Psychology lecturer to attend Summer Institute

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Natalie Donaldson, junior lecturer in the Psychology Department of Rhodes University, has been the only South African accepted to attend the second International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Psychology Summer Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in the United States.

Donaldson was appointed on the Mellon Programme for Accelerated Development at the beginning of last year. She is also in her second year of doing her master’s degree part-time. She said, “This is in an amazing opportunity - I am ecstatic that I have been chosen, especially since I will be the only South African attending the Summer Institute.”

The purpose of this one-week programme (2 to 6 August 2010) is to encourage intensive exchange of ideas among students and those already considered experts who are conducting research and hoping to forge careers within the field of LGBT Psychology. The programme will involve workshops, seminars, colloquiums and roundtable discussions.

Applicants were requested to send a two-page letter of motivation (detailing past, current and future research in the area of LGBT Psychology and their reasons for wanting to attend the Summer Institute), a CV and three references.

A committee of six members went through all the applications and selected those who they deemed most suitable to attend the conference. Only fifty students in total were selected to attend. Donaldson said, “This Summer Institute is a unique opportunity in that one of the main focuses is going to be on discussing each other’s research and gaining advice from experts already in the field on how to move forward in our research,” said Donaldson.

“Gross racial inequalities in South Africa within the apartheid system produced an almost exclusive academic/activist/policy focus on these aspects – together with HIV/AIDS – which has neglected issues related to gender and sexual subjectivities. Regarding Rhodes University specifically, this has affected the curricula at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels which seldom touch on topics pertaining to LGBT individuals,” Donaldson added.

“Because of this, my aim (one which I am passionate about) is to develop a course at Rhodes University that focuses solely on LGBT Psychology and this LGBT Psychology Summer Institute will provide me with the knowledge, support and skills that I will need to do this.”

A total of 10 leading scholars from the USA and the UK will attend the LGBT Psychology Summer Institute with the aim of fostering the professional development of emerging LGBT psychologists. Some of these experts include Meg Barker (The Open University, UK), Cynthia A. Gómez (San Francisco State University, USA), Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey, UK) and Anne Peplau (University of California, Los Angeles, USA).

She concluded by saying, “I would like to acknowledge those at Rhodes University who went to great length to ensure that I have sufficient funding to attend this Summer Institute. Dr Peter Clayton, Professor Fred Hendricks and Dr Sizwe Mabizela together arranged the funding I would need for this. I’d also like to thank my Head of Department, Professor Catriona Macleod for her support. Mostly, I would like to thank Professor Lindy Wilbraham, my mentor and supervisor, for all her hard work in helping me with the application process and the funding application process. She has been amazingly supportive.”