Western Michigan University's counseling psychology doctoral program takes student involvement seriously. Each year, it invites three students to participate in its Counseling Psychology Training Committee, which sets policy and training goals for the program. By serving in this capacity, Bonnie VanderWal saw the faculty's commitment to her education firsthand.
"Watching them iron out different issues, figure out the best plans and take our input into consideration showed me how much they [care]," she says.
APAGS joined VanderWal in singing the program's praises when it named Western Michigan University's department of counseling psychology the Department of the Year. The $1,500 award is given annually to a graduate psychology department that shows an outstanding level of commitment toward students.
The Western Michigan University program, with its 57 doctoral students and 150 master's students, succeeds by staying attuned to students' needs, says Eric Sauer, PhD, one of the program's training directors.
"Our faculty spends a lot of time mentoring the students," he says. "And because we allow the students to choose their doctoral chairs, I think that we end up with better advisee alliances."
Another program strength, says Sauer, is its two training clinics, one on the main campus and another located 55 miles north in Grand Rapids, Mich. The clinics, which provide training for graduate students and psychological services for the community, are staffed by licensed psychologists, 20 to 30 master's students and four doctoral students each semester. Under supervision, students conduct therapy, assessments and research at the clinics while doctoral students also provide supervision.
VanderWal also points out the university's specific multicultural perspective, which begins with its diverse mix of students, including racial and ethnic minorities, international students and lesbian and gay students.
"Our program is said to 'walk the walk' in terms of multiculturalism, and [that] showed me how much our success matters," she says.