One frequently reads and hears these days about increasing globalization. At the same time, we are encouraged to think locally. There is a similar set of opposing trends in psychology. On the one hand, psychologists have been pressured to become more and more narrowly specialized; on the other, the need for working across boundaries, between as well as within disciplines, is increasingly recognized.
The push for increasing specialization has borne some of the blame for declining membership in and attendance at meetings of general professional organizations, both national and regional. General organizations, especially the nationals and the larger regionals like the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA), however, provide a means of reconciling the opposing needs for keeping up with areas of specialization and for broadening knowledge beyond those areas.
At the annual meeting of the SEPA, the invited addresses, the paper and poster sessions, the symposia, and the Continuing Education workshops span most of the major subdisciplines of psychology. Taking advantage of such opportunities to continue learning is something psychologists have routinely done for almost as long as the discipline has existed. Recently, however, a new term for this old practice, lifelong learning, has come into vogue, and the American Psychological Association has added “Attitudes Essential for Lifelong Learning” to the criteria on which accredited doctoral programs are judged. By participating in the meetings of the SEPA, members not only are engaging in lifelong learning themselves but also are modeling it for their students.
Participating in the meetings of the SEPA offers many benefits for students as well as for professionals. Because of lower dues, lower registration fees, and usually lower travel costs, the SEPA tends to be a much more affordable meeting than the nationals (with tighter university budgets, affordability is also an increasing consideration for professionals as well as for students). Students as well as professionals can benefit from the opportunity to explore areas of psychology beyond as well as within their own areas of specialization. Recognizing that current students are future colleagues, the SEPA offers awards to encourage student participation as well as awards for professionals.
In 2012, the SEPA will meet in New Orleans, Louisiana. As SEPA veterans know, New Orleans offers outstanding restaurants and music venues, the shops of the French Quarter, the beauties of the Garden District, and an ever-present sense of history, not to mention the Mississippi River. Our hotel, right on Canal Street, offers great views of some of the Mardi Gras parades which will occur during the time of our meeting. Come join us in New Orleans, and laissez les bon temps rouler.