Friday, May 16, 2014

NeuroBlog: The Value of Student Involvement in Neuropsychology Governance

Cady Block, ANST Chair
Cady Block
When I was first asked to write a piece for our NeuroBlog, I immediately knew I wanted to write about a topic that I am very passionate about: student involvement in neuropsychology governance. My own journey into student governance has been a very rewarding one. When I began my doctoral work at UAB in 2008, another student and myself saw the need for representation of student interests in neuropsychology within our program. With some research and a little bit of luck, we found out that APA has a Division representing neuropsychology, and that this Division not only has a trainee organization (the Association of Neuropsychology Students in Training, or ANST) but that it sponsors a network of chapters. We began our own UAB chapter and it is still successful and thriving today.

I then became interested in issues impacting all trainees and wanted to become more involved in governance at the national level. I was elected as the national ANST Communications Officer, which was followed by being elected the national Chair for ANST. I find that both of these positions offered the opportunity to connect and network with other individuals who are passionate about improving the profession for current and our future colleagues, and to effect change at the national level. Student leadership has been a valuable experience for me, and I hope to share my excitement and passion with other trainees and create opportunities for others to become more involved. I know such an experience can seem very daunting to trainees, but I would encourage them by saying that becoming involved is actually easier than one might think and the rewards in return are countless! The Society for Clinical Neuropsychology and ANST have long fostered such an opportunity through our network of chapters housed at various doctoral programs throughout the country. Chapters are led by active, energetic trainees and offer an excellent entry into student leadership and can often open the door for later involvement to neuropsychology governance. In fact, one of our original two student founders of ANST – Michael Cole – is currently the head of the SCN Publications and Communications Committee! Our current SCN Communications Liaison and former ANST Chair, Erica Kalkut, also began as a chapter representative at her doctoral program.

I could continue on about the many, many benefits of becoming involved in student leadership and neuropsychology governance. However, I felt that the best people to speak to this are some of our wonderful chapter representatives. I offer my thanks and appreciation to each of them for their willingness to contribute to this NeuroBlog piece. I also offer my gratitude to the excellent people in SCN who make these experiences available to trainees. I hope you enjoy this piece!

Jesse Passler, University of Alabama at Birmingham         
Jesse Passler
It was very important to me to become involved with the ANST chapter at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as soon as possible. The importance of being a part of ANST leadership to me cannot be overstated. It has proven to be an excellent way to become integrated into the neuropsychology community at UAB as well as across the country. I have also found the support and knowledge of fellow ANST chapters (as well as ANST’s wonderful leadership!) to be such an appreciated resource in my professional development.

However, the most important experience I’ve garnered from the opportunity to serve in student governance is that of being continually humbled by the amazing people around me. I have always had aspirations to serve as a leader, both professionally and in the community. Stated simply, serving in a leadership role requires honesty, openness, and the challenge to adequately represent a group as a whole as opposed to any special or specific expertise. In this way, I have been honored to work alongside my fellow UAB ANST members in trying to ensure both an excellent professional and personal experience. I highly encourage this opportunity to other students; I hope that you’ll find, as I have, that better than growing personally or (in some small way) helping others to grow, is growing together.      

Dede Ukueberuwa, Pennsylvania State University
Dede Ukueberuwa
The key to getting involved in student leadership is being proactive, and the effort can lead to incredibly rewarding experiences for students. In addition to having an impact on the goals of the organization by sharing their expertise, students benefit from leadership opportunities when they are able to learn new skills and further develop their career interests. Joining a committee for a professional organization is a great way to meet and learn from clinical neuropsychologists at every career level and from different settings. However, many students may feel hesitant to pursue leadership positions. My first experience with leadership in graduate school was on the organizing committee for a student-run neuroscience interest group at Penn State, where I felt comfortable sharing ideas among peers. I also started a chapter of ANST at Penn State in order to foster a sense of community among students with a specialization in clinical neuropsychology and to provide a resource for professional development. I’ve also joined a committee for a national neuropsychological organization. Although I felt hesitant when first exploring leadership roles, I found that with each new role, I was more confident and able to be proactive in pursuing additional opportunities.

Once interested in gaining leadership experience, many students may feel uncertain about how to get started. Talking to an advisor or another faculty member in their program is a great first step. An advisor may be involved in professional organizations or know about committees that welcome student members. Talking to an advisor may also help students to assess their strengths and to build confidence in their ability to be a leader. Through the process of searching for opportunities, students learn about the work of different organizations, which then helps to further define their own interests – are they drawn to public education about clinical neuropsychology, advocating for legislature that promotes our mission, or reviewing research projects for publication or awards? Once students start to get involved, they will likely feel more comfortable sharing their skills and ideas, develop a sense of identity as a clinical neuropsychologist in training, and continue growth as a leader in the field.

Nick Bott, Palo Alto University
Nick Bott
Woody Allen has opined that 80% of success is showing up, and this resonates with my experience in becoming involved in leadership and governance of my program's ANST chapter. The current ANST leadership was transitioning out, and in speaking with one of the chapter reps at the end of a meeting, she asked me about ideas for how to strengthen the resources and opportunities that the chapter offers to students. Sharing some of my ideas turned into a conversation about becoming more involved in leadership and eventually led to my taking a leadership role as the ANST co-chapter rep for our program. 

Having served as co-chapter rep for two years now, I am so happy that I showed up. My time helping to lead our chapter has convinced me of the importance of leadership and governance as an integral part of graduate school education. Graduate work encompasses three spheres: clinical education, research, and involvement in the field of the profession. Often, one or two of these becomes the focus of a graduate student, to the exclusion of the other. And sadly, it is often involvement in the field that is first to go. But involvement in the field is incredibly important. Knowledge of the structures that govern and support the field, and the networks of professionals that provide leadership for these structures is an education in itself, and extremely valuable for your own professional development in the expansion of your professional network and your understanding of the issues that are facing our field. And the field shrinks incredibly once you start engaging in a professional leadership capacity. You also realize that the volunteerism of students and professionals is critical to supporting so many budding neuropsychologists, as well as supporting the profession as a whole. Without serving in a leadership capacity, you are much less likely to be exposed to this critical area within our field. So my recommendation: show up and see what happens!