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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2018–19

Eye on Psi Chi

Winter 2018–19 | Volume 23 | Issue 2


An Ongoing Need for the Committee for Equality and Professional Opportunity (CEPO)

Rihana S. Mason, PhD,
Georgia State University

View this issue in Digital and PDF formats.

What Is CEPO?

The Committee for Equality and Professional Opportunity (CEPO) was established in 1972 by the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA). SEPA became the first and still only regional association to include a subcommittee specifically designed as a diversity and inclusion initiative. CEPO was originally established as the “Committee on the Status of Women” during the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. This sub¬committee within the executive structure of the SEPA has grown to be inclusive of a wide array of diverse groups. Its broad mission is to promote professional equality for all psychologists regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability. The CEPO structure as a subcommittee allows for an appointed chairperson, chair, and cochairs for undergraduate research; chair for minority interest programming; and chair for awards for research related to gender and minority groups.

What Makes CEPO a Regional Model?

CEPO operates as the only APA regional model for a long-standing structured diversity and inclusion initiative. The goals of CEPO are to sponsor programming to address the concerns of underrepresented groups, to increase membership and partici-pation among these groups, and to provide role models for these groups. The goals of CEPO parallel the ability (A), motivation (M), and opportunity (O) framework (AMO; Appelbaum, Bailey, Berg, & Kalleberg, 2000; Boxall & Purcell, 2003). The AMO framework has been widely used to conceptualize workplace practices that enhance employee creativity, motivate employees to leverage their creativity and competencies, and facilitate com¬munication among employees. Due to the concerted efforts of the CEPO leadership, psychologists can attend the SEPA meeting as scholar professionals from several underrepresented groups and positively affirm the answers to these questions:

  • Ability—Are persons like me involved in programming (e.g., chairs, presidents, executive committee members)?
  • Motivation—Do I see people who look, talk, and identify with me?
  • Opportunity—Are there systems to recruit more persons like me?

CEPO can also be categorized as a pipeline program. Pipeline programs are defined as targeted interventions designed to foster professional growth in underrepresented groups within the academy (Byrd & Mason, 2018). We typically think of pipeline programs as academic readiness programs that are government or institutionally funded to provide mentoring, research experiences, and professional development. Historically, pipeline programs were created to support individuals at various levels within the academy from precollegiate to the professoriate.

CEPO programming is tailored to support the enhancement of scholarship for undergraduates, graduate students, and pro-fessionals. The dynamic interchanges that occur during CEPO programming in addition to the regular SEPA programming has been successful in preparing, propelling, and positioning its participants within the academy.

As an entry point into the academy, CEPO has improved the SEPA meeting experience and opportunities for undergraduate students. In 1985, Drs. Jeanne Stahl, Margaret Weber Levine, and J. Reid Jones (all emerita faculty at minority serving insti¬tutions) initiated the SEPA/CEPO Student/Faculty Information Exchange. Consistent with the criteria for undergraduate research conference participation at the time (Tryon, 1985) and current suggestions for the involvement of undergraduates in research (Hughes, 2014), the information exchanges allowed undergraduates to present papers and leave with copies of abstracts and papers of interest to them. The Information Exchange transformed into the CEPO/Psi Chi Undergraduate research program in 2001. It now has multiple poster sessions, an oral presentation session, and special symposia. Over the period of 2000–18, the number of accepted poster presentations from undergraduate students has more than doubled from 111 to 275. These presentations range in quality but represent award winners from both non-Psi Chi and Psi Chi affiliated members. Presentations during the CEPO undergraduate programming status has propelled certain presenters into the academy. Notable CEPO presenters include former APA president Dr. Antonio Puente.

The pipeline is evident for graduate students and profes¬sionals as well. In the early years, exemplary professionals were invited as visiting scholars. Currently, they are recruited as SEPA/CEPO Invited Speakers. Since 2012, CEPO has sponsored a Leadership Institute to equip women and people of color for leadership roles with the purpose of recognizing and capitaliz¬ing on their strengths to become leaders in academic practice and in organizational settings. The Institute also provides knowledge, skills, and strategies leading to effective leadership. CEPO has been successful at grooming executive committee members including SEPA presidents. Notable past presidents include Dr. Jenifer Friday (longest serving CEPO chair), Dr. Rosemary Phelps (outgoing SEPA president), and Dr. Jacqueline White (former president of the Society for the Psychology of Women and APA Acuff Congressional Fellow). Figure 1 shows a historical review of CEPO significant events.

Why Is CEPO Still Important?

I believe that even after 45 years of CEPO operating in the Southeast, there is still a very pressing need to have a diverse subset of individuals, who resemble the changing demographics of our nation, retool the way we consider intellectual exchanges between psychological students, practitioners, and researchers. Invited panels, symposia, and conversation hours once a year only brush the surface needed to address issues related to

  • racialized trauma,
  • health disparities,
  • gender victimization,
  • recruitment of underrepresented and marginalized groups into the discipline, the need for allies,
  • embracing ability/disability, and
  • recruiting more underrepresented persons into the discipline.

As Tatum (2017) states “Our social context still reinforces racial hierarchies and still limits our opportunities for genuinely mutual, equitable, and affirming relationships in neighborhoods, in classrooms, or in the workplace.” The thematic programming, strategic planning, and leadership that occurs each year through CEPO allows annual meeting participants to experience the following benefits of APO framework within a safe space in the Southeast. Future consideration should include discussions around how to integrate CEPO into other regional meetings.

Ultimately, through the social displays of scientific knowledge and practices modeled by those who have both a status above your own and who are members of a group to whom you identify we will continue to broaden participation within our discipline. In addition, network building will allow CEPO’s diversity and inclusion efforts to extend to other regions.


Appelbaum, E., Bailey, T., Berg, P., & Kalleberg, A. L. (2000). Manufacturing advantage: Why high-performance work systems pay off. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.

Boxall, P., & Purcell, J. (2003). Strategy and human resource management. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Byrd, C. D., & Mason, R. S. (2018). Thrive towards a diverse academy: Pipeline Programs from the bachelors to the professoriate. Under review Lever Press.

Hughes, J. L. (2014). A model for a research program that encourages undergraduate research students to present and publish original research. Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 19, 220–224.

Tatum, B. D. (2017). Why are all the Black kids still sitting together in the cafeteria? And other conversations about race in the Twenty-First century. Liberal Education, 103, 46–55.

Tryon, G. S. (1985). What can our students learn from regional psychology conferences? Teaching of Psychology, 12, 227–228.

Rihana S. Mason, PhD, received her PhD in experimental psychology with an emphasis in cognitive psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2004. She is now a Research Scientist at the Urban Child Study Center at Georgia State University and an adjunct faculty member at Spelman College, her undergraduate alma mater. As an undergraduate at Spelman, she participated in the National Institutes of Mental Health Careers and Opportunities in Undergraduate Research Training Program (NIMH-COR) and later named a NIMH-COR star in 2007. Her training as a psychologist has brought her full circle with her involvement in SEPA. She currently serves as the chair of CEPO. She was elected to serve after chairing the Subcommittee on Undergraduate Research and serving as a cochair alongside of Dr. Rosemary Phelps. Having served in a dual capacity, both a mentee and mentor, she has accumulated an array of knowledge as it relates to forging mentee/mentor relationships in the academy and common pedagogies that exist across undergraduate research training models. Her SEPA/CEPO involvement has reinforced her perspective that it is possible and necessary to prepare for your future by interacting and modeling the success of professionals who share any of your identities.

Copyright 2018 (Vol. 23, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

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