Daniel S. Michalski, Ph.D., is the Associate Director for Graduate and Postgraduate Education & Training at the American Psychological Association (APA). In that role, he oversees the recruiting of college and university psychology programs to participate in PSYCAS™, the Centralized Application Service (CAS™) for graduate psychology programs. That puts him in a unique position to share recruiting tips with members of other professional associations and to articulate the benefits of PSYCAS for individual programs as well as the field of psychology overall.
He recently spoke with Liaison about the reasons why APA launched PSYCAS and how he thinks it can help the organization achieve its key goals.
Liaison: What led your association to develop a CAS?
Daniel Michalski, APA (DM): Faculty members had become increasingly frustrated with sending multiple recommendation letters and creating accounts on multiple websites, so they asked the APA for a solution. While investigating our options, it became apparent that PSYCAS offers not only benefits for faculty recommenders, but also an expansive set of solutions for applicants and psychology programs as well.
We’re currently in our third admissions cycle, with 70 programs enrolled at 28 institutions.
Liaison: What goals does your association have for your PSYCAS?
DM: The primary goal is to leverage technology to better understand the nascent psychology workforce. That, in turn, allows APA to develop data-driven resources for psychology programs, faculty and applicants.
Liaison: What outcomes have you seen from PSYCAS so far? How are these aligning with your goals?
DM: We wanted PSYCAS to become a source of data that would help us make well-informed decisions about recruiting and enrolling students as well as about advising programs on important trends and good practices. Now that we are receiving data that produces sufficient insights into segments of our education and training pipeline, we’re able to use that information to advise applicants and psychology programs on how to make themselves more competitive and potentially successful.
Liaison: How does your association manage PSYCAS? For example, do you have one staff member dedicated to it full time, or do you have multiple staff members in this sort of role?
DM: I work full time managing PSYCAS and integrating it with other APA products; in the past year, I also hired a marketing associate to assist half time with the CAS. I report to an executive manager who is charged with the strategic alignment of PSYCAS with APA’s organizational mission and goals.
Liaison: Can you please share more about how the recruitment of new members has gone for you?
DM: Many people hold the traditional view of psychologists as individuals who provide direct health services to individuals. However, psychology is both a profession and discipline. Graduates of master’s and doctoral psychology programs go into a variety of careers, ranging from research and academia to consulting and direct human service. They do this across multiple types of work settings. Correspondingly, psychology education and training vary greatly between — and within — degree types and levels. Peer communities, by geography or training, may be small. But as success stories are shared within certain segments of psychology education and within particular geographic areas, we tend to see enrollment growth occur in those areas.
Liaison: What do you find to be the greatest challenges when it comes to recruiting new members to your CAS?
DM: Introducing change is a challenge. Many people would rather struggle with a current process they know than shift to an unknown process. Creating a community of users to share their experiences and the benefits they have enjoyed from PSYCAS has really helped minimize the anxiety of change.
Liaison: What are the most common objections that you hear from potential PSYCAS members?
DM: We have found that while there is often interest in the CAS at the program or department level, the faculty in charge of admissions sometimes face hurdles that inhibit an easy process through administrative approval channels.
Our current PSYCAS partners are without a doubt our best resource when it comes to overcoming common objections. They use the product daily and are candid in sharing their observations with prospective users. I think that really demonstrates to potential members that PSYCAS creates a meaningful, collaborative peer community for themselves and their institutions.
Liaison: What CAS benefits have you found to resonate most with your potential members? Why do you think these benefits are the most powerful?
DM: Once people realize that CAS-collected data can improve their work processes and attract high-quality applicants, the benefits of PSYCAS become clear. The fact that users can see the tangible benefits of adoption is a big selling point.