Change Agent: Dr. William Cross Jr.
Dr. William Cross Jr. is a leading theorist and researcher in the psychology and identity development of minorities. His book, “Shade of Black”, is considered a classic in the field of racial identity. He is the President Elect of American Psychological Association’s Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues), an Elder of 2013 National Multicultural Conference, a CUNY Professor Emeritus, and a Distinguished Lecturer at Georgia Southern University. Above all, he is a Morgridge College of Education Change Agent.
Cross began his academic career at the University of Denver, graduating in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He became heavily involved with the social movements of the 60’s and 70’s and pursued a PhD from Princeton in Psychology with the focus on African American Studies, which has been at the heart of his research and career for the past 40 years. Cross’s most noted contribution to the field was the development of the Nigresence Theory in 1971, distinguishing the different stages of a person’s life as they explore their identity as it relates to their race and the race of others around them. Cross’s Nigresence Theory on identity development has been adapted to apply to both racial and social minority groups.
As the President Elect of the Division 45, Dr. William Cross Jr. leads the American Psychological Association group to “encourage research on ethnic minority issues and [apply] psychological knowledge to ethnic minority issues”. At the upcoming 2014 American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention in Washington D.C., Cross plans on driving the agenda to highlighting two key topics: the incarceration of people of color and the lived experience of LGBT people of color. Cross and the rest of Division 45 are also drawing attention to the role of women, gay and lesbians, and people with disabilities within the American Psychological Association, as these minority groups are often underrepresented within the organization.
Cross blends his passion with scholarship to educate others and bring awareness to minority issues both nationally and locally. Later this month, Cross will be giving an important talk to students at the University of Texas at Austin to encourage scholars to continue to research the Nigresence Theory. “There are things about the Nigresence Theory that haven’t been researched enough, I want to push scholars to explore new areas of the theory and new directions in research,” Cross explains.
Over the course of his career, Dr. William Cross Jr. has come full circle, back to the University of Denver, where it all began. He currently serves a clinical professor at DU’s Morgridge College of Education in the Counseling Psychology and Higher Education programs. On the DU campus, Cross has worked with the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), supporting inclusive excellence and speaking at CME events on multicultural issues. In efforts to cultivate leadership and emphasize college access among young black males, Cross also participated in CME’s 2013 Black Male Initiative Summit.
Cross comments, “I feel very fortunate to have lived the life I’ve led. I’ve been married for over 40 years, with a daughter who lives in Denver; so moving to Denver has reunited our family.” Cross and his daughter have written two pieces together, one on self-concept and the other exploring racial identity development from a life span perspective. Cross and his daughter are also thinking about writing a third piece about the role of spirituality and personality development. “At 73, I’m still going pretty strong,” he adds.