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Two years ago, Mariko Lin was completing her master's degree in counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and debating where to go next.

"I applied to 12 schools for my doctoral program because I felt I really needed to go out and look around," Lin says. In the end, though, she says that looking around just made her appreciate what she already had at Wisconsin--so she decided to complete her doctorate there.

In August, the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) awarded her program--the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of counseling psychology--the ninth annual Department of the Year award. Lin and Nicholas Scull, a third-year doctoral student, nominated the department for the award, a $1,000 prize given annually to an outstanding psychology department nominated by its students.

The department, part of the university's School of Education, offers a PhD in counseling psychology and a master's degree in counseling. Each program has about 50 students.

"One of the reasons I chose to nominate it was because of its emphasis on mentoring and its general collegial atmosphere," says Scull. Each student has an adviser, he says, but they're also encouraged to branch out and join other research teams before choosing a dissertation focus. He's working on three projects: a study of how undergraduate Latino men cope in university settings, a study looking at critical consciousness in Guatemalan children and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of psychological treatment for alcohol abuse.

Both Lin and Scull also say they appreciate the department's focus on multicultural issues. Close to 50 percent of the students are racial or ethnic minorities, according to their application letter.

"In each class's course evaluation, there's a question that asks how well the class dealt with diversity issues," Lin says. "And for our clinical work they promote working with different populations."

Finally, Scull says, the department and its students like to have fun in addition to working hard. Students and faculty get to know each other through barbecues, parties and other events. "[Faculty] really take an interest in getting to know students on a personal and a professional level," he says.

-L. Winerman

The nomination deadline for the 2007 APAGS Department of the Year award is May 15. For more information, visit the APA Awards Web site.