These quality benchmarks helped revamp the University of Tennessee at Martin's psychology program, says interim department chair Michelle Merwin, PhD.

Since bringing in reviewer Maureen McCarthy, PhD, last summer, Merwin and her colleagues wrote learning objectives and outcomes for the department's introductory research-design courses, surveyed psychology graduates for their views on the program, reorganized the department's research space and wrote a lab manual, among other changes.

"This review was just exactly what we needed. Because we're in such a transition, it's the perfect time to figure out which direction the department should take," Merwin says.

After hearing McCarthy explain the benchmarks at the Southeastern Psychological Association's Convention in February 2007, Merwin invited her to visit the department last summer.

Working through the benchmarks, Merwin says the department's strengths included strong student involvement in research, good access to computers for faculty and students alike and fun psychology-related activities for students, such as a movie night and service-oriented projects. But the review also found that students didn't have a good grasp on the best way to progress through the department's core curriculum, and needed better-organized resources for understanding how to make the jump to graduate school and a psychology career, Merwin says.

The review "forced us to look at the entire spectrum of our program, rather than focusing just on the curriculum," says Merwin, adding "It was wonderfully helpful to have an outsider scrutinize our program with fresh eyes. Ultimately, the process will best serve the student, and that's what it's all about."

—C. Munsey