Theater: Entertainment and Then Some

By Jackie Marcoux

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Image Credit:  http://www.springawakeningthemusical.com/wp content/uploads/2014/05/066-kqkrya3-783×1024.jpg

The world has been viewing theater for hundreds of years.  It started with the Greeks and the goal of teaching their communities life lessons.  As the art form grew the goals shifted.  Theater was a mode of entertainment; a place to go for a few hours to forget about the poverty that awaited you back home in 1500’s England.  The goal of entertaining a crowd of people has continued into the present.

Today, we still wish to be entertained when we sit down in the theater but we are also prepared for more.  We want to feel emotions and connect with characters who are different from ourselves.  This idea has been utilized by some artists as a mode of change within the world outside of theater.  I’m not exactly sure when the shift began but we are just starting to see its ripples.

For me it began with the musicalRENTRENT brought a spotlight onto the issue of HIV and AIDS in a way that had never before been done.  People were able to sing along with the songs and connect with these characters.  We may not be diagnosed and dying of AIDS in the early 1990’s but we can certainly imagine we are and realize how important the issue is.  A dialogue was started.

Then came Next to Normal, a musical about a family coping with a matriarch who has delusions of her dead son and is bipolar.  This show paved the way for a discussion about mental health issues and the toll they can take on a family.  There were conversations about whether or not people should be medicated in order to deal with the issue.  The children of these parents were also focused on and questions about whether or not it is healthy for them to live with a parent that has a diagnosed mental illness.  These questions and concerns didn’t just disappear when the show left Broadway.  Every time the show is performed around the country these questions get thought about by the communities that see the show.

Currently on Broadway there are multiple shows continuing the idea of theater starting conversations and making impacts.  The play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime speaks to autism.  The musical Fun Home deals with LGBT issues and suicide.  Matilda is a musical dealing with abusive adults.  Spring Awakening is a story of teens learning about sexuality in 1600’s Germany.

On a recent trip to New York City I was able to see Spring Awakening.  In the current production of the show, originally staged by Deaf West based in California, the deaf culture has been incorporated into the show’s storyline.  The entire production is done in American Sign Language and has selected certain characters as deaf.  This adds a new dimension to the show because not only is it discussing young people discovering their sexuality in a world that tried to hide them from it but it also deals with being a deaf person, particularly at that time in history.  It allows for conversations about sexuality, deaf culture, and the ability to be inclusive of all people who want to go to the theater.

Community Psychology is all about working towards addressing issues of social justice but that can only happen if conversations about those issues are started.  Theater is no longer a vacuum where the viewer simply goes to be entertained.  Viewers are being force to look at themselves and the world to find meaning in what they just watched.  In order to find meaning those dialogues occur and may be begin working towards fixing the issue.  Sure, some people will continue to go to the theater just to be entertained and to forget about the world for a little while.  It is my hope though that more theater will be created that forces the viewer to think critically about an issue and potentially lead to positive change.

#commpysch

Jackie Marcoux is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

What is Community Psychology’s Role in Adapting to Globalization?

by Eric Johnson, University of Masssachusetts Lowell

Globalization can be defined as “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations,” and has lead to greater diversity within countries, opening more opportunities for both powerful collaboration and conflicts of values and ideas (What is Globalization?, 2015, para. 1).  Forces of globalization contributed to the birth of Community Psychology, whose competencies for practice as outlined by Scott & Wolfe (2015) may play a large role in promoting peaceful and mutually beneficial relationships between countries, cultures, and fellow community members.  Specifically, one of the foundational principles of Community Psychology emphasizes the necessity for community practitioners to develop strong cross-cultural competency to improve their ability to work with diverse groups of people (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 44).  Greater cross-cultural competency is a strength every person should work to develop in order to be successful in today’s increasingly multicultural societies.

Scott and Wolfe (2015) define cross-cultural competency as the “ability to interact, function, and work effectively among people who may not share your demographic attributes, language, beliefs, history, and experiences” (p. 116).  In order to develop this competency, community practitioners must become familiar with the concepts of culture, social identity, privilege and power (Scott & Wolfe, 2015).  These factors all interact with one another in any community setting, and must be taken into account when working with diverse groups of people in order to ensure the effectiveness of the work being done.

Cross-cultural competency skillsplay an important role on all scales of cross-cultural interaction taking place in today’s world, from the interaction between governments and leaders of different countries, to communication between diverse members living within a single community.  On Monday, September 28th 2015, President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly (the link for this speech can be found at the end of this post) during which he shared his vision for a stronger world through promoting the respect of human rights and dignity (President Obama: Speech at UNGA, 2015).Part of this vision included empowering marginalized groups of people to be able to access resources and markets for commerce to improve their standard of living.  In order to do so, the United States plans to communicate regularly with different countries across the world in order to establish relationships that can promote more peaceful methods for resolving conflicts of values and interests.  These interactions demand a high level of cross-cultural competency on the part of government officials when communicating with ambassadors from diverse countries.

President Obama also referenced the incredible amount of diversity present within America’s major cities, a phenomenon that is occurring in countries all across the world.  Globalization has lead to greater travel and immigration, explaining why populations in any given country today are highly diverse.  In order to build strong communities that act on the behalf of everyone, members must strengthen their own cross-cultural competencies in order to embrace diversity in their neighborhoods, schools, and more.  This would improve the inclusivity of any given community, and allows individual communities to develop adaptive strategies to address issues negatively affecting their members (Scott & Wolfe, 2015).  In the long run, diverse communities provide a wealth of skills and resources that can be accessed through collaboration between diverse community members.  In addition to the necessity for cross-cultural competency on the part of government officials from different countries negotiating, cross-cultural competency plays a crucial role in the development of strong communities through enabling greater collaboration.

Community Psychology will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in enabling communities and countries to adapt to the changes brought on by globalization, as their principles aim to promote the well-being of all humans.  This vision for the field aligns with President Obama’s vision for a stronger world in the future through respecting the dignity and rights of all individuals to recognize their own goals and achieve success.  Cross-cultural competency is one of the many principles of Community Psychology that has the potential to aid in bringing this vision to life, through encouraging respectful and beneficial communication and collaboration between diverse groups of people.

To read the transcript of Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, se the following link:

http://www.shallownation.com/2015/09/27/video-president-obama-speech-at-united-nations-general-assembly-unga-sept-28-2015/

To learn more about globalization and its effects on countries, see the following link:

http://www.globalization101.org/what-is-globalization/

#commpsych

Eric Johnson is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

References

Scott, V. C., Wolfe, S. M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Video& Transcript: President Obama: Speech at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Sept. 28, 2015. (2015, September 28). Retrieved September 28, 2015.

What Is Globalization? | Globalization101. (2015). Retrieved September 28, 2015.

 

What in the World is Community Psychology?

By Erin Clifford, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Part 1: Autism

Community psychology is a bright, shiny, fairly new area of study can help bring resounding, meaningful change to a multitude of communities that in the 21st century. Simply defined, community psychology is “concerned with understanding people in context of their communities, the prevention of the problems of living, the celebration of human diversity and the pursuit of social justice through social action” (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). In the first part of this three part blog series, I bring to attention one of the many areas that community psychology can be applied to: autism. I chose to connect community psychology and autism for this first blog because I am closely tied to the autism community after working with individuals with autism for 6 years. This is my attempt to bring community psychology closer to home for a community I hold dear to my heart.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication and social skills, as well as displays of restricted and repetitive behaviors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently estimates the prevalence rate of autism to be around 1 in 68 children, up from 1 in 88 in the early 2000’s (Bookman-Frazee et al., 2012). This number will continue to rise, and because it will continue to rise, community psychology may have a chance to be readily applied to the autism community should it be needed. And indeed, the need for community psychology application is ever present in that many families may not have accurate, or any, resources for support in raising and caring for a child with autism. Luckily, community psychologists are already making endeavors in the autism community.

One example is the endeavor of Lauren Brookman-Frazee, Aubyn Stahmer, Karyn Lewis, Joshua Feder, and Sarah Reed, all community psychologists, to develop a researchcommunity collaborative group with a focus on autism that was developed based on community-based participatory research principles (Brookman-Frazee, et al. 2012).  Their efforts are articulated in a 2012 article from The Journal of Community Psychology. (Follow this link to read the whole article: https://drive.google.com/file/ d/0B_7sOuxnRLcnRTVyWVpVblR2LWM/view?usp=sharing) They explain that in order to successfully promote and implement the most effective treatment options for children with autism, there needs to be close collaboration with community providers. They refer to this concept as community-based participatory research (CBPR). CBPR is “used in the field of public health to reduce inequities in care through active involvement of community members, organizations, and researchers in all aspects of the research process”, and “ addresses disparities by promoting mutual transfer of expertise and shared decision making between researchers and community members” (Brookman-Frazee et al., 2012). Using the CBPR principles and model, the team created the Southern California BRIDGE Collaborative in 2011, a research-community partnership that brings together practitioners, funding agency representatives, researchers, and families of children with autism to develop community-wide, sustainable plans for serving infants and toddlers at risk for autism. BRIDGE stands for Bond, Regulate, Interact, Develop, Guide, words that reflect the values of the treatments offered, as well as to represent the bridge being built between research and practice. (Brookman-Frazee et al., 2012). The BRIDGE Collaborative was the first use of the partnership model in the field of treatment options for children with autism.

This example of the BRIDGE Collaborative allows us to see that community psychology is readily applied to the autism community based on the fact that it is concerned with addressing the problems of living. Within the autism community, especially within the community of children with autism, it can be seen that the awareness and availability of treatment options can be considered problems of living. This application of community psychology brings it closer to home because it clearly demonstrates that with the combined efforts of community psychologists, and the goals of community psychology itself, there has been a resounding and meaningful step in helping the autism community that I feel so close to.

#commpsych

Erin Clifford is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts. 

References

Brookman‐Frazee, L., Stahmer, A. C., Lewis, K., Feder, J. D., & Reed, S. (2012). Building a researchcommunity collaborative to improve community care for infants and toddlers at-risk for autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Community Psychology, 40(6), 715-734. doi:10.1002/ jcop.21501

Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, S. M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. References

Press One For English

By Taylor Boulia, University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Image credit:  http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/02/20/white-house-announces-president-obama-will-seek-emergency-court-order-to-restart-immigration-usurpation

Diversity is a term many of us have been taught at a young age, however we might not have fully understood it at the time. We would look around our classrooms and see that not every one looked like us, dressed like us, talked like us and we learned that those differences were normal and were okay. As we grew older we learned to accept and value those differences between ourselves and the people around us.

Community Psychologists have a huge respect for diversity in this country. They accept and understand as well as value the differences that are apparent between members of a community. Those differences can be many things such as gender, culture, socio- economicstatus and even language (Scott& Wolfe, 2015). They have been teaching the concepts of respecting diversity to many around them and are helping communities to become more aware of diversity and are helping those communities celebrate those diversities.

However with the spreading of diversity it seems as though in one area it has been lacking; the celebration of the different languages that are spoken in the United States. There has been more than one push for The United States to set the official language as English (Miller, 2015). The push for setting an official language seems to contradict all that is being taught about celebrating diversity. If we were celebrating diversity within the country why would we be pushing for a change that would leave out many communities of this country that do not speak English or do not celebrate English as their fluent language?

Maybe those who have been in favor of the push were sick of hearing “press one for English, press two for Spanish, et cetera…” or maybe it is those who are jumping on Donald Trump’s band wagon on immigration or just wanted the number of U.S. citizens who speak English at home to be 100% rather than the 79% that was recorded in a 2011 census (Miller, 2015). The candidate running for president, Trump, has very narrow views on language in the US, even calling out Florida Governor Jeb Bush when Bush insulted Trump in Spanish. Trump said “He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States” (Tani, 2015).

From growing as a child to seeing differences between myself and those around me to an educated student who is accepting and celebrates those differences, the words spoken by Trump and the push to set the official language of the United States to English would be a step back in time. I believe as a community and as a country we are growing everyday by giving out the respect that is needed. By setting an official language of the United States it would be as though we are taking away respect and acceptance of diversity of those around us. I for one do not support the push for a set language and rather I support the continuation of respect and celebration of everyone around me.

#commpsych #PressOne

Taylor Boulia is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts. 

References

Miller, E.C. (2015). A push for English to be the official language of the US has both a                   dark history and a regressive vision for the future. Retrieved from                                         http://aeon.co/magazine/  society/does-america-need-to-make-english-its-official                  language/

Scott, V.C. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. (pp.             47).    Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage.

Tani, M. (2015).Donald Trump: Jeb Bush should be ‘speaking English while in the United

States’. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-jeb-bush-speak- english-2015-9#ixzz3l6DFeU3u

Living On Hope, Hoping For a Bright Future: Syria’s Children

By Tuğba Metinyurt, University of Massachusetts Lowell

 

ZA'ATARI, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 01: Children pose for a picture as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za'atari refugee camp on February 1, 2013 in Za'atari, Jordan. Record numbers of refugees are fleeing the violence and bombings in Syria to cross the borders to safety in northern Jordan and overwhelming the Za'atari camp. The Jordanian government are appealing for help with the influx of refugees as they struggle to cope with the sheer numbers arriving in the country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 160600686

Image credit: https://res.cloudinary.com/tremr/image/upload/dugn5ijc64amyiem3egp.jpg

“My adolescence, it was taken from me. I feel that I am in a different world, as if I am not living. Sometimes I wish we died before seeing what we saw. I wish we never came to this world and saw this.”

These words belong to a 16-year-old refugee girl, who fled violence in her home country (Kashi, 2014).

According to annual situation report by UNICEF, in November 2014, 10.9 million Syrians were displaced outside of Syria, including over 3.3 million refugees across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. More than half of the refugee population are children. (UNICEF, 2014a, p.1)  Syria’s children have witnessed too many violent and traumatic acts. Consequently, they are growing up with feelings of mistrust, betrayal, anger, displacement and uncertainty about their future. Children under the age of 18 are growing up in unsanitary conditions, in need of education, and in need of healthcare and psychological support. These children are at risk of becoming a “lost generation” and they need a sense of belonging in their new environment as well as basic humanitarian needs.

The recently published Bahcesehir Study of Syrian Refugee Children in Turkey (Ozer, Sirin, Oppedal, 2015) interviewed refugee children from Syria. According to this study, three in every four Syrian children had lost a loved one due to the bloody conflict; one in every three children had been hit, tortured or shot at in the course of the conflict. In addition, many people lost access to healthcare and are living in unsanitary conditions where the risk of disease is high. 2,000 schools have either been damaged by the fighting or become temporary shelters for displaced people, greatly disrupting Syrian education. (p. 20-25)

Community psychologists provide services for refugees and seek solutions to provide mental health and health care services, to enhance protective factors such as social support, to engage children and adolescents in preventing discrimination, violence, abuse, exclusion, prejudice and separation of children through educational programs. They also attempt to address the social and physical causes of psychological distress in refugees.

Providing healthcare and education services is vital for protecting the host communities and the refugees. In doing this, they can prevent the built up anger that may threaten host communities in the near future. As Ozer and Sirin stated (2013), “…places like Afghanistan or Rwanda should remind us what happens when refugees are left to their own devices: camps, full of people who feel forgotten and, therefore, hopeless and angry, becomes recruitment grounds for child soldiers. This cycle carries the civil unrest across generations.” To avert this cycle, community psychologists can take an active role in creating a sense of belonging and helping refugees connect to their community. To achieve this goal, time banking can be used as a tool to develop links between refugees and host communities. Time banking is a reciprocity-based economic system where time, instead of money, serves as currency. Time banks allow communities to come together and trade services, connecting people, filling needs, and creating growth. “This program gives refugees and host communities the opportunity to earn time credits for voluntary work and to exchange these credits for the equivalent amount of time of someone else’s skills, serving to develop links between refugees and host communities.” (Webster & Robertson, 2007, p. 156).

It is also promising that many non-profit organizations from around the world, such as UNICEF, USAID, and Save The Children are working together to save Syria’s children. UNICEF is lending a helping hand to these children and their families, providing psycho-social support as well as shelters, warm clothes and accessible education for children (UNICEF, 2014b). In addition to UNICEF, the USAID- No Lost Generation project helps provide psycho-social services through women’s health centers, mobile clinics, and outreach workers to help Syrians deal with the stresses of conflict and displacement. It also leads parent support programs which focuses on helping mothers, fathers, and caretakers develop the skills to cope with stress and to provide protective care for their children (USAID, 2014). The Save The Children team is another organization that runs alternative learning programs and informal education in refugee camps and host communities, providing safe play areas and access to counseling for thousands of children across the region. They also launch back-to-school campaigns to encourage parents to enroll their children (Save The Children, 2014).

If you would like to learn more about the lives of Syrian refugees, I would recommend a short documentary called Syria’s Lost Generation, (Syria’s Lost Generation).

#commpsych
Tuğba Metinyurt is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

References

Kashi, E. (Director). 2014 Syria’s Lost Generation: Directors Give Voice to War’s Young Refugees. Podcast retrieved from:http://talkingeyesmedia.org/syrias-lost-generation

Ozer, S., &, Sirin, S., (2013, April 30). Provide Education and Health Care for the Refugee Children in Syria, The New York Times. Retrieved from:http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/29/finding-solutions-for-syrias-growing-refugee-crisis/provide-education-and-health-care-for-the-refugee-children-in-syria

Ozer, S.,  Sirin, S. & Oppedal, B. (2015). Bahcesehir Study of Syrian Refugee in Turkey. Retrieved from: http://www.fhi.no/dokumenter/4a7c5c4de3.pdf

Save The Children. (2015).  Retrieved from:http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.7998857/k.D075/Syria.htm

UNICEF. (2014a).  Syria Crisis- 2014 Annual situation report, 1-5. Retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/appeals/files/UNICEF_Syria__Annual_Regional_Crisis_Situation_Report_2014_.pdf

UNICEF. (2014b). Retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/appeals/syrianrefugees.html

USAID. (2014). Retrieved from: https://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/coping-conflict-helping-syrians-overcome-trauma-war

Webster, A., Robertson, M., (2007).  Can Community Psychology Meet the Needs of Refugees? The Psychologist, 20(3), 156-158. Retrieved from: http://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/

Mind the Gap – The Divide in Community Psychology

By Emily Sullivan, University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Image credit: http://allthingsd.com/files/2012/12/mind-the-gap.jpg

As an up and coming discipline, Community Psychology has made its mark both in the applied field setting as well as through empirical research endeavors. However, there exists a clear divide between academic community psychologists and their practicing colleagues. In a field that focuses on bringing about positive change and strengthening communities, it appears as though the fundamental principles of this field have not been applied to those who practice it.

Academics in this field established their power early in the development of Community Psychology. It was extremely important to progress this field with a strong research base to create a legitimate and respected reputation. Therefore, practicing community psychologists were not taken into considerationand drastically underrepresented members of the field during many conferences and trainings; on one specific occasion they weren’t even invited (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 9)! Practicing Community Psychologists were not only invisible within their discipline but to the outside world as well. The label “Community Psychologist” was not used for practitioners, though their skill sets and education was one that filled this title. Therefore, peers and clients would not recognize practitioners as such, further hiding these applied community psychologists (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.11). It is quite a paradox; individuals who work hard towards empowerment, strength and change within communities remained invisible, weak and disconnected within their field.

In recent years, with the growing popularity of Community Psychology as a discipline, practitioners were able to uncover niches within new settings which allowed them to more visibly apply the fundamentals of this field (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p. 11). Also through developing a clear definition of community psychology practice and competencies by which to become a practitioner the once strained relationship between practitioners and academics was beginning to mend itself (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.20). Although this relationship has improved and both parties appear to have more equated value and stake within the field of community psychology, it is reasonable to assume that more work still needs to be done.

The ever obvious difference between practitioners and academics is not only shown in how they contribute towards the field, but their perception of community psychology as a whole. It is understandable to assume that based on sheer differences in the types of roles you fill within a field, a gap between these roles will be created. Perhaps a phenomenon often discussed in the context of Clinical Psychology, egocentrism, could help explain and support this theory. “An egocentric bias occurs when one thinks of the world from one’s own point of view and self perceptiontoo much (“Self Perception,” para. 1).” Perhapsan already damaged relationship has been further strained by the presence of egocentric bias towards individual work, on behalf of both academic and practice Community Psychologists. It would be beneficial for both groups to play more of a role in each other’sspecialty, after all both academics and practitioners contribute greatly to the success of Community Psychology. Through collaboration, an appreciation for each other’s work could be achieved and the cycle of egocentric thought could be broken. There is more success found by working together than separately. Perhaps though the utilization of the principles of Community Psychology the “community” comprised of practitioners and academics can be strengthened and empowered as a single unit.

How each group perceives the field of Community Psychology also plays a large role in the divide between these groups. Academics focus more on their empirical research, while practitioners actively apply the fundamentals of Community Psychology within the communities they aim to serve; of course there is a disconnect between them. How can academics provide strong empirical evidence for practices which they do not regularly experience? It seems like an impossible feat. Alternately, how can practitioners hope to apply research which can be disconnected from the specific community which they serve? This gap is only hindering the advancements and successes of Community Psychology. It is important for both groups to actively engage with one another and involve each other in specific projects or experiences. Active involvement will help make research and interventions more effective and tailored towards a specific communities. In terms of Community Psychology, it is important that we mind the gap between academics and practitioners, but also strive to close it.

#commpsych

Emily Sullivan is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts. 

References

Self Perception – Thinking From Your Point of View. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2015, from: http://www.psychologycampus.com/social-psychology/self-perception.html

Scott, C. V, & Wolfe, M. S. (2015) Community Psychology Foundations For Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Gaining Valuable Experience in Community Psychology Practice Through Service

By Eric Johnson, University of Massachusetts Lowell

In the following post, I will highlight the opportunities to complete a service term through various organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, and Commonwealth Corps as viable options for gaining experiencing working in a community setting, and in laying the foundation for pursuing a career in community psychology.  As a new Commonwealth Corps member beginning their year of service in the community, I am inspired to spread this opportunity to other aspiring community psychologists, and hope that it may lead some readers to consider service positions as a way to improve training and preparation for a career in the field of community work.

Community psychology as a field is grounded in close collaboration and communication between community practitioners of various types, and academic groups leading research focused on strengthening communities through evidence supported means (Wolf and Scott 2015).  As a result, community psychologists must have experience working in community health settingsas part of their education and training, and must approach their community work from a background in the foundational principles of the field.  Service positions created by organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, and the Commonwealth Corps for residents of Massachusetts, offer excellent opportunities to gain direct experience with community work, and professional development training that aligns with many of the focuses of Community Psychology for aspiring Community Psychologists.

After enrolling in a Master of the Arts in Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, I happened across an opening for a full-time service position through the Commonwealth Corps at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell where I had recently begun volunteering.  Many of the messages emphasized at the Commonwealth Corps member orientation were echoed during the first meeting of my Intro to Community Social Psychology course, and the assigned reading for class.  Here are some of the orientation messages that showed high similarity to principles of community psychology:

  • The importance of learning to adapt to the community members serve in andbuilding greater sociocultural and cross-cultural competence through close partnerships with community members and organizations.
  • Striving to create sustainable change, in which an organization or community members are able to continue the benefits even after the term of service ends.
  • Focus on empowering community members to gain access to available resources and achieve personal success.

These three points are also reflected in the list of eighteen competencies presented by Victoria C. Scott and Susan M. Wolfe in Chapter 2 of their textbook Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice (2015), meant to outline the various skills desired for a successful community psychologist.  In particular, Scott and Wolf (2015) list “Empowerment”, “Sociocultural and Cross-Cultural Competence”, and “Community Inclusion and Partnerships” as three of the five Foundational Principles of Community Psychology (Scott and Wolf, 44).Through a year of service, a person called to work in the community can gain crucial experience and professional development training grounded in thefoundational principles of community psychology,leading to later career opportunities in the field.

For my year of service at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, I am fulfilling the role of Teen Career Success Coordinator, and will be facilitating programs for teens focused on academic success, and preparation for college and careers.  Over the course of my year of service, I will gain experience partnering with community members and organizations, andwill build upon my sociocultural and cross-cultural competency skills while serving to empower teens in the community of Lowell to pursue college and lay the foundation for achieving their career goals.  Continuing my education in a Master of the Arts in Community Social Psychology program at UMass Lowellwhile serving in the community of Lowell will jointly provide a hugely beneficial experiential foundation for pursuing future opportunities in the field of community psychology.

Increased partnerships between service organizations and university graduate programs in Community Psychology could help connect those looking to pursue a career in community psychology with a great opportunity to gain valuable experience, or connect alumni of service programs to higher education in community psychology to further their training.As a result, the field of Community Psychology gains well-trained and competent community psychologists, who then may put their skills to use to strengthen their various communities and improve well-being for all their members.  As the field improves and matures, its ability to create positive change in communities across the world increases as well.

To anyone interested in pursuing a career working in community psychology, I strongly recommend exploring options for committing to a service term in order to gain experience to pursue a career in community psychology work while giving back to your community.  In addition, I argue for increased partnerships between service organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, and Commonwealth Corps and university graduate programs in Community Psychology, in order to expand opportunities for those pursuing community work to gain first-hand experience and educational training.  Such partnerships would strengthen the field as a whole, improving the positive effect it can have on communities across the world.

#commpsych

Eric Johnson is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts. 

 References

Scott, V. C., &Wolfe, S. M., (2015).Community Psychology: Foundations for practice.Sage Publications.

 

 

 

The Importance of an Ecological Approach in Community Psychology

by Aimee Coombs, University of Massachusetts Lowell

eco-model-image-bkrd

Image credit: https://shaketheworldforchange.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/introduction-to-the-project/

Individuals working in the field of community psychology should approach their work, within a community, with different strategies and perspectives to gain a holistic understanding of the community they’re working with. One particular perspective is the ecological approach which allows the community psychologist to understand how the intricate ways of different parts of the community affect oneanother. Understanding the interdependence that each system has, and how each part of the system affects the other, can serve as a guide in determining practices and interventions that may be used or implemented to help serve the community.

Having the broader perspective of a community allows for a community psychologist to identify the multiple parts, and relationships, within a social system that are in need of assistance and those that will be reinforced. Failing to have a broad view of the community could lead to key areas of the social system that are in need of assistance to be overlooked and neglected, which in turn will inadvertently lead to the interventions implemented to fail. An example of an ecological perspective offered by Scott & Wolff  (2015), is the issue of global warming being caused by carbon dioxide. Looking at carbon dioxide as the sole reason for global warming fails to encompass the whole picture of the entire system that contributes to this problem. One needs to consider the effects that society imposes on the earth and adopt solutions that would incorporate the total social system to bring about changes that would lower carbon dioxide emissions to levels that would resolve the issue of global warming. Looking at the problem from just the standpoint of carbon dioxide levels being too high, fails to understand all the components that contribute to the problem and without considering those components, appropriate solutions to the problem will not be implemented.

Some ideas to consider in helping to develop an ecological perspective are:

  • Develop an awareness of the social connection within a community and its members. Knowing how the community is interdependent on each other can help guide a community psychologist in working with the members and developing a working relationship that will lead to solutions to the community’s issues.
  • Assuring that those in the community who have been disregarded by other members are given a voice and that they are “recycled” by being trained for their new roles in the community.
  • Create feedback loops to help determine whether an intervention is working or not. Having these feedback loops helps give members of the community an opportunity to voice if the impact of the intervention is having a positive or negative effect within the community. Feedback loops help make a community more adaptable and sustainable (Scott & Wolfe, 2015).
  • Encourage diversity within the community. Diversity offers many perspectives that help brainstorming solutions to resolve issues in the community.
  • Promote a balanced leadership model by having an appropriate balance of hierarchal and communal processes (Stone & Wolfe, 2015).

Community psychologists who incorporate these ideas into their practice will develop an ecological perspective that will help them acquire the ability to see the whole social structure that contributes to the issues of the community. Having this skill will better serve the community when confronted with issues that are in need of resolution and an ecological lens is needed to determine the solutions that will bring about positive change.

#commpsych

Aimee Coombs is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

References

Scott, V.  &  Wolfe, S.M.  (2015).  Community Psychology Foundations for Practice. United States of America: SAGE.

 

 

Support Our Students (SOS): Tackling Food Insecurity at UMass Lowell

SOS blog (2)

By Mallory Stamp and Andrew Hostetler

“This issue [hunger on campus] needs to be solved, to make sure everyone is sufficiently well-fed” – Teresa Shroll.

Support Our Students (SOS) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on issues of hunger and food security in the UMass Lowell Community. The cofounders of this organization are three Community Social Psychology students: Mary Tauras ’15, Teresa Shroll ’15, and Sadie Prickett ’15. The idea for SOS was initially inspired by their faculty adviser, Khanh Dinh, when she introduced them to programs in Europe, where food products are sold at lower costs for community members in need. Mary, Teresa, and Sadie wanted to do a similar program locally, but realized Lowell already had a local food bank and other programs. Prof. Dinh informed them about the DifferenceMaker program, a competitive program through which they could learn entrepreneurial skills by participating in workshops and various events. Their participation in this program, for which they took the top prize, changed their vision, and they shifted their focus to feeding students on the UMass Lowell campus.

The CSP team recruited students from other programs and majors, including psychology (undergraduates), business, nutrition, and computer science. SOS credits its success in large part to the diversity of its team. On both North and South Campus, SOS has worked to bring awareness about food insecurity to the UMass Lowell community, including through game nights, “Hawk Talk: Eat This Not That,” 15 minute class presentations, tabling for donations, and the First Annual SOS Oatmeal Challenge.

To ensure the continuing success of the organization, the cofounders have collaborated with over 30 campus and community organizations. Since implementing their program in September, over 1000 students have donated meals and a total of 40 students have been provided meals. Mary, Teresa, Sadie, and team are happy with what the organization has achieved thus far, but feel there is a lot of more work to be done, and they see SOS as a work in progress.

What is the PGSO and Why Should Students Get Involved?

PGSO FA14
Getting involved in the Psychology Graduate Student Organization (PGSO) is an enriching opportunity for first and second year students to engage with one another, take ownership of their program (Autism Studies and Community Social Psychology) and their department. Students engaged in the PGSO can make connections with the larger campus community and other graduate students, and plan and help run events reflective of collective needs and interests. It is a great option if you have ideas but are not sure where to suggest them or if you want to step into a leadership role and build community in the department, on campus and beyond. This article is meant to share the value of the PGSO and ask students to consider how it can develop in future semesters to be a stronger and more utilized resource for students.

So what does the PGSO do? What can we do?
Previous years members have organized fundraisers for local charities, socials, discussion forums, and have supported other initiatives to educate or raise awareness about a particular social issue. The PGSO is our forum to engage with our community and collectively give back. Some ideas our current executive board has talked about have included screening documentaries, participating in the Relay for Life walk, creating a self-care workshop for students, identifying and acquiring additional resources to support strong and innovative academic work, and helping our faculty organize and manage the logistics involved with the biennial SCRA conference this June. Often such events are designed by and intended for students, which means the more students engaged in the process the better.

Our graduate programs are designed to help us identify needs and be of service to constituents, often through the act of allyship and advocacy. The PGSO can be one vehicle where students can promote and share ideas or action steps they believe should be disseminated to the wider community. It can also be utilized as a space to learn about fellow student’s work, to support and motivate one another, and to share research and other resources.

We asked the current executive team of the PGSO why they joined, why they think it’s important that students get involved, and how the PGSO can help serve the UMass Lowell community and the community at large. Here were some of their answers:

Charlotte Wilinsky, CSP, Secretary of PGSO, 2014-2015.
I joined the PGSO because it seemed like a great opportunity to become more involved in the graduate program. The PGSO has so much potential to connect students and faculty, and our graduate programs with other parts of the campus and community, and I liked the idea that as a group we could develop these areas even more.

Kaitlin Stoll, CSP, Vice-President of the PGSO, 2014-2015.
I think it’s important for students to get involved because they can help make their graduate experience better. By being a part of the PGSO you are able to have your voice heard. It’s also an added bonus that you get to know your peers on a more intimate level.

Liz Ejaife, CSP. President of the PGSO, 2014-2015. I joined PGSO because I wanted to be more involved in my program and get to know my fellow CSP and ASP students. I think it is important that students get involved with PGSO because for the next 2 years, we are going to be learning and sharing experiences with each other so forming a stronger bond can help enrich that experience.

Graduates in Psychology have many skills and a great deal to share. By coming together we continue to grow and learn from one another and give back to the larger community. By doing so, we take advantage of all our chosen program has to offer.

The PGSO will continue to meet throughout the this hectic and snowy semester and we sincerely hope to see you there!
Feel free to email the President, Liz Ejaife, OfaLiz_Ejaife@student.uml.edu with any questions or suggestions.

Onward and outward!
Mary Tauras, CSP.
Treasurer and Senator of the PGSO, 2014-2015.