Language of Diversity

by Sajeda Khalifa

In the article, The language of diversity, Sarah Ahmed (2007) asks a very important question, “what does diversity do?”  Ahmed uses the term “diversity” within the context of higher education, specifically diversity/equity aims and objectives that institutions commit to. These include but are not limited to collective efforts administrations (Ahmed, 2007). First, if I had to define what diversity should look like on a college or a university campus, I envision students from diverse ethnic backgrounds coming together from all over the world to learn not just about themselves or their career field, but to learn from one another and appreciate differences. To me, a college or a university is an institution that represents a microcosm of the world, where people can interact with one another, understand each other, and facilitate collaboration and cooperation.  Through this process, an individual can adapt to differences by having an exposure to other people’s perspectives, cultures, traditions, and practices to become an open-minded person.  An institution of higher education can be a place where students not just acquire knowledge from books, but also learn from first-hand experiences through direct interaction with different ways of being. Hence, welcoming and implementing diversity on a college campus means allowing new ideas, views, and practices to make our communities and societies more inclusive of one another, diminishing discrimination and violence from our biased ways of thinking, and coming to a mutual understanding, so that people can learn to respect differences and love one another.           

As a College & Career Counselor, I work with the TRiO Upward Bound Program, which supports high school students to prepare for higher education.  My job is to assist our program participants in finding the right “college fit” where they can find the support to succeed through their four years of college journey after they graduate from high school.  When navigating their college search, I ask my first-generation college bound students from multi-ethnic backgrounds, as to what kind of college campus would make them feel welcomed? They often respond with  something along the lines of  “a college that welcomes people of color, where they feel they can belong.”  

Understanding my students by putting myself in their shoes, this statement makes me reflect on my personal college experience. Being a minority who is an Asian Muslim female whose parents never attended college, I can relate to my students’ feelings of being intimidated; I, too, felt out of place, on a college campus during my college years. I attended and graduated from an institution of higher education that calls itself a “diverse” campus. It is true that students of all races, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic, and age, filled up the campus body.  The Institution did enroll diverse student bodies and staff.  To me, it seemed like the “ideal image” of what “diversity” should represent on a university campus. Looking at the institution from outside, it appeared to promote diversity through all their statements and policies. Furthermore, the institution provided Support Services, Ethnic Clubs, and course offerings that teach cultural perspectives;  professors appeared to be open-minded and accepting of differences. From outside, this institution seemed like a good fit for me.   

However, once I immersed myself on campus, things were different. Although it was diverse, at times, I found myself frustrated by the lack of staff and student support from a cultural perspective (Ahmed, 2007).  Along with other students, I felt that the institution could have done a better job of creating more inclusive spaces for students of colors by hiring more faculty and staff that represented diverse student bodies and became mentors for students. I wished that clubs were more proactive on campus in engaging students in multi-cultural activities, and campuses to be more alive and vibrant by promoting cultural events that made students feel it embraced celebrating diversity by carrying it out in action. Throughout my college years, I never recall upper administration to have called for an open forum conversation inviting students of all colors to voice their opinions or concerns.  On reflection, I strongly believe that in order to cultivate a welcoming feeling on a university campus, it takes more than just giving “lip service” (Ahmed, 2007), but rather carry out the action through commitment. As Ahmed addresses in her article, “what commitment means still depends on how diversity circulates as a term within organizations.” (Ahmed, 2007).  

When Ahmed asks us to think what “diversity in action” should look like, keeping my college experience in mind, I remind myself the importance of emphasizing and educating our students to reflect on what they want to get out of college experience.  Also, having a conversation about how our students can make a big change in transforming the campus, is through engaging themselves in making their voices heard, so that they can not only feel welcomed, but feel a sense of belonging by holding the institution accountable to their commitment to embracing diversity. If we want to truly welcome and appreciate diversity, all institutions, whether it is elementary or high schools, universities, or work industries, leaders running them need to play a role in providing a safe space for an individual to voice their concerns and meet their needs.  If students are not given the ‘safe space’ to voice their concern and allowing the opportunity to make the change, then equality of power will never change and will always remain social inequalities amongst people of color.  Therefore, it is critical that administrators in higher education consider racially marginalized voices to be heard and transform their institutions by rethinking and committing to how diversity should really look like on their campus, without just providing ‘lip service’ (Ahmed, 2007).

Black Lives Matter: A Positive Force to Transform the Societal Apparatus of the U.S 

By Juan M. Boungou 

The 1960s have been known as ‘‘the era of the turbulences’’ across the world, including in the United States of America. The social turbulence rose due to a strong desire of people to reframe the social and even political apparatus of American society. Many social movements such as LGBTQ rights movement, anti-Vietnam war protests, and the civil rights movements—which were led by the prominent figures like Revd. Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X—emerged during this time. All these movements shared a struggle against issues such as deprivation of human rights, inequality and systematic injustices or oppression. These movements advocated for what Albee (1999) calls “improving the social-environment experience” (p.10). The improvement of such an environment could not be possible or effective without what an ecological approach, which is a holistic and integrative step that avoids blaming the oppressed individual, but rather that understands the societal structures that maintains or perpetuates such an oppressive hold (Albee, 1999). More recently, U.S. society has witnessed the rise of a new civil rights movement: Black Lives Matter. Under what condition(s) has this movement emerged? What is its significance? In what ways is it a transformative force to solve social or community problems that U.S. society is confronted with? These questions are explored in this blogpost.  

Kelly (2006) observes that any society lives in conjunction with individual behaviors and attitudes. From this ecological perspective, Kelly (2006) argues that persons are affected by the social-environment as much as their social-environment affects their wellbeing (p.30). With reference to such an observation, it suggests or implies that Black Lives Matter was not created out of the blue. On August 9, 2014, an unarmed young African American man named Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The video of that shooting circulated on social media, which erupted into nationwide indignation, anger, frustration, and paved the way for the rise of Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter has the expressed purpose of campaigning against broader issues of racial discrimination, police brutality, and racial inequality against African American communities. In the midst of that ‘‘millennial’’ struggle, the movement has been organizing rallies and marches. During their rallies and marches, the movement has quoted the names of the victims killed, by the police officers. For most people, these victims have been viewed as the inspirational epicenter of such a movement. For example, last words uttered by Eric Garner before he was killed in 2014, ‘‘I can’t breathe’’ went on to become one of the important slogans during these rallies and marches. Years of dehumanizing experiences, were not amenable to a healthy social environment, give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As a movement, Black Lives Matter has been met with considerable resistance. This has taken several forms. For example, their tactics have been criticized. The movement has been accused of fomenting violence, such as burning cars or car tires and looting stores. Moreover, the movement has been accused of being ‘‘discriminatory’’ because “all lives matter.” The movement has also been considered as anti-police radicalism. People/groups who hold such a view also tend to criticize victims of police brutality, arguing that they did not comply with police interrogations or try to focus on “black on black crime.” These justifications of violence may be understood in terms of ‘‘culture-blaming action’’ Szalavitz (2018), whereby victims are not only held ‘‘responsible’’ but also called to justify their efforts to seek justice. Scholars such as Albee (1999) have observed that that evidence that bad or abusive experiences are hard to deny with respect to its long-term damaging consequences. In this context, the leaders of Black Lives Matter have framed their movement as a response to pervasive and systemic discrimination, which has denied the basic human rights and dignity to African American communities. These leaders have pinpointed abusive systems that violates human rights, which have persisted beyond desegregation. Specifically, systems such as criminal justice and law enforcement have never changed. To this day, African Americans, especially men, continue to be racially profiled as prone violence and confrontation.  

As the protests continued, one of the then-Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders’ speeches was disrupted by some Black Lives Matter members in Seattle during the primary presidential elections in 2016, in an effort to get him to address the topic of racial inequality. This is an example of how the movement uses tactics such as putting pressure on politicians to drive change and gain a voice in the mainstream media. The question is how far the movement can go? How does the movement seek to achieve the social change that it has been fighting for? At what costs? Or at what benefits? These questions can just continue to spark our inquisitiveness about the movement and how it intends to accomplish social change. It is also important to remember that ‘‘social change is not an end product but rather a process’’ (Rappaport, 1981; p. 3). As such, it is important to understand factors that contribute towards a progressive change (Kelly, 2006).  As it appears, the movement has been able to exert pressures on politicians to tackle the issue of police brutality. Such an action or approach suggests that social change, as an end, cannot be achieved without involving the political elites. As a result of such a pressure, law enforcement has put in place a policy that requires police to wear body cameras since 2015 in some states, in order to improve police accountability (Shira, 2015).  Though this policy comes with its own drawbacks such as infringement on personal or community privacy, it would be premature to deny or undermine the effectiveness of its outcomes. In light of this, it also appears that Black Lives Matter as a social movement is still exploring different tactics, strategies, or approaches to raise awareness of abusive treatment for all marginalized groups regardless of their race. More importantly and interestingly, it suggests that the movement has taken an ecological approach, which examines the structures that undermine the dignity of the marginalized groups and provides some preventive measures to empower and improve the social environment.   

Given the current social context, which is also embedded in historical lens and has political implications, Black Lives Matter has surfaced as a new dynamism and social movement in the United States. As other prominent movements such as #MeToo movement or the LGBTQ movement, Black Lives Matter has been seeking to draw attention from the political class, particularly, to the respect of human rights and dignity for the African American community. In the middle of this new wave of social movements, it is important to remember what Rappaport (1981) observed: ‘‘social change is not an end product but rather a process (p. 3).’’  This new wave also suggests that the old apparatus of the American society is being challenged, and therefore changed insofar as Black Lives Matter movement remains engaged in its quest for the respect of human rights and equality.  


Albee, G. W. (1999). Prevention, not treatment, is the only hope. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 12(2), 133-146 

Kelly, J.G. (2006). Toward an ecological conception of preventive interventions. In Becoming ecological: An expedition into community psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Rappaport, J. (1981). In praise of paradox: A social policy of empowerment over prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 9(1), 1-25 

Shira, S. (2015). Will the widespread use of body cameras improve police accountability? Yes. Americas Quarterly. Retrieved from:  

Szalavitz, M. (2018). Why we’re psychologically hardwired to blame the victim. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Community, the Place I Come From…

Check out students of Community Social Psychology’s poems about their own communities.

By Anastasiya Tsoi

I am from a place smaller than a state of Texas… where snowy mountains and hot deserts exist, where hospitality means respect, where guest are always welcomed.

But I am also from a place where sustainability exists on the paper, where exit visa still remains (meaning you cannot leave a country without government permission), and where hosts may be punished by showing hospitality.

I am from a place where the literacy rate is 99%, where girls can study and go to universities, where women can have legal abortions.

But I am also from a place where tolerance for LGBTQ community does not exist, where yes, girls can study and go to universities but after marriage are not allowed to work and pursue their professional goals, where abortions are legal but sex is not.

I am from a place where culture, education, religion integrates but at the same time contradicts one another.

I did my first step to do a research, and be vocal about this place not because it needed it but because I love this place from the bottom of my heart.

By Nicole Cruz-Merced

I’m from Puerto Rico

I’m from Taíno and African culture,

I’m from warm weather and historic cities,

I’m from poverty and where people starve to death,

I’m from government corruption and no media attention.

I’m from an island I’m so proud to be from,

But I don’t understand why it can’t be the place I succeed.

Because of that reality,

I strive every day to save my home.

By Perla Ramirez

I’m from a small island where family is important and every Sunday we cook while making fun of each other

I’m from a community that loves to dance even when there a no lights to light up the dance floor

I’m from a country where sadly being depressed is still considered a choice

I’m from place that is afraid of the unknown so they paraphrase the bible to win their arguments even when they know is wrong

I’m also from a nation that swears that racism in has been long gone, yet they elect a president that instead of condemning neo-Nazis says there were “fine people on both sides”

Nonetheless we have a choice to change injustices and keep the love; by first changing ourselves and teaching the new generation how to be better than us.

By Raphael Marinho

I’m from the land where the sky is blue, the sea is green, and all the saints rest by the bay

I’m from the place where suffering screams, despite the samba and waves

I’m from Bahia, birth place of Brazil, where Africa still remains

I’m from the beautiful mess where we laugh, and we sing despite the sad state

I’m from promised new world that still reflects the horrors of yesterday.

I just don’t get why it turned out this way

I hope to be another one who carries the light of a possible new day

Like Prometheus, who took the risk for a brighter new way

Coexist: Working Towards Inclusion & Mutual Respect

by Diana Santana

Inclusion, as the act of taking in as part of a whole, was first coined with the goals of providing advocacy, awareness, and support for individuals with disabilities who have been socially excluded merely based on their impairments. Inclusion, however, does not stop with the social injustices within people with disabilities. According to community psychologists Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010), “Inclusion is becoming an organizing principle that applies broadly to people who have been discriminated against and oppressed by virtue of gender, sexual orientation, ethnoracial background, abilities, age, or some other characteristics” (p. 137). The authors of Community Psychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being, claim that inclusion can be conceptualized in three levels, individual, relational, and societal level. At the individual level, Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) state that inclusion demands regaining control of a positive personal and political identity; while, at the relational level, inclusion means welcoming and supporting communities and building relationships within the same. In the same way, at the societal level, inclusion is advocates for the promotion of equity and access to social resources that are known for being denied to minorities or oppressed people.

Why inclusion is important? When we do not promote inclusion, whether it is in our community, school or work setting, and at a personal level, we are allowing oppression to take place instead -especially, psychological oppression. Psychological oppression affects individuals’ self-esteem by creating this false idea that they are undeserving of social and community resources, and to have low expectations on themselves (Nelson and Prilleltensky, 2010). How can we implement inclusion? The authors claim that one way of building community and inclusion is emphasizing similarity rather than difference, but having in consideration that these differences can be constructed. Either way, Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) encourage community psychologists to not only work with organizations that fight for inclusion but also to work with underprivileged and diverse groups to find some balance between the wide-ranging methods towards the goal of inclusion; in brief, to coexist.

Your values, Our values

At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, we embrace inclusion and equity. As UML mission statement states,

“Diversity makes us stronger, and a community that values equity and inclusion enhance the educational experience…We are committed to cultivating a just community and sustaining an inclusive campus culture. We embrace diversity in its broadest forms and believe academic excellence and diversity are inseparable.”

I’m a proud UML alumna, now working towards my goals of becoming a double River Hawk. I also work for the university as a Graduate Assistant at the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). This was the first year that they took the initiative to hire graduate students from the Community Social Psychology Master Program instead of taking the same path of hiring someone from Higher Ed… and I can’t complain about it! At OMA, I have a variety of duties, from advising and advocating for cultural or spiritual clubs, helping them with event planning and implementation, to unifying and leading or hosting OMA’s annual series, “Invisible Identity Series,” focused on hidden identities that exist in the UMass Lowell community.

The first of this year’s series, “Coexist: Mutual respect and understanding across different ideologies,” was hosted in October. We invited students from all the different religious or spiritual communities within our student body. Students who consider themselves as Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Catholic, joined us to talk about their experiences about discrimination and oppression based on their identity. Hate had No Home there. The room was filled with respect, love and understanding and, most importantly, with empathy. I love this job because it allows me to employ what I have been learning through my personal and academic experiences, and it promotes and supports the principles that we value the most, our values.


University Resources:


Have you been the victim or witness to an incident? You can anonymously report here:

UML Diversity Portal:


#UML #CommPsych



Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian

Autism in Communities: Considerations for the Inclusion of Individuals with Autism

The Center for Disease Control (2012) has found that the prevalence rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 68 children. Also, the organization, Autism Speaks (2017), notes that, each year, about 50,000 teenagers in the United States “age-out” of school-based services and must transition to adult-services. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, students transition to adult services at the ages of 22 and 21, respectively, however, the transition age from school-based to adult services varies by state. When individuals with autism transition to adult services, they face several new challenges, such as, finding a job, creating a broader network of support beyond immediate family members (neighbors, co-workers, support staff, etc.), and participating and engaging in community activities. By considering an ecological approach, described by Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010), we can begin to consider ways in which communities can support the participation and engagement of individuals with autism as adult members of their communities.

Interdependence: At the micro level, relationships between individuals with autism and their family members must be considered. For most families, the transition from school-based to adult services can be daunting, and this causes stress as parents decide how their adult with autism will spend their time during the day. At the meso level, adults with autism begin to seek support and relationships from members of their community, such as neighbors or co-workers. At this stage, building a support network is crucial as individuals with autism begin to acquire jobs and/or seek alternate
living arrangements in the community. At the macro level, individuals with autism may seek out opportunities within the community, such as volunteer opportunities provided by day programs, community clubs, or town meetings. Communities may consider providing extra supports at the meso and macro levels to ensure individuals with autism are able to expand their support networks and be active members in their communities.
Cycling of Resources: Although it may seem that individuals with autism receive a significant amount of resources from adult-service programs (day-care, residential care, transportation, clubs, activities, financial resources, etc.), it is also important to consider the ways in which these individuals contribute to their communities. For example, individuals with autism are employed in several different settings, and they also work as volunteers as part of job training programs and adult day programs. In many cases, these individuals find niches within their communities and work in specialized roles at different work sites. Individuals with autism definitely receive resources and support from community programs, however, these resources can be better modified to enable these individuals to work within the community and become contributing members to the community’s economy.

Adaptation: As mentioned previously, the transition from school-based to adult services for individuals with autism can be very challenging for families, and also, for communities. Individuals with autism must adapt to new schedules, working vs. learning environments, and the limited services available to them as adults. On the other hand, communities must adapt to provide inclusive environments in work and community settings. When communities make a commitment to inclusion, they are supporting the engagement and integration of individuals with autism into community settings and activities.

Succession: A few decades ago, “autism” was an uncommon diagnosis, and many people did not know about autism or how to work with people with autism. In many cases, individuals with autism were institutionalized. Today, however, knowledge about this disorder has become more accessible and communities are better equipped to provide supports for individuals with autism. Instead of casting these individuals aside, communities can work towards providing job opportunities and support community engagement so that these individuals can become active and contributing members of society.

Over the past few decades, the outcome for individuals with autism has become more optimistic, and they play more active roles in their communities due to supports that are in place such as adult service programs, community programs, and employment opportunities. Although progress has been made in providing more resources to individuals with autism, communities can consider an ecological approach to furthering the integration of individuals with autism in communities (Nelson and Prilleltensky, 2010).

#UML #commpsych

Autism Speaks. (2017). What is autism. Retrieved from

CDC, Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network. (2016). [Graph illustrating the prevalence of autism in the United States between 2000 and 2012]. Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2012. Retrieved from

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (Eds.). (2010). Community psychology in pursuit of liberation and well-being. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Homelessness: In the Pursue of a New Paradigms

by Diana Santana

Homelessness does not discriminate… Regardless of religious beliefs o not beliefs at all, no matter your race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, homelessness could affect anyone given the unexpected and difficult set of situations. A homeless person is, “an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation” (National Health Care for the Homeless Council). Homelessness can be cause due to unexpected incidences or situations where a person not necessarily have the power to prevent it or control it; for instance, the loss of loved ones or their job, depression, mental illness, domestic violence and family disputes, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical disabilities, and natural disasters (Home Aid). Community psychologists work hard to provide healthier and productive lives to communities, while also promoting a sense of belonging and opportunities for social change. Homelessness is a social issue that has been addressed by community psychologists due to the issue being like a tree that unfortunately has many branches which can then ‘grow’ into creating not only issues within the individual who is experiencing homelessness but the community as a whole.


Community Psychologists and Homelessness: More than a Home

In the pursue of new paradigms, along with [mostly] non-profit organizations, community psychologists have been studying and addressing homelessness from every point of view; especially, using qualitative research as their method, “to understand the values, interests and meanings that underlie language, discourses, and texts” (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010, p.263). In simpler words, they place the values within individuals before the statistics. As part of a constructivist paradigm, community psychologists have the change to interact, learn from the homeless individuals’ experiences, as well as questioning what does this experience means to them in order to provide them with more support and other ways to fight for their right and human dignity. Nelson and Prilleltensky (2010) consider this paradigm as, “an approach that has more kinship with the humanities than the hard sciences” (2010, p. 262).

The Housing First model is a representation of a constructivism paradigm because it does not require people experiencing homelessness to address the all of their problems including behavioral health problems, or “to graduate through a series of services programs before they can access housing” (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Using a local example, there are some other organizations, such as House of Hope, Lowell Transitional Living Center, Girls Inc, Alternative House (and so forth) that also promote this paradigm. Taking UTEC’s Streetworker program as an example, they provide workforce development and educational services to at-risk young men/women (ages 16-24). UTEC works aside with community partners to help these young individuals to get into a stable housing, as well as providing addiction treatment programs. Overall, community programs and organizations, as well as community psychologists adopt this method to not only helping the most vulnerable ones with offering a roof over their heads, but the opportunity to be heard and helped in a more individual, personal way. In brief, to keep perusing new paradigms to end homelessness, one community at a time.


#UML #CommPsych


Diana Santana is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Geoffrey Nelson, Isaac Prilleltensky. (2010). Community Pasychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillian.



Fourth and Long: Time to Go Inches!

by Josh Vlahakis

The road to social justice is a never-ending path that splits into innumerable different directions; take a right and you are on pace to contribute to the termination of world hunger, take a left and you may just find the cure for all cancer. Ah, yes, what we have here is a general perception when it comes to fighting social justice: it comes down to influential heroes who are going to do something extraordinary to save the day.


Yes, the world needs those courageous enough to lead and to do so by example. However, social injustice is not something that can be tackled alone. Oftentimes it seems that when people want to do good for others, they want to do so on such a substantial level, almost to the point where it seems like they are doing it for themselves rather than the group or subgroup for which they are advocating, a point that is vividly illustrated in Prilleltensky’s (2001) analysis of praxis derived from values.


In order to distinguish oneself from the masses, he or she may strive to construct a social identity (Scott & Wolfe, 2015) of being a savior. I find that this topic is worth writing about at all because we would all be so much better at properly and effectively addressing social inequity if we adopted a more community-based mindset.


We need to focus on inches, not touchdowns; we need to focus on hitting the ball out of the infield to allow the runner to tag up from third base, not hitting grand slams. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) demonstrated, little victories are of utmost importance because they can lead into wins on a larger scale. I am not taking anything away from anyone who dreams big, from anyone who believes revolutionary change is possible.


All I’m saying is that we need to start small before we can go big. I learned this invaluable lesson from volunteering at the Restaurant Opportunities Center in the summer of 2016. My team did a phenomenal job of demonstrating to me the importance of volunteerism. In just a few months, I was not able to single-handedly create any policy change that positively impacts restaurant workers, but I was able to help collect a substantial amount of data that are have been released in what is now the most comprehensive report on the state of Greater Boston’s restaurant industry ever released.


With the United States arguably more concerned about national security than ever before, we have to ask ourselves the most efficient ways to go about protecting ourselves. I argue that positively impacting just one person could spare the world from having to experience another traumatic event. Even if it is as simple as saying hello to someone you don’t know, it could significantly influence one’s way of thinking in a positive direction.


I am an advocate for quality, unconventional human interaction because I believe that the world will be a much better place by everyone’s standards if we all took the time to practice our reflexivity. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) posit, “in order to build a healthy community, an active citizen base is needed” (p. 143). Even though there are billions of people in this world, we cannot succumb to the power of the diffusion of responsibility. It is up to every single one of us to do our part in making absolutely certain that this world is as close to our envisioned utopias as it possibly can be.


I am doing this by expressing sincerity in my emotions, by being honest with myself and those around me, by smiling to everyone I see. I constantly ask myself: what can I do better?


How are you doing this? What can you do better?


One step at a time…


#UML #CommPsych #littlewins



Josh Vlahakis is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology master’s program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Foster-Fishman, P. G., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., & Van Egeren, L. A. (2006). Mobilizing residents for action: The role of small wins and strategic supports. American journal of community psychology, 38(3-4), 143-152.

Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value‐Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and Social Action. American journal of community psychology, 29(5), 747-778.

Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, J. K. (2015). Community psychology: Foundations for practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Where Do Trauma Studies Fit in Community Psychology?

Jeremy Laporte

For several months, I have been considering the place of trauma in community psychology. These thoughts were sensible, considering the events occurring in my life over that time. I recently left a job in the mental health field where I often had knowledge of my clients’ trauma experiences and witnessed the effects firsthand. This experience piqued my interest in psychological trauma. I hoped to investigate the topic further as I started graduate school for community psychology. As I became more familiar with both concepts, however, I began to doubt whether this was possible. Trauma tends to be defined in terms of the individual, while community psychology, by definition, looks at larger contexts. Fortunately, a section on child maltreatment in an article (Prilleltensky, 2001) changed my thinking. The section detailed how this problem, which is undoubtedly enacted on an individual level, can be tied to larger social forces. As such, I intend to use this post to explore the relationship between trauma and community psychology’s values of personal, relational, and collective well-being.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) includes a negative effect on individual well-being in the definition for trauma found on their website. (“Trauma and Violence”, 2017) This website also shows a potential role for relational well-being when discussing trauma. It indicates that the negative behavioral and mental health effects of trauma can impact an individual’s relationships, namely with their family members. Further, it points to the importance of social support in mitigating these negative effects. Strong, supportive relationships can empower a person to continue with their lives after a traumatic experience with little impact to their functioning. Thus, healthy relational well-being is an important factor in trauma’s impact on individual well-being. This also provides a possible area of intervention for community psychology. The field provides techniques for increasing and strengthening social connections. If individuals in a particular community are likely to experience traumatic events, these interventions may lessen the effects of these experiences.

Tying trauma to collective well-being is more difficult. While the behavioral changes (substance abuse, aggression, etc.) that may result from traumatic experiences will likely have a negative impact on the community, this is still the outcome of trauma’s effects on individual well-being. However, unhealthy collective well-being can produce trauma, as conditions such as community violence are tied to traumatic experiences. Further, certain types of trauma, such as domestic violence and child neglect, can be tied to social conditions like poverty. Therefore, community psychology’s pursuit of social justice plays a role in decreasing traumatic experiences in disempowered populations. This framework is still overly focused on trauma as impacting individual well-being, though.

Fortunately, as detailed by Prilleltensky (2001), this is not an uncommon problem for community psychology, as the field generally struggles to direct equal attention to collective well-being. It does not necessarily remove trauma from the scope of community psychology, but opens the possibility for the field to expand on the concept using its unique values and vision. Keeping that author’s criticism in mind, then, it is important to investigate how trauma can directly impact collective well-being, rather than first affecting the well-being of individuals. Interestingly, the SAMHSA suggests the possibility of “historical trauma” (“Types of Trauma”, 2016), negative experiences that influence entire communities and can be transmitted across generations. In the United States, it is often associated with the experiences of oppressed racial groups who face violence and discrimination for their prescribed social identities. It suggests that trauma can affect collective well-being directly when negative experiences target communities as a whole rather than individual members. However, as long as trauma is defined in the individual terms mentioned previously, it is impossible to fit the concept into this framework. This suggests another role for community psychology to play in trauma studies: the ability to create a theory that redefines trauma in a way that allows for a direct impact to both individuals and groups of people.

#UML #commpsych


Jeremy Laporte is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and   Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology. 29: 747-778

Trauma and Violence. (2017). Retrieved from

Types of Trauma and Violence. (2003) Retrieved from

“The Problem with Real Culture”

by Karleena Corey


Does the United States have a true and pure culture? In a country where we are a true melting pot of different cultures, there still seems to be extreme xenophobia, or fear of people from other countries. Xenophobia certainly has been heightened since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, especially Islamophobia, but xenophobia has always been an issue in the US. Unless you are a Native American, your family have emigrated from a different country, so why the pushback on immigration? I think most of us know the answer is racism, because there seems to only be an immigrant problem if you are an immigrant of color. This dates back to the the early 1900s when citizenship in the US was not granted to non-White citizens, and it was only recently in 1952 that immigrants of color were allowed to become naturalized citizens (Yakushko, 2009). The Middle Eastern, Caribbean, African, and South and Central American cultures are the cultures that are not “accepted” in the United States- where diversity is exactly what makes up our version of culture.

Bennett, C. (2015). The Melting Pot. Licensed under

In community psychology culture is defined as societal customs and values which lie outside the exosystem, where individuals do not participate, but have an indirect influence on (Cooper & Denner, 1998; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). In other words, people living in the US are not purposefully influencing the culture, but do so just by existing in the community. Culture can also be developed from experience, therefore different parts of the US, and even different neighborhoods and communities, have distinct aspects of culture anyway. But, again, it is only a problem when it is a community of color that has different cultures from the mainstream, which in the US is White people, who have always been the dominant race (Yakushko, 2009). As the dominant race they are the in-group, and immigrants of color are the out-group, and the in-group is afraid of values, beliefs, and attitudes being challenged by foreigners (Yakushko, 2009). White immigrants inherit White privilege when they emigrate to the US, and are not discriminated against based on the color of their skin, and they are not seen as a threat (Yakushko, 2009). It is the cultural beliefs and values of those who physically look different that is the threat to the “US culture”.

What can we do to help? I believe that there is little hope in our current political and social climate to try and change the minds of people who are xenophobic, but rather what can we do to help the immigrants who live in fear in our country? Due to the pressure from natural-born US citizens to assimilate and leave behind their culture, immigrants actually do not always adjust in the US well (Yakushko, 2009). Also, immigrants tend to internalize the narratives that are often said about them (being lazy, stupid, etc.), which leads to feelings of worthlessness (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). To empower and restore psychological well-being in the immigrant communities, community psychology would suggest that we help them be aware of their injustices, and help them understand the circumstances behind their oppression (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). We need to make immigrants feel welcome and wanted by bringing them together, and working with them in our communities. We need to stand with immigrants in solidarity, and listen to what problems and oppressions they are facing. They are not alone. We are all real Americans.





Bennett, C. (2015, December 12). The Melting Pot [Cartoon]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

Cooper, C. R., & Denner, J. (1998). Theories linking culture and psychology: Universal and community-specific processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 559-584.

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well  being (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yakushko, O. (2009). Xenophobia: Understanding the roots and consequences of negative attitudes toward immigrants. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(1), 36-66. doi:  10.1177/0011000008316034

First Day at School

By Marcus Lithander


I just started school again. This time as a Ph.D.  student. This time in in the States. I’m almost as excited now as when I started school as a seven-year-old boy.

I feel very privileged to get the chance to develop as a researcher, and, to develop myself through being in a new culture. One thing that I always regretted from my undergraduate studies was that I didn’t join any exchange programs. I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t I try a new school? Why don’t switch it around?

During my first nine years, almost nothing switched. I’m lucky I was born close to a good school. Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

Otherwise, I probably would have been stuck in a bad school for 9 years.

This got me thinking about the school system and integration and desegregation. The school system is not integrated. Not on a micro level. Not on a school level. Not on a world level. You get it… Not in any level!

And this effect our learning. I stumbled upon a news article east side highs cool where 100% of the students are Black with a Cleveland High school where 45 % of the students are black.

100%! But what also struck me was when they interviewed one of the boys in Eastside High school:


It´s this side of the highway versus that side of the highway, it has just always been a rivalry a long time”

I couldn’t help myself from thinking of Muzafer Sherifs classicalRobbers Cave Experiment where you boys were the in-group formation and friction stage. It´s not in any way weird that students don’t want to disintegrate, does this mean that we should listen to them, of course not

“The independence day effect”

Happily, there is a third step integration stage, or as I like to call it “The independence day effect”. Why? an external threat! all humans on earth come together to fight for a common goal and this is exactly what Sherif means with his third stage, the integration stage.

When groups in a state of conflict are brought into contact under conditions embodying superordinate goals, which are compelling but cannot be achieved by the efforts of one group alone, they will tend to co-operate toward the common goals. (Sherif, 1967. p. 452)

How can this be implemented in communities and schools? Well as it happens we do have an external and common threat, global warming.

But how should this project be put together, as always social psychology has the answer!

In the 1970s in Austin had a huge problem with segregation within schools. One school decided to call in an expert, that expert was Elliot Aronson, professor of social psychology. He soon saw the same pattern has Sherif, inter-group hostility. He came up with the smart solution of the Jigsaw Classroom. A strategy where students switch between different groups, in some group, they are the learner and in some groups, they teach others. But every small group always have a small common exercise to solve together. Genius

The results of the strategy are stunning, both regarding integration and learning.

Again, I think back to those first school years. The first nine years in school I was in the same class. Not much switching and change of roles! There should be. Why don´t even try to make the jigsaw classroom into a jigsaw community? Why not send students to short exchange programs to other schools in the community?

But remember. The students don´t want to do it. Responsible guiding is needed. This needs to be regulated. Chaos through regulation.


#UML #commpsych


Marcus Lithander is a Ph.D student in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.