IDEA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Dr. Jean Fox Tree

One of the most important contributions that Dr. Fox Tree has made in regards to inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility in the cognitive psychology and related cognitive sciences fields has been through her co-founding of the SPARK society. The society’s mission is “to create networks and promote the professional development of historically excluded scholars of African American/Black, Latina/o/e American, and Native American heritage in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science”. As such, Cognitive Psychology is one of the subfields of psychology with particularly low representation of these groups and low rates of considering race in research.

Dr. Fox Tree’s efforts to create SPARK directly speak to these challenges for our field and attempted to remedy them, in that the SPARK society: (1) provides opportunities and information for historically excluded undergraduates, (2) provides recruitment and retention support for historically excluded scholars, (3) provides mentorship support across all ranks, and (4) educates the broader community about recruitment and retention of historically excluded scholars. Thus, the society operates to support not only historically underrepresented scholars themselves but to work with the majority-group scholars that comprise the bulk of the field to raise awareness and change the status quo.

In creating and developing the SPARK society, Dr. Fox Tree has been of critical value in many ways. Dr. Fox Tree has taken the lead on major, time-intensive initiatives, such as writing grants and securing funding for the fledgling new group from NSF and helping to develop the structure of the society as a non-profit. These efforts have been essential to the success of the group. Additionally, she accomplished such without seeking accolades and, in keeping a low profile, highlighting the altruistic nature of her commitment to underrepresented Junior scholars and trainees in our field.

Dr. Fox Tree’s important contributions to the field go beyond her work to found and develop the SPARK Society. In her service to the Psychonomic Society, she was a founding member of the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee. This committee only came into existence in 2016 and she served through 2019, helping to launch this committee during its formative initial years. During this period, she was recognized by other committee members and the Governing Board as a strong voice for diversity and inclusion efforts. She was instrumental in crafting the messaging of the D&I committee, which helped to give it firm footing and prepare the society to more actively increase efforts to embrace diversity and inclusion in the wake of the George Floyd murder and heightened societal awareness of issues related to race and historic inequities. She helped to create the initial D&I statement and recommended that it be placed in all of the Society’s calls, such as for awards, symposia, and elections. Relatedly, Dr. Fox Tree helped to establish the J. Frank Yates Student Conference Award, which supports diversity and inclusion in cognitive psychology. This role involved developing the eligibility requirements and messaging around the award. Dr. Fox Tree also helped to establish the Diversity and Inclusion Networking Reception, now the Diversity and Inclusion Reception at the Annual Meeting.

Dr. Fox Tree’s contributions to issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility through the co-founding of the SPARKS Society and advocacy through the Psychonomic Society have fundamentally altered how the field and such societies operate and consider these issues. The field of Cognitive Psychology was particularly in need of this reckoning, and Dr. Fox Tree’s efforts played an essential role in making this happen and moving us forward.