February 16, 2017

Serving the Public Good: WPA Honors Crano’s Research and Advocacy

William Crano, who has devoted his career to promoting social justice through research and advocacy, especially in the areas of drug abuse and disease prevention, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Social Responsibility Award by the Western Psychological Association (WPA).

Holder of the Oskamp Chair, Distinguished Professorship in Psychology in the university’s Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences (DBOS), Crano was notified of his selection by Claremont McKenna College Professor Mark Costanzo, who chairs the WPA’s awards and fellows committee.

The WPA, which was founded in 1921, gives the award to an individual “in recognition of substantial and influential work that facilitates peace, freedom, social justice, and/or protection of this planet’s natural environment,” according to Costanzo.

The committee’s vote for Crano was unanimous, he said.

For CGU’s Stewart Donaldson, who nominated Crano for the award, Crano’s work—both inside and outside the classroom—has been characterized by an urgent sense of duty to the public good on a global scale.

“Professor Crano is a social psychologist who has dedicated his career to using science to improve the public good,” explained Donaldson, who serves as dean of the School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation, which houses DBOS. “He could easily have chosen to spend his career as a psychological scientist focused on basic research questions, but he chose to also use psychological science to improve the world. We are thrilled that the WPA is honoring him with this well-deserved recognition.”

The author of more than 20 books and 200 articles focused on persuasion, attitude change, and prevention, Crano is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society, and he has served as Chair of the executive committee for the Society for Experimental Social Psychology.

Currently he also serves as an advisor to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and is a former advisor to the U.S. Surgeon General.

While other people approach social justice in only local terms—focusing on the problems solely in one’s own backyard—Crano has continued to produce work that grows from that figurative backyard to transcend borders even as he continues to work locally with the Pomona Unified School District on HIV-AIDS and substance abuse prevention.

“Many of the problems we face in society are not bound by place,” said Crano upon receiving the award. “Substance abuse is not confined to a single area of the world, nor is the spread of disease through ignorance and neglect. If you have the means to mitigate some of these problems, their solution becomes available to everyone, locally, nationally, and internationally.”

When education about Ebola was limited in West Africa, for example, Crano joined forces with WiredInternational, a nonprofit health information organization, to strengthen and improve education channels in that region. When Crano sought a venue for addressing how the media can play a positive role in drug abuse education, he chose a platform connected with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the State Department, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“It doesn’t matter where you practice your craft—if you succeed, your solutions become a part of the ‘general fund.’ I like to go to where I can have the greatest impact, where the problems are most severe. In the case of drug use, that’s overseas, in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he added. “And there’s a bit of selfishness involved too, because if it’s happening ‘over there,’ it’s certainly coming here, and it’s important to stop it before it does.”

In addition, over the course of nearly 50 years, Crano has held numerous academic appointments, including teaching posts at Michigan State University, Texas A&M, the University of Arizona, and CGU.

His research has been cited on approximately 6,800 occasions and his textbook Principles and Methods of Social Research remains a vital standard in undergraduate and graduate-level courses examining psychological research methods.

Crano will receive the WPA Social Responsibility Award at an upcoming ceremony this spring. Previous recipients of the award include UC Irvine’s Roxane Cohen Silver, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner, Oregon’s Anthony Biglan, San Diego State University’s Elizabeth Klonoff, and CGU’s Allen Omoto and Stuart Oskamp.