In the fall, Psychology students at St. Edward’s University will notice considerable changes to their major, a result of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences enacting an overhaul on the Psychology curriculum.
Dr. Russ Frohardt, associate professor of Psychology, said that the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Psychology department is always looking for ways to improve the major. The department has brought in the likes of Dr. Jesse Purdy, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Southwestern University, to help recommend progressive changes to St. Edward’s Psychology major.
“Earlier in the year, we completed an external review of the department, by Dr. Purdy. One of his suggestions for improving student participation in quality research, increasing the scholarly productivity of the existing psychology faculty, giving students more choice in the emphasis of their experiential requirements and integrating the culminating general education experience of our students back to the major, was to have a year-long ‘senior sequence’ that allowed students to focus their experience on research or a more traditional internship in the greater community.”
In a proposal that began circulating last year detailing prospective curriculum changes to the Psychology major, three major changes were outlined. The first shift was implementing a Capstone course that focused on topics in psychology. The second change was removing the Community Service (PSYC 2120) course in the Psychology major, as the course no longer served the intended purpose of exposing first-year students to the applications of psychology in the field. Lastly, the proposal suggested the addition of a one-hour lab experience (now called PSYC 4442) to Behavioral Neuroscience (PSYC 4442) to accommodate over two weeks of class time devoted to laboratory exercises.
The psychology-themed Capstone course will maintain the same course description and learning outcomes that are currently outlined for the existing Capstone; however, the course will allow students the opportunity to focus on literature within their major to accomplish these learning outcomes. The pilot course for the psychology-themed Capstone course occurred over the course of the current spring semester. Dr. Marianne Hopper, dean of General Education and University Programs, and Dr. Cory Lock, the coordinator of Capstone, indicated that such approaches to Capstone courses are welcomed, especially since this particular addition will most likely result in the hiring of an additional four full-time faculty members to those currently teaching in Capstone.
Dr. Frohardt says he believes that this particular change will allow students in the major to pursue many aspects of a major-specific topic that they are passionate about from several perspectives.
“For example, one of my current Capstone students is writing about whether or not treatment for mentally ill patients who are incarcerated should be mandated by the government. She addressed the arguments of each side, the values that they adhere to and the feasibility of mandating treatment. Now imagine that she had worked with a forensic psychologist in the prison system or at the Austin State Hospital and was able to add those experiences to the research she did, the interviews she conducted and the civic engagement event that she hosted on campus to raise awareness about mental illness. To me, that is a complete treatment of the topic.”
Students will be required to complete this Capstone course with a newly proposed Research and Field Experience course, available next fall. According to the course description in the proposal, the Research and Field Experience (PSYC 4359) course will be an educationally directed course in experiential learning under the supervision of psychology faculty and professionals in the field. The course will offer Psychology majors opportunities to acquire skills and to test in a field setting theories and principles learned in the classroom. Internship students will volunteer at a psychology-related site in the community and address theoretical issues in an applied setting. Students who will be working directly with the faculty member on a research project will conduct an in-depth study in one of the major areas in psychology and the integration of that knowledge with other areas in psychology. The four sections offered in the course cover fields such as health psychology and biofeedback, developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience.
Another course added to the Psychology curriculum is Behavioral Neuroscience (PSYC 4442). This course will provide an introduction to the neurosciences, where students will examine the function and anatomy of the central nervous system and how it mediates perceptions, emotions, thoughts, memories and other behaviors. Behavioral Neuroscience will include a one-hour anatomical and behavioral laboratory experience.
As excitement continues over the new changes to the major, Dr. Frohardt looks to the future, “We have a great department with competent and hard-working students and professors. I think these changes will make a great department even better.”
Here’s how this change will affect current psychology majors:
If you have not yet taken Independent Research or Internship*, you will
- Take Research and Field Experience, and
- Take any other psychology course, or you may repeat Research and Field Experience
If you have already taken either Independent Research or Internship*, you will
- Take Research and Field Experience, which will replace the course you have not yet taken
* Please note that the stand-alone Psychology internship course (PSYC 4350) will be offered for summer 2009 for those who have already secured an internship placement site.