Volume 51   Number 4 Fall 2018

From the President

Brad_Olsen.jpgBradley Olsen
National Louis University Chicago

Dear SCRA Members,

Returning to the Executive Committee over a year ago, after such a long absence, I have been able to see up close the many activities driven by SCRA members, who also feel like friends and family. And, of course there are new members adding to the collective tasks and activities, and all of it is, it feels, like a unique, vibrancy of SCRA.

I’m just going to focus here on a portion of the Executive Committee (EC), the presidents, treasurers, secretary and I will speak more on others later. I will also focus on our strengths, what we do so well, with the hope that a bit of asset mapping can help us all utilize and build on those who put such skilled work into SCRA’s well-being.

While I, and many of you, have long known these figures, I was surprised at how much I really understand their community psychology-assets when working with them on tough individual and organizational decisions. Of those who are rotating off the EC, for instance, I have known our past-past president Susan McMahon (Susan M.) and past-treasurer Jim Emshoff (Jim E.), and initially got the sense that Susan M. was good at ensuring we adhered to the SCRA strategic plan and that Jim E. was responsive to budget requests. What I learned was that when extraordinarily difficult decisions needed to be made, for instance on budget requests, evaluating SCRA mini-grants proposals or working with our publisher Wiley, Susan M. has a most wise, honest, and critical style, an organizational thinker as good as they get, and Jim E. always broadens out our thinking, adding new complexities and depths and foresight—it becomes clear that the success of his evaluation and consulting business is no fluke.

And coincidentally, as one presidential-treasurer Susan-Jim set rotates out, another rotates in—Past Member-at-Large, Susan Torres-Harding (Susan T-H), is now our new President-Elect and Past-President, Jim Cook (Jim C.), is our new treasurer. Susan T-H is, to me, a dear SCRA sister going back to our days working at Lenny Jason’s Center for Community Research. Susan T-H has such a vast array of skills, all evident in her leading role co-organizing the last, 2011, Chicago SCRA Biennial. And Susan T-H she has already provided strong operational support for next year’s, the 2019, Chicago SCRA Biennial. Susan T-H is skilled as a clinical and community practitioner but has also long been strong at managing budgets and research and evaluation projects. SCRA’s relatively new Evaluation and Financial Planning Committee—a committee designed to look formatively and summatively at our internal SCRA investments in projects and other activities.

Three people in three other positions just feel like the most fortunate type of stability. There are many great people in SCRA who can carry out any of our roles, perhaps, certainly mine, but some of these positions—at least their titles of Treasurer and Secretary—do not capture the major leadership roles they are playing in SCRA, nor their part in the collective responsibilities involved. After being away for a little while, Jim C. is re-joining the EC as Treasurer and Elizabeth Thomas is staying on as Secretary. Both of them possess so much organizational knowledge, and both always reassure with responsible, calm, insightful, and caring leadership styles. And as for the institutional continuity, policy savvy, and balancing of taking action while allowing participatory leadership, we could not…well, put simply, she keeps us ALL together.

I will talk about the many others on the EC another day, which leaves us for now—last, but not least—to our immediate Past President, Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar. Under Yolanda’s leadership there have been so many exciting accomplishments in the past year, each according to many of the goals in our strategic plan, including the creation of and endorsing of the innovation grant mechanism. But nothing strikes me as more critical than her work with students and early professionals of color. Despite all the strengths and assets in SCRA, human and otherwise, we have places to grow. And as with every psychological and academic and other organizational entity in the country, it will be required of us to have a lot of openness, care, bravery, and self and community honesty around issues of implicit racism and empowerment within community psychology. And of implicit and explicit racism in the broader field of psychology, public health, evaluation, and related disciplines in the U.S. and all of it in the broader country. Yolanda has initiated and engaged in such great dialogues at our Midwestern Eco and other conferences, in webinars, in places like SCRA Immigrant Justice group, and while SCRA’s Council on Ethnic and Minority Affairs (CERA, pronounced like “Sarah”). CERA was really shaped by so many individuals, but Yolanda did so much to advocate for its place as a Council, “within” the EC to its unanimous vote to have it at a permanent place “on” the EC. I know that Yolanda loves this work and will continue doing this work for SCRA this year and well beyond.

So that’s it for now. These are all very accessible people, and don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me. Jean Hill is our Executive Director and has more institutional knowledge than anyone, but I am always happy to try to brainstorm around ideas, answer questions about where one might fit in, give honest views about graduate schools, or help apply for faculty positions, or whatever. Don’t hesitate to email me:

Best, and look forward to continuing to communicate, and seeing many of you at the Biennial in June 2019.


Brad Olson

President of SCRA

Associate Professor, National Louis University Chicago