October 24, 2006
For immediate release
From October 2-6, Dr. Manny Casas of the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara was an invited guest at the regional congress of the Inter-American Society of Psychology in Havana, Cuba. This international conference turned to Dr. Casas for his expertise in Counseling and Cross-Cultural Psychology. Much of his time was spent with students interested in psychology in the United States who were greatly interested in learning what psychologists in the United States do with so many resources.
“We tend to know very little about Cuba in the United States,” Casas says. “We have an image of the country as isolated and backward, but they have some very learned psychologists. They can learn from us and we can learn from them. I was able to bring in my perspectives as one of the earliest researchers in the Hispanic field of psychology in the United States. They wanted to borrow these ideas and establish relationships with other U.S. academics, since most of the people that they deal with now are on the East Coast.”
Casas also points to the lessons he learned from the visit. “It’s about trying to get out of your own box and to see the other values people have and when they say something is good, what do they mean by good,” he elaborates. “According to the Congress participants, the Cuban literacy rate is over 90% – that’s better than we’re doing. Sure, kids fall through the cracks like anywhere else, but at least in the Havana city limits kids go to school and don’t pay a cent, then they can go to the university and just have to pass the test and make the grades.”
Since 1951 the Inter-American Society of Psychology (SIP) has worked to strengthen Inter-American cooperation and mutual understanding among psychologists by collaborative studies of basic scientific, educational, and socio-psychological issues. Scientists, scholars, and educators from over 20 countries from Argentina to Venezuela participate in SIP activities.After earning his secondary teaching credential, Casas found teaching to be quite rewarding, especially when working from a “counseling” perspective with children from diverse backgrounds, low income families, and at high risk for failure within the traditional educational system. Wanting to better understand such children and in turn improve his ability to help them, he obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University with a specialization in the areas of Counseling and Cross-Cultural Psychology. In his present position, a professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he continues to direct his professional efforts towards improving the plight of such children and their families. More specifically, Dr. Casas’s most recent research and publication endeavors have focused on Hispanic families and children who are at risk for experiencing educational, health, and psycho-social problems, including tobacco, and other drug abuse. His research in this area gives special attention to resiliency factors that can help Hispanic families avoid and/or overcome such problems. Along with Joseph Ponterotto he is the co-author of the Handbook of Racial/Ethnic Minority Counseling Research and one of the editors of the Handbook of Multicultural Counseling.
[Manny Casas is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]