James Madison University

Celebrating Community-Partnered Mentorship

6,300 hours. This year's Psychology Field Placement students have spent 6,300 hours partnering with sites in the Harrisonburg community and surrounding counties.  In addition to spending a staggering amount of time in the community, students have weekly class sessions for this capstone experience.

PHOTO: Reception

Critical to the success of these students' experiences, however, is the support of their community-based site supervisors. Over 30 different supervisors mentored students during the course of the academic year, volunteering their time to help students both broaden and deepen their understanding of issues related to their work.

In recognition of the value of these student-mentor partnerships, the Department of Psychology recently hosted an end-of-year reception celebrating the accomplishments stemming from these partnerships during the 2014-2015 year.

The event served as a bridge between the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 classes, with students from each being able to share their experiences and learn about each other's work. Supervisors were also able to learn more about the academic requirements that students fulfill as part of the course, and how these assignments help round out students' experiential learning.

For some students, the event offered an opportunity to reconnect with their supervisors from the Fall semester. "The Field Placement Reception was a great opportunity to catch up with my site supervisor and to hear about the experiences of others," said Heather Wilson, who completed her placement with Dr. Kenneth Showalter at Western State Hospital.  Ethan Bannar, who was also at WSH in the Fall working with Dr. Jason Stout, agreed, saying that "It was fun to catch up and share old stories and hear new stories from my site."

For more recent students, the event was described as a nice way to say goodbye to their supervisors. "I found the reception to be a great way to close out my field placement experience and say a final goodbye to my supervisor," said Emily Wingate, who completed her placement at Lacey Spring Elementary School with Mrs. Brenda Robey.

Supervisors were also able to make connections with each other, and in some cases, to reconnect with colleagues they worked with in the past. "One of the intentions of this event was for supervisors to have a chance to meet each other and identify opportunities for collaboration or to provide complementary services," said David Szwedo, the Director of the Field Placement program. "Several supervisors commented to me that they loved having a chance to catch up with colleagues they had worked with or even gone to school with many years ago," he said.

Overall, Szwedo said, the main purposes of the event were to thank and honor this year's group of students and supervisors, and increase awareness of the valuable work being done within the context of these community-based mentorships. Victoria Salyers, who completed her placement with the JMU First Year Involvement Center with Kristin Stephens, said that the event hit its mark. "The reception made me feel appreciated and as though the work and hours I put in all semester are valued and appreciated within the department."