August 31, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba and Mike Ferlazzo

Professor Mick Smyer stands in a hallway.
Professor Mick Smyer has connected his research focus, the psychology of aging, with opportunities for environmental activism. Photo by Bill Cardoni

Professor Mick Smyer, psychology, is striving to engage an entire demographic on the issue of climate change, an effort rooted in his work as a geropsychologist. Recently, Smyer — founder of Graying Green: Climate Action for an Aging World — was honored with two awards recognizing his efforts to harness the collective power of older adults to protect the environment and his lifetime commitment to clinical geropsychology.

Both awards were presented at the 2018 American Psychological Association Convention, held Aug. 9-12 in San Francisco. Smyer received the Society of Clinical Geropsychology's M. Powell Lawton Award for his substantial contributions to clinical geropsychology and a presidential citation as an APA Citizen Psychologist for his work with Graying Green.

"Dr. Smyer exemplifies the definition of a citizen psychologist by using psychology to make his community a better place," said 2018 APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, who launched the Citizen Psychologist Initiative to recognize APA members who engage their communities through public service, volunteerism and board membership. "Helping to improve lives one community at a time is how we can change the world."  

Smyer has been a member of the Bucknell faculty since 2008 and served as University provost from 2008 to 2015. He has written and lectured extensively on aging, conducting interviews with national media outlets, including PBS and NPR. In addition to holding leadership roles in national organizations on aging, Smyer has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, state and national legislative leaders, and higher education organizations on the impacts of aging.

In 2014, he founded the Graying Green project, which works with climate communicators, climate scientists, and community and business leaders to develop and implement steps to engage older adults on climate change.

"Developmentally, older adults are focused on the legacy they will leave for future generations," Smyer said. "In our society, older individuals also vote at high rates. In traditional societies, elders serve as sources of wisdom. It makes sense to engage this population on the issue of climate change. My goal is to move older adults from anxiety to action. To be recognized as a 'citizen psychologist' for that effort is a real honor."