James Madison University

Departmental Update

Transitions.  There have been many faculty transitions recently in the Department of Psychology.  Last year both Dr. Arnie Kahn and Dr. Rich West retired, and this year they will be joined by Dr. Joann Grayson.  All three will continue to teach undergraduate psychology courses on a part-time basis as Emeriti Faculty.  Dr. Sherry Serdikoff left our department. Dr. Kenn Barron was promoted to the rank of Professor.  Last year the department welcomed three new faculty, Dr. Krisztina Varga (now Krisztina Varga Jakobsen), Dr. Jeff Dyche, and Dr. Jaime Kurtz.  This year our department will be joined by Dr. Daniel Holt and Dr. Kethera FoglerDr. Michael Hall assumed the role of Director of the M. A. in  Psychological Sciences Program.  Dr. Tracy Zinn became the Coordinator of our Behavior Analysis Concentration.  Dr. Monica Reis-Bergan and Dr. Craig Abrahamson became supervisors of our field placement program.

Virtually all of the students who graduated last year completed our new psychology major.  Assessment data shows that student performance is improving in many domains, and student satisfaction with the program continues to be extremely high.  A comparison of our program with a national sample suggests that our program is among the best available in terms of diversity of courses available, logical sequencing of the curriculum, experiential learning, and capstone opportunities.  Our program is generally consistent with the latest best practices recommendation.  National data suggests that students who engage in experiential learning such as research experiences are more often admitted to graduate programs.  Providing these sorts of opportunities for psychology majors continued to be a significant activity for our faculty.  During 2010-11 we offered 568 independent study experiences, 40 field placements, and 17 students completed honors thesis projects.  A review of transcripts of students completing the psychology major during 2010 revealed that 81% of our graduates complete at least one independent study experience.  Given the number of students who major in psychology and the number of full-time faculty in our department, a remarkable number of students have these experiences!

Our graduates are successful! We surveyed the 194 students who graduated in May 2011.  As of June 1, we received responses from 135 students (70%). We learned that 86% were planning to attend graduate school (42% were planning to attend next year, and 44% were planning to attend sometime in the future).  These data are consistent with findings from our Senior Exit Survey on which 44% of graduating seniors reported they planned to attend graduate school during the next academic year, and an additional 42% report that they plan to attend graduate school at some time in the future. 

The May 2011 graduates who will attend graduate school in Fall 2011 indicated that they had been accepted into a graduate program to pursue one of the following areas of study:  Counseling (20), Education (5), School Psychology (4), Clinical Psychology (4), Forensic/Criminal Psychology (4), Psychological Science (4), College Administration (3), Social Work (2), Human Resource Management (2), Industrial/Organizational Psychology (1), Educational Psychology, Experimental Psychology (1), Animal Behavior (1), Quantitative Psychology (1), Law School (1), Philosophy (1), Occupational Therapy (1).

Similar surveys were conducted of May graduates in the period 2006-2011.  The following is a summary of the data for the number of students who were admitted to graduate programs immediately after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology at JMU.  (Note that these data do not include students who were admitted to graduate programs sometime after their graduation; these data only include students who are admitted to graduate programs with the intent to attend immediately.)  A total of 1008 students graduated in May during these five years, and 728 (72%) responded to our survey.  A total of 309 (42%) indicated that they had been admitted to a graduate program and were planning to attend during the Fall.  These students were admitted to the following programs:

Type of Program Number
Counseling 81
Education (Including Special Education) 31
School Psychology 29
Social Work 22
Psychological Science 22
Industrial/Organizational Psychology 15
Forensic Psychology or Criminal Justice 18
Clinical Psychology 14
Behavior Analysis 11
Law School 9
College Administration 8
Experimental Psychology 2
Medicine 2
Art Therapy 2
Educational Psychology 2
Biopsychology 1
Social & Personality Psychology 1
Speech & Language Pathology 1
Animal Behavior 1
Quantitative Psychology 1
Occupational Therapy 1
Health Promotion Management 1
Human Resources Management 1

Scholarship Update.  During 2010-11, the faculty and students of the Department of Psychology produced 82 publications including 2 books, 14 chapters, 30 journal articles, and 7 newsletter articles.  An additional 29 publications are currently “in press.”  Fifteen of these publications were co-authored by students.  (Some publications listed several student authors so collectively 37 students were listed as co-authors on these publications.)  Collectively, our faculty and students completed 106 conference presentations, posters, or workshops in international (6), national (60), regional (21), state (4), or local (17) forums.  Forty-three of these presentations were authored or co-authored by students. (Some presentations listed several student presenters so collectively 114 students were listed as co-presenters.)  The Department of Psychology awarded $11,375 to students in support of requests by 26 students (or groups of students) for funding in support of research projects or travel to conferences to present their findings. (Forty-seven students were impacted by these grants.)  The department also produced 68 posters for the year, including 43 authored by undergraduate students. During 2010-11 Department of Psychology faculty received $267,069 in external grants, and additional CISAT Mini Grants, and additional funds from the JMU Center for Faculty Innovation, the Institute for the Stewardship of the Natural World, University Studies, and General Education.  Our faculty were also very active in national and international professional service.  Information about our publications, presentations, and grants and service work are available in greater depth on our website.  More information.

Foundation Development Update. This was an excellent year for the development of sources of support through donations to the JMU Foundation.  During the period of June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2011 a total of $18, 234, comprised of gifts from 45 individuals, were received by the JMU Foundation in support of psychology students and programs.  This year we were pleased to have initiated two new scholarship funds: The Casey Mitschele (’93) Dorsey Scholarship and the Thomas E (’84) and Sherry Woodroof  (’82) Rogowski Scholarship.  We worked towards endowment of the Psychology Peer Advising Scholarship and our Dr. James Benedict Scholarship Fund. We substantially enhanced the endowment of the Dr. James J. Hart Memorial Scholarship, Dr. Eileen Nelson Scholarship, and Leann Whitlock Memorial Scholarship.  We welcome contributions to all of these scholarship funds as well as our general Department of Psychology foundation account.  More information.

Faculty Recognition.  This year, many of our faculty received significant awards in recognition of their accomplishments, including:

  • Kenn Barron was promoted to the rank of Professor.
  • Matthew Lee received the 2011 JMU Diversity Enhancement Award.
  • Kimberly DuVall was awarded the Transfer Advocate Award from JMU’s Office of Orientation and Madison Transfer.
  • Michael Hall won the Director’s Award of the Canadian Acoustical Association as first author for the best paper in Canadian Acoustics in 2009, “Clarifying Spectral and Temporal Dimensions of Musical Instrument Timbre” [37(1):3-22]. The award was announced at the CAA meeting in Victoria (October 13-15, 2010).
  • David Daniel’s article on the negative effects of low-levels of lead on the IQ scores of 6-10 year old children was identified as one of the top ten most often cited articles published in Elsevier journals this year.  The article citation is: Surkan, P. J., Zhang, A., Trachtenberg, F., Daniel, D. B., McKinlay, S., & Bellinger, D. C. (2007).  Neuropsychological function in children with blood lead levels <10 µg/dL.  NeuroToxicology, 28, 1170-1177.
  • Matthew Lee’s research group received the Feist-Levine Undergraduate Research Award at the 25th Annual Tarrytown Teaching of Psychology Conference.
  • Jaime Kurtz was awarded with honorable mention for the Social Psychology Network Action Teaching Award.
  • Jeff Dyche received honorable discharge from the United States Navy Reserves.

Leadership in Undergraduate Psychology Education.  Collectively, the JMU Department of Psychology faculty are, quite literally, writing the books on how to effectively prepare undergraduate students in psychology.  During the past 5 years our faculty have been authors of chapters in each of the following books that describe best practices in undergraduate psychology education:

  • Measuring Up: Assessment Challenges and Practices for Psychology, 2004.
  • Best Practices for Teaching Introduction to Psychology, 2005.
  • Best Practices for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods in Behavioral Science, 2007.
  • Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices, 2008. 
  • Best Practices for Beginnings and Endings in the Psychology Major, 2009. 
  • Undergraduate Education in Psychology: A Blueprint for the Future of the Discipline, 2009.
  • Best Practices for Teaching Beginnings and Endings in the Psychology Major, 2010
  • Using Quality Benchmarks for Assessing and Developing Undergraduate Programs, 2010.

In addition our faculty have contributed to these books:

  • The Handbook of the Teaching of Psychology, 2005.
  • Inspiring Leadership: It’s Not About the Power, 2006.
  • Thriving!  A Manual for Students in the Helping Professions, 2008.
  • A Guide to Teaching Research Methods in Psychology, 2008.Developing, Promoting, & Sustaining the Undergraduate Research Experience in Psychology, 2008.
  • Best Practices for Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning, 2011.

And our faculty include a co-author on:

  • Quality benchmarks in undergraduate psychology programs, an important article that helps you know when you have a good program, published in the primary journal of the American Psychological Association, American Psychologist, 2007.