So, you’ve just held a major field-changing conference that drew — and continues to draw — the interest of thousands of people.

Now what?

In the aftermath of last week’s huge “Decolonizing Psychology” conference, organizer Prerna Arora, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education, and doctoral students Kayla Parr and Olivia Khoo are mulling that question.

Prena Arora, Kayla Parr, Olivia Khoo

REASONS TO SMILE From left: Prerna Arora, Assistant Professor of School Psychology, and doctoral students Kayla Parr and Olivia Khoo, are enjoying the positive feedback from the Decolonizing Psychology conference. Arora is thinking about ways to apply lessons from the conference to research conducted in her SMILE lab at TC. (Photos: TC Archives)

On one level, the three are enjoying a wave of positive feedback.

“People really valued how the speakers showed their vulnerability, honesty, humility, and how open they were about their lived experiences,” Khoo says. “They were very personal even though so many people were there.”

Parr adds that “something happened where the speakers showed up authentically and gave permission to have discussions that are not always had in institutions in higher education.”  

Participants, too, have given the conference a major thumbs up. TC Professor Psychology & Education Marie Miville, who moderated a discussion with psychologist Carol Falender, called the day “a historic event,” adding that, “engaging in dialogues that highlight the structural disparities in psychological research, training, and practice help to further decolonize the field.”

TC Professor of Psychology & Education Laudan Jahromi, who moderated a discussion with speaker Jasmine Mena of Bucknell University, said “each conversation was filled with rich, powerful insights to guide students and faculty working to bring a decolonial lens to their curriculum and practice.  The speakers pushed us to re-think what we consider ‘knowledge’ and what it means to be a university instructor.”

And Associate Professor of English Education Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, who moderated a conversation with Amanda Sullivan, said that it was “an honor to be invited as a moderator at this groundbreaking conference that boldly called those within and outside the field of Psychology to take a stand against racism and decolonize what and how we teach.”

This conference was an historic event.  Engaging in dialogues that highlight the structural disparities in psychological research, training, and practice help to further decolonize the field.

— Marie Miville, TC Professor of Psychology & Education

Ultimately, though, the organizing team is more focused on ensuring that the momentum for change doesn’t dissipate.

“Overall, I would argue that the major lesson was that we have so much to learn,” says Arora. “We’ve had multiple meetings since about the impact. We’re trying to process what we’ve learned and how to apply it to our program, our department and the field.”

The field, it seems, was already doing some applying itself even before the conference ended.

“We were seeing people in the chat come together and create this document compiling resources shared by speakers and additional resources of their own,” Khoo says. “They created that resource on their own initiative — it wasn’t something we could have anticipated — and we will be sharing this document on the conference website as well.”   

Meanwhile, as Vice President for Social, Ethical, and Ethnic Minority Affairs of the Division 16 (School Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, Arora is on the planning committee for “Uprooting School Psychology,” billed as an “Anti-Racism Unconference, which the division will hold at the end of July. While the two events were planned without reference to one another, the entire Division 16 planning committee was in attendance for the TC conference, so it seems likely that there will be some direct carry over.

Inside TC, discussions continue among faculty and students in the School Psychology program (and within the broader Department of Health & Behavior Studies) about how the program can do more in its curricula and other areas to integrate a focus on racial and social justice. 

Arora adds that she is “actively thinking about how to integrate some of the lessons learned about decolonizing research” to the efforts of her own lab (the School Mental Health for Minority Youth and Families Research Lab, or SMILE). “We’re also considering how to apply some of the lessons from the mentorship presentation into new mentorship programs within the School Psychology program.

“Personally, I’ve learned so much from the discussions at our conference about mentorship,” Arora says. “It’s clear that mentorship needs to be not just faculty to student, but also senior students working with those who newer to the program. And it would be great to have more alumni act as mentors to current students who will soon be going into the workforce.

“This event has made us even more aware of areas of potential growth in our work and how to move forward to make some of this needed change. I’m so excited to continue to learn as we pursue these goals.”