Derner event opened up the discussion about issues of diversity in therapy, testing, supervision and education.
By Monica Pal, M.A.
On Monday, April 30, 2012, more than 85 faculty members, students, and administration gathered to hear the voices of Dr. Beverly Greene and Dr. Kirkland Vaughans on Diversity Day. The Diversity Committee hosted the event with a hope to open up the discussion about issues of diversity in therapy, testing, supervision, and our education.
Dean Barber and Dr. Muran both introduced the event, emphasizing the value of the awareness of diversity every day of our lives in all that we do. Then Jairo Fuertes, the Diversity Committee Chairperson, introduced Beverly Greene, Ph.D. Dr. Greene is currently a Professor of Psychology at St. John’s University. She received her Clinical Psychology Ph.D. in 1983 from the Derner Institute. She specializes in the role of institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism and other oppressive ideologies in the paradigms of psychology and practice of psychotherapy in organized mental health. In her speech, Dr. Greene discussed the multiple identities that interact and affect our perceptions, expectations, and biases. She spoke of a kaleidoscope of identities including: race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, color, economic class, and education. These identities, she said, blend like “rainbow sherbet” and cannot be separated.
As a fourth year student and Diversity Committee member, I had the distinct honor of introducing Kirkland Vaughans, Ph.D. Dr. Vaughans is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Derner Institute. He is the editor of the Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy (JICAP) and sits on the faculty of the Adelphi Postgraduate Program in Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapy. He is also a clinical supervisor at the National Institute for Psychotherapy (NIP). Dr. Vaughans shared clinical examples from his work as a school psychologist at Hempstead High School, where he clearly motivates and inspires the students who walk into his office. He spoke of an incident when a student used a racial slur in front of him, and the importance of addressing his personal feelings about the student’s use of the slur and how it affected him as a Black man. He discussed personal accounts of when he was discriminated against because of his skin color on a subway and his frustration at two policemen.
After these extremely eloquent and informative talks, the students had the opportunity to ask questions. The emotions were high in the room, as everyone related in some way to the topics discussed. As the students shared personal stories, the speakers responded with personal answers. One student spoke of her interracial marriage, while another spoke about the experience of being a White woman and wondering at times whether it’s appropriate if she share when the topic of diversity arises. Another student asked how to address issues of diversity that exist within our institution. One thing is for sure, this got ball rolling to discuss some very important feelings, thoughts, and issues in regards to diversity. Everyone was so engaged in the conversation that it was challenging to pause for lunch, with a fear that this deep talk might not ensue after the break. More than twenty-five brave individuals returned after lunch for the round table discussions, in which students and faculty members discussed reactions to the morning and tackled questions written by Derner students.
Evaluations of the day proved the event’s success and helped with suggestions for future events. A few individuals proposed that this event be annual. Others hoped that round table discussions could be made an optional monthly activity for students. Many evaluations reflected the desire to make this event obligatory for students because it was so worthwhile. Others asked for follow up events to address other issues: sexual orientation, gender, other ethnicities, etc.
This event would not have been possible without the support of Dean Barber and Dr. Muran and the efforts of the faculty of the Diversity Committee including Dr. Jairo Fuertes—Chairperson, Dr. Kirkland Vaughans, Dr. Carolyn Springer, Dr. Rebecca Curtis, Dr. Michael O’Loughlin, Dr. Patrick Ross, Dr. Karen Lombardi, and student representatives Monica Pal, Terri Houston, Sevan Basil, and Michael Kestenbaum. Lastly, this event’s success was dependent on the participation of the students and faculty who attended and shared so openly and honestly. There was a proposal for Diversity Day submitted to APAGS in order to host an event in the fall of 2012. Finally, there is also news of the creation of student led minority caucus, so if you want to get involved, stay tuned.
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