Nicole Hansen-Rayes, PhD, program manager for the Professional Development Certificates, recently attended an international conference for community psychologists in Santiago de Chile. This was an opportunity for Nicole to share her research and project work in the field, hear about current trends and challenges in the industry, and network with colleagues from all over the globe. She describes the experience as an important part of her own professional development.
Most people who hear the name “community psychology” wonder what it is about. The field has been around since the 1960s but is still struggling for recognition amongst other well-accepted fields of psychology. Community psychologists can work as educators, academic program directors, consultants, policy developers, and researchers in community-based agencies, universities, or governmental organizations. As a community psychologist, Nicole’s endeavors extend beyond the focus on the individual with an emphasis on social, cultural, political, and environmental factors, with hopes to promote positive progressions and empowerment for communities in both first and second order change cycles. Nicole’s twenty-yearlong interest in juvenile justice was a determining factor in her doctoral research on the narratives of faculty who work tirelessly within college and career academies throughout Chicago for youth who are most at risk. She was invited to present at the 2018 International Conference for Community Psychology (ICCP) through the Society for Community Action and Research (SCRA).
SCRA seeks to, “support and advocate excellence and visibility in education of community research and action” (SCRA, 2018). SCRA’s mission is global in nature and multidisciplinary in focus while working to support community strengths and social justice, reduce oppression, and honor human rights while promoting well-being and empowerment. One of the many ways SCRA helps to achieve these goals is by holding a biennial international conference where community psychologists form all over the world can commune to celebrate the work and research of their colleagues.
The 7th edition of the International Conference for Community Psychology hosted a team of sixteen Chilean universities. The title of the conference, “The Community on the Move: Building Spaces of Diversity, Coexistence, and Change,” spoke directly to the work of presenters from many different countries. Several community psychologists from universities in the Chicagoland area also attended and presented their research on educational and programmatic advances in the field.
Throughout her career, Nicole has learned that professional development is key to advancing knowledge, expertise, skill-building, advancement, and social networks. Professionals who share an interest in the industry always benefit from discussion and collaboration as it enhances further understanding of scientific inquiry and trends that will shape the future. In Chile, Nicole enjoyed these discussions, many of them about her research interests. It especially resonated with the possible creation of a professional development certificate in the area of community building and action. Her participation in this conference has benefited her personally as well by allowing her to build a resource community related to her particular field of interest.
Nicole’s work in the non-credit Professional Development Certificates has reinforced her belief that we should create as many opportunities as possible to build academic and professional experiences. Intellectual curiosity and rigor have long defined the UChicago culture and reputation, qualities we seek in our instructors.