Leighna Harrison M.S.

APAGS Diversity Focus Member-at-Large


Some of my activities as the APAGS Diversity Focus Member-at-Large from August 2014 to March 2015


  • Transitioned to Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group
  • Participated on the National Multicultural Summit (NMCS) 2015 Student Planning Committee
  • Attended NMCS; Co-facilitated a discussion regarding #blacklivesmatter with fellow members of the NMCS 2015 Student Planning Committee
  • Participated in NMCS social media campaign
  • Co-facilitated with Eddy Ameen a discussion with student leaders attending NMCS aimed at discussing common issues and challenges, providing peer support, and exploring ways to contribute to a shared vision for underrepresented graduate students and training issues.  



At NMCS 2015 with James Garcia, Chair for the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, CARED.

At NMCS 2015 with James Garcia, Chair for the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, CARED.


Why Diversity?

As a biracial child attending a predominantly white parochial school, I first understood diversity through my early experiences. Requests by my peers to touch my hair and often being asked 'what are you?' or whether I had been adopted reminded me of the differences between my classmates and myself. Growing up on two different sides of town, I experienced distinctive customs, styles of communication, and cultures. I enjoyed having 'both', yet questioned the disparities that existed between neighborhoods for no apparent reason except that one was black and one was white. Although my mother was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, the struggle of working class white people did not seem quite as punishing as the realities black people faced. At school, I felt alone in my consciousness of the experiences of black people -- as if i were a perpetual outsider in some fundamental ways. During high school, I became part of a unique group of friends. Nicknamed the 'United Nations', we were mixed-race or first generation children of immigrants. The variety of our experiences and the different languages we spoke inspired me to know the world beyond my two neighborhoods.

The disparities I experienced between white and black communities in Northern California were nothing compared to the poverty and prejudice I encountered during a college study abroad in Brazil. The sense of injustice I felt toward a system that permitted my host family’s unfair treatment of their domestic worker, Rosie, amplified the inequalities I took issue with in my home community. I was frustrated and saddened by the limited options available to her and felt a strong desire to help. With Rosie's permission, I created a documentary film about her life and presented it for my Senior Project in fulfillment of my Bachelor's Degree in UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures. An excerpt from the documentary can be read here. This experience influenced my career decisions toward an intersection of these issues – clinical psychology and social justice.

My desire for social justice and wish to aid individuals in achieving emotional well-being has affected my choice of clinical training experiences – from facilitating arts-based projects with female survivors of human trafficking as an undergraduate to treating migrant farm workers on a mobile health unit as a doctoral student. While I did not work with underserved populations during practicum training in Argentina, I learned about the practice of psychotherapy in a developing nation. Working with individuals with an entirely different cultural worldview broadened my clinical perspectives, from case conceptualization to clinical interactions.

My experiences have served me to begin translating knowledge gained in the 'field' to larger governing initiatives. As I look to apply what I've learned toward the goal of effecting more systemic level change, I aim to be a strong voice for the needs of diverse students in APA's governing bodies.