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Dear Division 15 Members,

Perhaps like many of you, I have been asking myself questions for over a month since George Floyd’s murder, such as “why does this hurt so much,” “how should I respond to this moment,” and “how are others rising to the occasion to make the world a better place?” Every day since March, and as I write this, a new name or wrongdoing is being reported in my news feeds, of black and brown lives being unnecessarily and prematurely lost due to the COVID19 pandemic and a persisting racism pandemic. Anger, fears, and even hope come and go, as I try to overcome my own painful memories of racism, and simultaneously the very present discriminatory and racist structures embedded throughout academia. Sure, I have fears about the potential threats to my physical well-being from campus policing, but there are also career-related fears of receiving harsher course evaluations than my colleagues, my research being dismissed for being “nontraditional,” or my service being undervalued as an underrepresented faculty member. Academia was not structured with learners and scholars like me in mind. So this begs the questions, “where then does someone like me find hope in the academy,” “what structural/systemic changes can be made in academia to be more inclusive,” and “are there things in my own field/discipline that can be harnessed to make changes for the greater good?”

On behalf of the Division 15 Executive Committee, and with the support of the Division 15 ad hoc committee on Race & Diversity, I’ll begin by expressing that I find hope in academia from the love of my academic family, the bright potentials of my students, and the works and efforts of Educational Psychologists like you. I am also hopeful because of what I see in our Division, and the intentionality with which our leaders have been laying the foundation to combat and dismantle racism within our discipline and throughout education, including:

  • The 2019 creation of the Div15 ad hoc committee on Race & Diversity, with Dr. Jessica DeCuir-Gunby as inaugural chair. Already aiming for long-term pursuits for the Division, the committee’s ad hoc status could change to being a standing committee.
  • Highlighted events, webinars, publications, and sessions concerning race and equity in education, including the 2019 Convention session “Thriving in Academia—Voices From Scholars of Color in Educational Psychology;” Gray, Hope, & Matthews’ (2018) Outstanding Article Award for “Black and Belonging in School,” which was included in a special issue of Educational Psychologist on “Critical Reflections and Future Directions in the study of Race, Ethnicity, and Motivation;” and our recent 2020 webinar “Educational Psychology from a Race and Equity Perspective.”
  • Changing the name of the Edward Thorndike Award for Career Achievement in Educational Psychology. Though a founder of Educational Psychology, Thorndike endorsed eugenics (Fallace, 2015). The Executive Committee voted for a revision in the Division’s bylaws to allow a name change. Changing the bylaws requires a vote of the membership; please watch your email for the ballot.
  • Concerted efforts to recruit and nominate underrepresented members for Div15 leadership, awards, and invited presentations.

Despite taking these early actions, we recognize and own the fact that they are nowhere near enough to overwhelm and eliminate racism from academic systems, let alone our own structures, and especially in meeting the present moment. Nevertheless, we are ready and committed to continue our efforts and work towards making seismic changes to dismantle racism; become a more inclusive and diverse Division; and elevate our members and the communities and cultures in which they live. As a Division, we believe Black Lives Matter. And with at least some momentum on our side, here are the immediate actions we continue to advance and encourage:

  • Committing and allocating resources and funding for grants and initiatives addressing race and diversity. Grant programs related to COVID and race/diversity are presently in development. Calls for proposals will be announced at the 2020 Business Meeting.
  • Organizing convenings to address diversity in Division 15 membership/leadership.
  • Generating and disseminating policy and practice briefs that address inequities in education (i.e. implicit bias and the discipline gap).
  • Making Educational Psychology articles, resources, and materials concerning race and social justice in education readily accessible. Further discussions around the creation of a free and accessible repository/archive are being considered by the Executive Committee and ad hoc committee on Race & Diversity.
  • Front-loading equity focused Division 15 research in publications and communications.
  • Welcoming your input, feedback, and ideas for motivating anti-racist, diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Please share your voice with the Membership Committee by emailing Wade George ([email protected]).
  • We encourage our members to take action in their scholarly work, to be cognizant of and actively cite the works by fellow scholars of color; speak to the generalizability of your findings to diverse populations; diversify your research teams and co-authors; diversify your samples; and make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a part of your approach to all of your academic work (see also Griffin, 2020).

We are striving to be our best possible self as a Division by continuing these actions and lifting up our members and voices that have been underrepresented for far too long. You can join us by sharing your voice with our Membership Committee by emailing Wade George ([email protected]), joining us at the 2020 Business Meeting, participating in our virtual convention session: “Race: A Discussion of Division 15 Actions & Opportunities,” and taking part in the actions listed above. We wish you strength, wellness, and safety.


Dr. Marcus Lee Johnson
Division 15 Co-Representative, APA COR
Assoc Professor, University of Cincinnati

On Behalf of the:
Division 15 Executive Committee