Bersoff Award Highlights Clinical Psychology Program’s Commitment to Diversity

Office of Communications | July 10, 2013
Students of Alice Carter, the director of UMass Boston's clinical psychology program, regularly tackle diversity-related issues.

Students of Alice Carter, the director of UMass Boston's clinical psychology program, regularly tackle diversity-related issues.
Image by: Harry Brett

The American Psychological Association (APA) named UMass Boston as one of only three winners of the 2013 Bersoff Presidential Cultural Award. The prize honors clinical psychology programs with a special commitment to recruiting and graduating students from U.S. ethnic minorities, and students from other countries. Alice Carter, director of the clinical psychology program, will accept the $2,500 prize at the APA 2013 Annual Convention in Hawaii.

Carter says that the UMass Boston clinical psychology program was founded with a mission to reach underserved urban populations. Early on, that mission attracted a diverse group of students.

“Now it’s not unusual for people to talk about cultural competence,” Carter says, “but 20 years ago, when this department started, it was really, really unusual.”

At UMass Boston, clinical psychology students learn to tackle diversity-related issues both inside and outside of the classroom. In 2002, the department developed a Diversity Committee to help future researchers and clinicians gain cultural competency training. The department holds regular community meetings about religion, race, gender, and economic status as they relate to psychiatric treatment and research.

The UMass Boston Clinical Psychology program has 55 graduate students, 49 percent of whom are U.S.-born minority students, foreign-born U.S. citizens, or international students, a number that has been trending upward since the program’s inception in 1989. 

Even after graduation, many students elect to work in underserved urban communities that are majority-minority. There, they work to help patients overcome the social stigmas, language barriers, and economic hurdles that often prevent minorities from accessing mental healthcare.

Susan Lambe Sarinana, a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program, praises the faculty at UMass Boston for having open and honest discussions about race and ethnicity. She also credits her peers for their commitment to diversity. Lambe Sarinana and her fellow students didn’t just generate dialogue amongst themselves. During her time at UMass Boston, she collaborated with classmates to facilitate interracial dialogues at a local high school, aimed at improving relations between groups.

Lambe Sarinana writes, “Among the most valuable lessons I have learned at UMass Boston is that working on issues of difference, power, and oppression is often challenging and sometimes painful; yet when this work is done among committed community members, it can be deeply meaningful and can create the opportunity for both learning and healing.”

Tags: alice carter , apa , awards , clinical psychology , diversity , psychology

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