In his current position as the Chief Executive Officer of the American Psychological Association (APA), Dr. Arthur Evans, Jr. (PSYC, PhD ’90) is trying to expand the way people view psychology.
“Most people, when they think about psychology, they think very narrowly about mental health,” Evans said. “Really, it is a discipline that is about people and the science of behavior. There’s no area of human existence that psychology doesn’t touch.”
Evans says it was at the University of Maryland where he began to appreciate the breadth of psychology as a field and the variety of career opportunities associated with it. After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida Atlantic University, Evans says he was drawn to UMD because of its proximity to Washington, DC, and the psychology program’s emphasis on cultural diversity.
“I had the opportunity to train with immigrants, people in the LGBTQ community, different ethnic minorities, and that was really important in terms of helping me to understand and be sensitive to how I conducted myself as a psychologist,” he said.
While studying at UMD, Evans pursued an internship in child, youth, and family policy at the APA, and it was there that he first considered a career in public policy. He would go on to hold several prominent positions in health care policy, including as deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. In March of 2017, he returned to the APA as its CEO.
“If Maryland had not been the kind of program that provided a broad set of experiences for its students, I would not be where I am today,” Evans said.
Evans is determined to give others following in his footsteps the same opportunities he had. In every position he has held, he established internships and mentorships in an effort to expose more psychology students to jobs in public policy.
“I think that combination of being trained as a scientist first and then as a practitioner provides a unique set of skills that is really important for public policy work,” Evans said.
For students—Terps, in particular—of any major, Evans encourages them to keep questioning their true motivations as they move forward in life.
“For me, what’s really important is to constantly ask myself, ‘What difference is what I’m doing going to make?’” he said. “We can easily get caught up in things that make us feel good and make us money, but if there’s not a meaningful and demonstrable difference being made, you have to question, what’s the benefit of engaging in that?”