Fourth-year psychology student Alisia Caban appreciates many aspects of her program, but the thing that she loves most about University of Oregon's Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services is the sense of community and the respect given to student feedback. The faculty have been supportive of meeting with students about program milestones and receiving student feedback via a formal program evaluation, and they strongly encourage student representation in biweekly faculty meetings, she says.
"This program gives us a space to talk; the faculty are very supportive and take the time to listen," Caban says.
Now, Caban isn't the only one recognizing that this program is something special. In August, the program won this year's APAGS Department of the Year award, which is given annually to a graduate psychology department that shows an outstanding level of commitment toward students and student life. This $1,500 prize also recognizes departments that attend to students' needs and have excellent faculty-student relations.
The faculty of five, consisting of department head Linda Forrest, PhD, training director Ellen McWhirter, PhD, Benedict McWhirter, PhD, Beth Stormshak, PhD, and Krista Chronister, PhD, attribute their win to the program's collaborative cohort-training model, in which the faculty and students work together to create a supportive environment where students can learn and grow.
One example of this collaborative mindset is the program's doctoral seminar--a weekly class in which a faculty adviser meets with his or her advisees as a small group. The class provides the opportunity for students to present their research, share experiences, ask questions of the professor and one another and focus on their professional development.
A culture of open communication is just one feature of what makes the University of Oregon's Counseling Psychology faculty stand out, Caban notes. The program also shines in its commitment to scholarship, she says, noting that professors go the extra mile to help students design research projects, find scholarships, author articles and locate internships.
For professors, such work is especially rewarding when student-faculty relationships get noticed, says Forrest.
"It's great fun to have students that understand that the faculty is working on their behalf," Forrest says. "It just puts a smile on my face."