Elliott Hammer (Xavier University of Louisiana) formed and chaired a task force charged with increasing diversity presence within the Psi Chi. Dr. Carla Reyes, then Rocky Mountain Regional Vice-President, served as a liaison to the Board of Directors. In 2004, the Diversity Task Force submitted a detailed report outlining specific actions that would incorporate diversity into Psi Chi and show the Society’s commitment to supporting diversity. At the time, the Board of Directors adopted a motion to add a diversity "sub end” to Psi Chi’s mission statement, namely, "Recognize and foster the contributions that diversity makes to the science and practice of psychology.” (Psi Chi, 2011). Later in 2010, Psi Chi approved a budget to support diversity initiatives at the regional level. That commitment has now reached a Society-wide level. As a past regional Vice-President for Psi Chi, I am excited to see this continued evolution toward greater expressed commitment to diversity. As a member of Psi Chi, I am proud to be a part of a society that takes affirmative steps toward celebrating diversity in our membership and in our profession.
American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377-402.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: 2010 amendments. Retrieved from HERE
Psi Chi (2011). Purpose & Mission Statements. Retrieved from HERE