Kawika Allen Elected Leader of APA Multicultural Division

Kawika Allen is Secretary-Elect for APA Division 45
Professor smiling next to student outside
Courtesy of McKay Creative. Professor Allen with a student at 2018 Kaha Nui Summit.

Kawika Allen, assistant professor of counseling psychology in the McKay School, will take on a national leadership role as secretary-elect of the Society for Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race. 

The society, also known as Division 45 in the American Psychological Association (APA), has two primary goals: to advance psychological research of ethnic minorities (often by sponsoring papers, poster sessions, and symposia), and to create a network of professionals interested in multicultural psychology. 

Second to the president, Allen will help Division 45 achieve these goals while also bringing to the table his own perspective on multicultural psychology issues, a perspective informed both by his Polynesian heritage and his commitment to expanding psychological research about Pacific Islanders. 

“I've always seen research through the lens of culture,” said Allen. “When I think about research, I think about it from a cultural framework.” Allen’s passion for multicultural research led him to get involved with Division 45 over a decade ago, and he has since maintained a strong relationship with the organization. “Since I've been here at BYU, we've submitted our research studies to be presented there, through Division 45, and they’ve accepted every year. It's been really nice, and they see the importance and value of Pacific Islander psychology,” said Allen. 

So far in his short career, Allen has been a leader in multicultural research. He founded Polynesian American Psychology Research (Poly Psi) at BYU, a research team that focuses the mental health needs of and successful interventions for Pacific Islanders in the United States, a group often underrepresented in much of the psychological literature. 

Over the last several years based on multiple empirical studies conducted by the Poly Psi team, some of the findings show that rates of anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and discrimination are high among Pacific Islanders. And while counseling is still somewhat stigmatized, they also found that Pacific Islanders have effective coping strategies for psychological difficulties: turning to family, leaning into their Polynesian ethnic identity, and relying on spirituality.

Fellow counseling psychology professor Tim Smith nominated Allen for his position in Division 45 and looks forward to Allen’s contributions. “In his new position, Dr. Allen will represent BYU in a way that few faculty members do at the national level,” said Smith. “He will help to bring gospel perspectives to the topics of inclusion and unity that are so needed in today’s society. I am very proud of his accomplishments and look forward to many good things to come across his career.” 

More recently, Allen was elected for another position in APA: committee chairperson over research for the Section on Ethnic and Racial Diversity for the Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17). 

Want to learn more about Professor Allen’s work? Check out the Kaha Nui Summit, a yearly conference he founded for Pacific Islander college students to learn more about graduate school opportunities. Or read about his trip to American Samoa and New Zealand.  

Writer: Anessa Pennington
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922