For Psychology Students who want to broaden their undergraduate experience, the sky's the limit at the University of Minnesota. From opportunities for community engagement to high-tech classroom learning, today's students are not only getting a solid foundation, but also rich and exciting opportunities to broaden their professional horizons.
APA Engagement Award
Thanks to an American Psychological Association (APA) Culture of Service Award in 2006, the department initiated APA Engagement Awards, which encourage undergraduate majors to link their psychology studies with outreach and public engagement. Spring 2008 winners Maureen Kunkler and Martin Odima each received a $500 award. Martin serves as a youth development counselor at the Midway Family YMCA. You can read about Maureen's experience at the Aurora Center on page 17.
Innovative Teaching TechnologyPsychology classes are being transformed as faculty apply leading-edge technology in their classrooms as well as in their research. Here are a few examples.
Major Project in Psychology has a new course structure, overseen by Professor Tom Brothen, that allows students to choose whether they want to focus their major projects on research, community service, or individual foci. Using WebVista, the University's course management software, instructors can create and manage Web-based learning materials and activities. After students complete assignments and quizzes online, instructors grade and return them electronically.
Introduction to Learning and Behavior taught by Professor Gail Peterson and taken by most psychology majors, aims to incorporate more student-centered technology into the CLA curriculum. Students complete weekly mastery and final unit quizzes online, where they also have 24/7 access to recorded lectures. Computer-based simulations of important concepts in the psychology of learning are being developed for use in class by the instructor and also online by students.
The Undergraduate Research Design class now uses Sentience (http://www.psych.umn.edu/sentience/), an online academic journal for undergraduate papers on research and theory. Developed by instructor Mark Stellmack, the journal is published annually and allows students to gain first-hand experience in all phases of the scientific publication process. Submitted manuscripts are peer reviewed and revised by an editorial board (of fellow undergraduates) in a process typical of most refereed scientific journals.
Vertically-Integrated Research Team Experience (VIRTEx) creates research teams that include a high school student, an undergraduate student, a graduate student, and a faculty mentor to work on a summer research project. "By providing this opportunity early in their careers, the University gives these students a close-up of the world of social science," says Professor Angus MacDonald.
The department's undergraduate advising office provides information and services related to psychology courses; major, minor, and honors programs; career guidance; and graduate school preparation. Members of the advising staff are Becky Mooney, Amy Kallenberg, and Holly Hatch-Surisook.
The advising office coordinates multiple events for undergraduates. Basic informational sessions, like "What Can I Do With a Major in Psychology?", show students the breadth of career paths available to them with a University of Minnesota psychology degree. Panel presentations like "Mental Health Programs," presented by graduate students, and "Psychology and Law," featuring alumni panelists, give students the opportunity to zero in on specific areas of interest.
Putting together successful events like these requires resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication. Hatch-Surisook, coordinator of the advising office, won a 2007-08 John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. The highly competitive, university-wide award honors sustained and substantial contributions to undergraduate education.