Duke graduate students create clinical psychology anti-racism lecture series 

Clinical Psychology Anti-Racism Lecture Series 

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020, graduate students in the Duke Clinical Psychology Program came together to create an environment that prioritized anti-racist training and education at a department level. 

As part of those efforts, Ph.D. candidates Nicolas Camacho and Joseph Diehl spearheaded a lunchtime talk series to address racism, inequity, and injustice, with support from faculty members Timothy Strauman and Zachary Rosenthal.  

We spoke with Camacho about how the talk series developed, the challenges along the way, and how the work is evolving over time.  


What led to an anti-racism talk series for the clinical training area? 

Initial discussions were held among clinical students and faculty after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans at the hands of police violence. These conversations led to the desire to include a more racially diverse set of speakers at the clinical lunch series.  

Speakers would address topics that simply are not discussed as much as they should be in clinical settings, with a focus on underrepresented minorities in the United States. 


What are the outcomes you’re hoping the series will provide? 

The series adopted three main goals from the clinical anti-racist committee: 

  • Focus on anti-racism as a core value of the clinical program. 
  • Elevate multicultural awareness as a core competency of professional development. 
  • Build skills to strengthen our effectiveness and outreach in dismantling systemic racism in clinical science and practice. 

It is our intention to inform students and faculty about clinical and research issues surrounding social justice, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in our field. We will continue to explore these issues through the 2021–2022 academic year and will convene at its conclusion to plan the future direction of the series.  

How has the experience been so far in terms of attendance and participant feedback? 

We greatly appreciate the people who have participated in the series so far, but we want to make the community aware that  this series is open to all members of the P&N community. So far, the audience is primarily clinical students and, secondarily, clinical faculty.  

Feedback has been mostly positive. We have received word from clinical students that they feel the goals of the series are being addressed and that we've been bringing in effective speakers. They've also shared that they see implications of the topics being addressed in the series in their clinical practice and research. The community is unanimous in wanting to take the series to the next level by running longer and more applied workshops.

We hope that we can continue to attract quality presenters as the series grows. We would also like to form a more detailed, structured set of speakers, in order for topics to build upon each other throughout the semester. That way, speakers don't feel like they must gloss over topics that are foundational and have already been covered in other talks. 


How are you identifying speakers for the series? 

Initially, in the summer of 2020, speakers were suggested by the clinical students. A list was compiled of speakers who were mostly Black professors and graduate students doing work in fields related to the work our students are doing.  

If Joe and I were not able to coordinate a listed speaker to attend, we searched for colleagues of those listed and reached out to them. Sometimes, other people would suggest additional speakers, or Joe and I would find someone who we thought would be a good fit with the series’ goals and would try to bring them in.  

At first the scheduling of speakers seemed somewhat disorganized, but we’ve learned some things and gained greater structure over time. We recently applied for a grant opportunity at Duke that would help us gain additional funding to book seasoned workshop leaders in the field and allow for longer sessions with them.  

We’re hopeful about this prospect. This academic year, the suggested list of speakers has come from the clinical program’s anti-racism community, at large, which is made up of students and faculty.  


How might the series evolve and continue? 

Last year was the first time something like this took place in the department, so we were working mostly from scratch. We think that the series will evolve in a way where it will be more organized and structured.  

We hope that invitations to speakers will go out with more anticipation, giving speakers more time to fit us into their schedules. We also hope that professors from the department of Psychology & Neuroscience will begin to join our discussions.  

Last year, we planned to invite one P&N professor to moderate a session each semester with the hope that other faculty would join us in community.  

This was largely successful, and we had one-to-one matches for faculty moderators for most speakers. Whenever a graduate student seemed like a good fit for the moderator role, they were invited to moderate as well.  

We continue to be optimistic that department faculty members will begin to attend the series and join in on these important discussions.   

We also hope that we will continue to receive funding to offer honorariums for our speakers, and hope that this amount will increase as the university continues to embrace the importance of this work. We also hope that we can invite more people around the university and create a culture of inclusivity in that way as well. 

We are still exploring future topics for the series, but we have a general sense that we want the series to provide multi-identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender) training to clinical research and practice work we do in the department. This commitment is foundational for retention and recruitment of underrepresented minorities, building community partnerships, racial equity and radical healing, and cultural humility in clinical practice. 

“As first-year students in the Clinical Psychology Program, Nicolas Camacho and Joseph Diehl coordinated the programming and evaluation of this exceptional lecture series, providing outstanding leadership skills, and dedication to to the advocacy of anti-racism as a core value. This is the beginning of much more work to come for our program and on behalf of all the faculty, I thank them.”   

– M. Zachary Rosenthal, Associate Professor in the departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and Psychology & Neuroscience