Rosie Phillips Bingham has always been determined as well as a person of vision. It appears that these are values she learned from her parents growing up in poverty on a plantation in Mississippi with 11 siblings. During her childhood, she and one of her brothers contracted typhoid fever and spent nearly a month in the hospital, where her mother stayed with them day and night despite having no accommodations (e.g., bed, chair, cot). Determination propelled her mother to sleep standing up or sitting on one of her children’s beds, and undoubtedly Bingham carries the memory of this determination and tenacity with her.
At the age of 4, Bingham and her family moved from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, where her father became a sanitation worker. He was involved in the 1968 sanitation strike that promoted equal wages and benefits for African American sanitation workers and sparked the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who visited the city to support these workers and was later assassinated there. Bingham must have also been influenced by her father’s determination in seeking racial and economic equality as well as encouraged by her father’s optimism that this type of equality was attainable.
Bingham was described as a “smart girl” growing up, and she immensely enjoyed reading books as a child, because books allowed her to escape her poverty. Her vision and imagination allowed her to take herself into another world. Because Bingham’s family was poor, it was only through her intelligence and determination that she was able to attend Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois, and receive a bachelor of science degree in sociology and education. Bingham then went on to receive her master of arts degree in counseling and guidance and her doctorate in counseling psychology from Ohio State University.
In 1972, Bingham began her career as a psychologist and relied on the same determination and vision from her parents and from the civil rights movement in order to accomplish her goals and aspirations. First, Bingham became an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio Dominican College in Columbus, Ohio. She worked there for 6 years, focusing on college students’ scholastic efficacy, before moving to the University of Florida in 1978. There, Bingham became a staff psychologist, adjunct professor, and finally associate director of the University of Florida Counseling Center. Her peers considered her determined, hardworking, and someone who could always recognize the big picture while also attending to the details. In addition, Bingham was described as always having a vision of how she and the center would accomplish their established goals and as an individual who would somehow find a way to bring this vision to fruition. While maintaining professional boundaries at the University of Florida, Bingham also established lifelong friendships because of her good-natured humor and her ability to balance work with play.
In 1985, Bingham moved to the place she considered home and accepted a position as the director for the Center for Student Development/Counseling Center at the University of Memphis. During this same time, she accepted an appointment as adjunct professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Research at the University of Memphis; this later turned into a full professorship. As the director of the counseling center, she had the vision to establish an internship at the university, and due to her determination and diligence as well as the commitment of others, this internship has been accredited by the Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation (OPCA) of the American Psychological Association since 1988.
During her tenure at the University of Florida and at the University of Memphis, Bingham worked with a variety of students, and she has been amazed by the impact of career counseling on these students’ well-being and academic performance. Because of this, she has sustained an interest in vocational counseling and has written many journal articles and book chapters and coedited one book on the subject, particularly as it relates to multicultural career counseling. Also, several of the counseling models she codeveloped with Connie Ward (e.g., Steps to Career Counseling and Multicultural Career Counseling Checklist for Counselors) have become staples for researchers and practitioners alike when addressing career counseling issues with a wide range of individuals.
In 1993, Bingham became assistant vice president for student affairs/student development, because she wanted to continue to make a difference in the lives of University of Memphis students and to facilitate change in her community and beyond. She worked earnestly on improving the retention of undergraduate students, particularly those at risk, meaning they had either low ACT scores or low grade point averages upon entering the university. Student retention was an area that Bingham invested much time and effort in, and she established procedures to learn more about at-risk students and how to maintain their level of engagement. For instance, she developed a retention committee, she sent quarterly retention newsletters to alert faculty and administration about the concern, and she conducted studies to determine the predominant reasons for academic withdrawal and the ways in which the students felt that the administration could support them.
In 2003, after a national search, Bingham was selected as vice president for student affairs at the University of Memphis. It was once again because of her determination and her penchant for viewing things outside the box that she was able to become the first female vice president in the history of the University of Memphis. This is not to mention that she is also the first African American female vice president in the school’s history, which is quite an accomplishment given that years earlier Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in the very same city because of his vision and his beliefs on equality and justice. Her mission as vice president focuses on “Students Learning through Engagement and Involvement.” Her staff describes her as disciplined, excellent to work with, fair, inclusive of everyone, and having a great sense of humor.
Bingham is nationally renowned as a contributor to the discipline of psychology in numerous roles as academician, scholar, scientist, licensed practitioner, leader, and policymaker. Her vision allows her to lead effectively, and she has done so on more than one occasion as president of the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors, president of the International Association of Counseling Services, and president of the American Psychology Association’s (APA’s) Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17). As an active leader in APA, she has also chaired the Board for Professional Affairs and participated on the Ethics Committee, the task force for APA’s annual convention, and the transition team for a past APA president. She is also a Council of Representatives member for Division 17, has served in various caucus capacities (e.g., Utilization of New Talent, Women’s Caucus), and has been involved in bringing issues, particularly of science, into APA governance. One peer has described her as a “wonderful woman who says what she believes and has an uncanny knack for saying the difficult things that must be said but making them palatable for others to digest.”
With some of the leading psychologists in the nation, Bingham cofounded and organized, in 1999, the first National Multicultural Conference and Summit, which focused on ground-breaking multicultural psychology, science, research, and practice. Because of its success, she and the other cofounders were asked to coordinate follow-up summits in 2001 and 2007. Bingham has also served on the editorial boards of The Counseling Psychologist, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Journal of College Student Development, and Journal of Counseling and Development, In Session for the Journal of Clinical Psychology, and the Journal of Career Assessment.
Bingham has given numerous presentations at national conventions and conferences and has been recognized in several ways as a woman with determination and vision. For instance, she was acknowledged as Woman of the Year by the Section for the Advancement of Women of the Society of Counseling Psychology and has been selected as 1 of 15 women from around the world to participate in the Women of Color Development Incubator Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation. In June 2004, Bingham also became chair of the board of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, a philanthropic organization that focuses on women’s economic independence.
Rosie Phillips Bingham’s life and work continue to be inspired by determination and vision. She will assuredly continue to answer the call, which she labels in her life as her response to a higher power compelling her to care and to do.
- American Psychological Association. (2006). APA Presidential Election: Dr. Rosie Phillips Bingham. Monitor on Psychology, 37(5), 81-84.
- Bingham, R. P. (2005, August). The balancing act: The role of determination and guilt. Presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
- Ward, C. M., & Bingham, R. P. (1993). Career assessment of ethnic minority women. Journal of Career Assessment, 1, 246-257.
- Ward, C. M., & Bingham, R. P. (1997). Theory into assessment: A model for women of color. Journal of Career Assessment, 5, 403—118.