Undergraduate Program Overview

Kathryn Ulett

The Discipline of Psychology

Psychology is the study of behavior and its relationship to brain systems. Because both behavior and the brain are complex, psychology has many subdivisions and areas of specialization. For example, behavioral neuroscientists study the brain mechanisms of learning, memory, emotion, drug action, and biological disease states such as Alzheimer's Disease, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. Cognitive psychologists study cognitive models of the mind, language, memory, and basic sensory processes. Clinical psychologists study a variety of behavioral disorders including those involved in fear, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Social psychologists examine behavior in social contexts as well as the development of a self-concept. Developmental psychologists are broadly interested in all of these topics, with a focus on how maturity and experience influence changes in these processes. Health psychologists focus on understanding the reciprocal relationships linking psychological/behavioral factors to physical health outcomes.

The Department of Psychology

With over 40 full-time faculty members, the Department of Psychology is able to offer students a broad selection of courses and opportunities for research, internships, and fieldwork. The research active faculty, who publish in all areas of psychology including applied and basic research, is nationally recognized: support for research comes from the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and other public and private foundations. Undergraduate student participation in research laboratories is encouraged. Our offices and laboratories are located in Tillett Hall (Livingston campus) and the Psychology Building (Busch campus).

The Major in Psychology

The Major in Psychology consists of General Psychology, Quantitative Methods, a lab course, four core courses (One each in subdiscipline areas of Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Social Psychology), six psychology electives, and a 400-level psychology course (41 credits total).

Advanced Electives

We offer more than 30 advanced elective courses, including specialty seminars, covering virtually every area of psychology.

Double Major

Some students elect to pursue a double major. The most popular companions for psychology are biology and education, but many other combinations are possible and encouraged. A minor in psychology, requiring 18 credits, is also available.

The Honors Major in Psychology

Students with excellent academic records may plan and conduct their own research project with a faculty member as part of the Honors Major in Psychology. This track requires 47 credits of work in psychology and culminates in a year-long research project that is presented at a spring Honors Poster Session to which parents and the academic community are invited. Students receive awards for the best research proposals and projects as well as earn the BA with Honors in Psychology and Research Scholar in Psychology on their transcripts. Additionally, students often have the opportunity to present this work at national meetings and to publish their work in leading professional journals. These opportunities are excellent credentials for acceptance into graduate school for psychology and related sciences or for other fields such as law, business, medicine and social work.

Psi Chi

Psychology majors with high grade-point averages may be elected to Psi Chi, an international honor society in psychology, and may be eligible for special research programs, awards, and graduation honors.

Opportunities for Independent Work

Students may choose among many laboratory research opportunities in which a student and faculty member agree on the method and material for an in-depth study of specialized topics.

The department arranges meaningful fieldwork experiences for students. Undergraduates currently work in schools (to study child development and the education of autistic children), adult mental health centers, at programs associated with the Division of Youth and Family Services, and with foster children in their homes. For internships in Applied, School and Community Psychology, students participate in supervised work at prevention units, advocacy and self-help organizations, inpatient psychiatric facilities, and public schools. These opportunities help students clarify career interests and future goals.