Alliant International University is home to many wonderful alumni making their impact felt across California. They are embodying the values that we impart on each and every one of our students while they are out making the world a better place.
One such alumni is Dr. Jei Africa, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director at the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, and was recently named one of The Steinberg Institute Champions for his work in the SF-Bay Area community.
Dedication as Reciprocation
Dr. Africa started his educational journey at California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) over 20 years ago with his Master’s in Clinical Psychology at our San Francisco campus, continued with his PsyD in the same field a few years later, and culminated with his Postdoctoral MS in Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2007. All in all, Dr. Africa spent 10 years in a CSPP classroom making his first steps (and many more beyond that) toward becoming the highly respected and award-winning mental health professional that he is today. Dr. Africa credits this time at CSPP as one of the key driving forces behind his modern success and career. As he says, “I am grateful to be a part of CSPP’s community because I really found parts of myself there, and I had met wonderful people that had supported me along the way and gave me the opportunities to take risks and take steps and move forward and find my own voice, that I think bigger institutions may not have allowed for.”
Today, in his position as the Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services in Marin County, he oversees all of the operations and services in the county, which is a broad spectrum of clients and services—from families in need of assistance to treating mental health, substance abuse and more. And while this position is largely administrative, Dr. Africa sees it as an opportunity to take a wider approach to solving the problems that his staff and community face daily; “Planning, problem solving, and paying attention to national and statewide health care concerns,” is how he describes it, and, “Part of my work is to get a sense of how to do a better job of providing these services locally.”
It is clear from his attitude that Dr. Africa takes his role seriously and understands that it is part of his responsibility as a public servant. In his own words, “I really look forward to making change in systems to be responsive to those who are in need and change the community I work in.”
Looking Forward Through Giving Back
Dr. Africa has also dedicated himself to paying it forward, to working toward ensuring future students have the same opportunity to make their impact in their community the way he has in his. And it is with this idea in mind that he created The Jei Africa Dissertation Award for Filipino American Studies. This award is for students in Alliant’s Clinical Psychology programs—both the PhD and the PsyD—and is based on their dissertation or project research proposal and is meant to substantially defray the cost of the student’s research.
This is the kind of commitment to the future of education that we extol at Alliant, and we proud of Dr. Africa to take it so deeply to heart and to work toward paying the benefit of his education forward to future generations of students.
A Focus on Health as Justice
Dr. Africa is also, himself, someone who genuinely believes in public health as an avenue for justice, and fights for that belief daily. He recognizes that there exist institutionalized challenges in receiving quality behavioral health care and services for large swaths of the population at large and within his community. He feels a personal and professional responsibility to effect positive change for these parts of the populace. “We are in a place and time where many people’s rights are being challenged and taken away, and I think psychologists and people in the behavioral health field have a role in changing that. We should be social justice advocates and policy leaders. We should be in the front lines and be stronger advocates because of there is so much injustice out there.”
He believes his life calling to bringing in social justice and equity and equality issues to the forefront of public discourse; “We need to change opportunities for people, change services that can help people that are aligned with their culture and their communities, their needs and their beliefs.” This is an especially important point of view in that, while his community is known for its overall wealth and lack of diversity, Dr. Africa still sees plenty of opportunities for an inclusive mindset with Marin County’s many older residents, the sections of Marin comprised of largely Black and Latino populations, and for those whose economic status does not match the general stereotype of the area. And, for all of those people he is committed to providing responsive public systems to meet their needs with as few barriers to care as possible.
Dr. Jei Africa’s actions effect the entirety of Marin County and his positive impact in that community is immeasurable. Alliant and CSPP are proud to produce alumni like Dr. Jei Africa and see it as a genuine honor that he treats his time here as the steps to his current position as a mental and public health advocate and administrator, or, as he says, “I remain connected to CSPP/Alliant because I am really grateful to the opportunities and the space if offered me to thrive. You can’t get that everywhere.”