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ACM Psychology Faculty Will Convene to Discuss Global Perspectives

ACM Psychology Faculty Will Convene to Discuss Global Perspectives September 13, 2010

Are psychological phenomena universal or do they vary from culture to culture? Are there ways in which students focusing on psychology, one of the country’s most popular majors, can pursue study abroad while continuing to learn about their field? Can ACM psychology departments enact the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) that begin to look at psychology from a more global perspective?

These and similar questions will inform a June 3-4, 2011, Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) workshop on Finding Our Way: Strategies for Internationalizing Undergraduate Psychology. Psychology professors Ken Abrams of Carleton College and Dana Gross of St. Olaf College will lead the workshop, bringing together psychology faculty from across the ACM to network, share ideas, and develop strategies for internationalizing psychology curricula, both through study abroad and conventional classroom experiences.

For more about the workshop and internationalizing the psychology curriculum, read the interview with Ken Abrams and visit the workshop website.

The ACM FaCE Project, supported with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides grants for research, meetings, development of internet-based outreach tools, and evaluation activities. December 1, 2010 is the next deadline for ACM faculty to apply for FaCE grants.

According to Abrams and Gross, students studying psychology — the fifth most popular undergraduate major in the United States — see the value of study abroad. However, those students typically have to interrupt their studies in the discipline because psychology courses are rarely part of the curriculum in international programs.

On a national level, the focus on internationalizing the undergraduate psychology curriculum has been gaining momentum in recent years, Abrams and Gross noted. There is a growing disciplinary consensus that, whether students are planning to continue their study of psychology at the graduate level or pursue other activities — including employment — they need to be prepared to succeed in an increasingly diverse world and workplace.

The workshop is intended to enhance psychology students’ sociocultural and international awareness by discussing the best practices of professors who have taught psychology courses off campus in international settings, creating a listserv for continued discussion and collaboration among participants, establishing an online database of teaching materials, and exploring avenues for co-authoring publications.

There will be two keynote speakers at the workshop: Carol Enns, Professor of Psychology at Cornell College, and Helle Harnisch, who is on the faculty at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). Enns recently returned from a study abroad trip in Japan that she led and organized with other ACM faculty, supported in part by a FaCE grant.

Faculty at ACM colleges who are interested in attending the Finding Our Way: Strategies for Internationalizing Undergraduate Psychology workshop at Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges in Northfield, MN, should visit the workshop website or contact either of the organizers:

  • Ken Abrams, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Carleton College
  • Dana Gross, Professor of Psychology, St. Olaf College

For more about the conference topic and the keynote speakers, see the following interview with Ken Abrams.

Interview with Kenneth Abrams

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Carleton College

ACM: Is it your belief that the understanding or practice of psychology vary from culture to culture or country to country? If so, then how?

Ken AbramsKen Abrams

KA: In the area of psychopathology (which is just one topic within psychology), it has become increasingly clear that the development, expression, assessment, and treatment of mental disorders are heavily influenced by culture. As an example, symptoms deemed psychotic by Western psychologists, such as delusions and hallucinations, may have different meanings cross-culturally and at times represent culturally-appropriate phenomena. As another example, in many non-Western countries traditional healing approaches (such as those offered by indigenous diviners, spiritualists, or faith healers) are often greatly preferred to “modern” psychiatric approaches.

ACM: What do you think is behind the American Psychological Association’s shift to a more international perspective?

KA: To quote the APA Working Group on Internationalizing the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum (2005):

“Attention to the international character and responsibilities of psychology’s mission has increased recently due to factors that have strengthened connections between once physically distant peoples. These factors include travel and migration, global communication and culture, contemporary geopolitical events and conflicts, international business and commerce, global environmental concerns, and international human rights. Moreover, the consumers psychology serves (e.g., in classrooms and applied settings) are increasingly aware of the potential impact of these internationalizing forces in light of their own backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge.”

ACM: Many students who major in psychology do not go directly into a psychology-related field. For these students, what are the benefits of internationalizing their psychology education?

KA: Ideally, such students would be able to:

  • recognize prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior in themselves and others;
  • show appreciation for different perspectives;
  • iteract effectively and sensitively with people of diverse backgrounds and cultural perspectives; and
  • enhance their employability prior to and following graduation.

ACM: For students who will go on to further work and/or exploration in the field, what are the benefits to internationalizing their psychology education?

KA: Ideally, such students would:

  • recognize that psychological theories are often influenced by cultural, social, and political systems;
  • understand that concepts developed in one cultural setting may not have identical meanings (or even relevance) in other settings;
  • develop research skills that are necessary for international research competence; and
  • display enhanced sensitivity in clinical settings when interacting with clients from different backgrounds.

ACM: Who are the keynote speakers for the conference on “Internationalizing Psychology” and what are their backgrounds?

KA: The conference will feature two keynote speakers:

  • Helle Harnisch is a full-time faculty member at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in the psychology program and teaches the psychology of happiness. Helle has a Masters in educational psychology and specialized in the field of positive psychology. She has written on the relevance and applicability on positive psychology and character strengths in war-torn third world contexts. She has also taught at the Danish University of Education and Aarhus University. At present Helle is devoted to teaching American students about positive psychology and to nurturing debate on the field.
  •  Carol Enns is a psychology professor at Cornell College. Carol received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1987. Her area of specialization is counseling psychology. Carol is a licensed psychologist in the State of Iowa, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She is the author of Feminist Theories and Feminist Psychotherapies: Origins, Themes, and Diversity (2004, Haworth Press) and co-editor of Teaching and Social Justice: Integrating Multicultural and Feminist Theories in the Classroom (2005, American Psychological Association Press). She teaches courses in multicultural psychology and in the psychology of women in gender. Carol completed several months of sabbatical leave in Japan between 2001 and 2003. She spent time as a visiting faculty member at Kyoto Seika University; explored the contributions of Japanese psychologists, feminist activists, and feminist therapists; and studied Japanese indigenous psychotherapies such as hakoniwa (sand tray therapy). She also received a Japan Study Travel Grant in 1999, and visited Japan in 1999, 2000, and 2004 as a Cornell College institutional representative to Aoyama Gakuin Women’s Junior College. Carol was additionally selected as the Japan Study Resident Director for the 2006-2007 academic year.

ACM: What are the benefits of working collaboratively within the ACM?

KA: Because the ACM members are all small, academically-strong liberal arts schools, the psychology faculty within them may face similar challenges when trying to internationalize their curricula.

ACM: What has been the value of receiving the FaCE grant?

KA: Most directly, the FaCE grant provides the funding that will enable the conference to take place. The funding will cover logistical expenses, travel expenses for participants, and honoraria for the two keynote speakers. It’s also fair to say that the FaCE grant announcement inspired us (Dana and Ken) to pursue this collaboration in the first place.

E-mail interview with Professor Abrams conducted by Matt Tzuker, ACM Graduate Intern.

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