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Task Force promotes diversity in psychology field

Diversity Task Force gathering

The Diversity Task Force hosted international students from Thailand at a recent gathering.

The Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology at Illinois State University is a volunteer group that is dedicated to the diversification of the field of psychology. While the main goal of the Diversity Task Force is to recruit and retain students from diverse backgrounds into the field of psychology, the Task Force is also dedicated to assisting its members and the local community in becoming well versed in the needs of children and families from various backgrounds.

“Members of the Diversity Task Force are committed to leveling the playing field for students from minority backgrounds who may not have been afforded the same opportunities as the majority,” said Brea Banks, Ph.D. ’15. “It is an essential task, and ISU’s psychology department is lucky to have graduate students who are willing and excited to take on this task.”

A registered student organization (RSO) at Illinois State, the Task Force works to create an environment where conversations around diversity topics are frequent and welcomed. The group hosts once-per-semester cultural potlucks, as well as workshops conducted by faculty members whose research concentrations focus on diverse populations. For example, a recent Diversity Task Force workshop featured Beth Hatt, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Education, who discussed politically appropriate ways to refer to individuals from certain cultural backgrounds.

“I really enjoyed Dr. Hatt’s presentation,” said Cyndy Alvarez, a third-year school psychology doctoral student. “I felt very comfortable addressing diversity issues in that setting and was highly impressed with how she reframed things in a very knowledgeable and respectful manner. She provided me with a lot of insight.”

Diversity Task Force members have also been involved in book clubs and discussions with faculty, as well as participating in volunteer opportunities with various community organizations. One of the most important recruitment events the Diversity Task Force organizes is an annual open house for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. During the open house, Psychology faculty provide descriptions of each psychology program and sequence and field questions from attendees. Undergraduate student attendees also receive tips for preparing a competitive graduate application. All attendees are provided with lunch and an opportunity to learn about the experiences of Illinois State graduate students firsthand.

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The Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology was founded in response to a 2011 American Psychological Association (APA) self-study for the school psychology doctoral program. The study found that there was an increasing need for the Department of Psychology and its trainees to match the rapid growth of an increasingly diverse multicultural society. Thus, the Task Force was formed in an effort to recruit and retain students from diverse backgrounds into all graduate-level sequences and programs in the department.

“The Diversity Task Force was instrumental for me,” Banks said. “Not only due to my own commitment to leveling the playing field, but also because it gave me a sense of camaraderie. As one of the founding members, I feel fortunate that I was asked to help develop the group, and it excites me that current graduate students have continued the tradition.”

There is no cost to be involved in this organization. Psychology graduate students from all backgrounds are encouraged to join. The Diversity Task Force welcomes Illinois State graduate students and faculty from clinical-counseling, cognitive and behavioral sciences, developmental, industrial/organizational-social, quantitative, and school psychology programs. Adena Meyers, Ph.D., a school psychology faculty member, serves as faculty advisor for the organization.

Follow the Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology on Facebook to learn about upcoming events.

To support the Department of Psychology and help enhance its educational mission with advanced teaching methods, guest speakers, and more opportunities for students to learn through research experiences, please consider making a gift to the department through the Illinois State University Foundation.

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