APA's Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) has recognized three diverse graduate programs with the 2005 Innovative Practices in Graduate Education in Psychology Awards. BEA sponsors the annual award in conjunction with the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP) to recognize creative approaches to the education and training of psychology graduate students. Out of 11 entries for 2005, the psychology department at West Virginia University (WVU) captured the award for its program that regards students as junior colleagues. Earning honorable mentions were the University of Wisconsin-Madison's counseling psychology department for its emphasis on diversity in the curriculum and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) human services psychology department for its focus on the interplay between psychology, biology and society.

"The winners demonstrate how important it is for psychology programs to try new approaches," says William McKeachie, PhD, chair of the awards committee.

A junior colleague model

WVU's psychology department was the winner for its junior colleague model, which prepares students to become independent researchers, teachers and practitioners in part by including them in all departmental activities-including teaching, serving on all professional committees and evaluating faculty.

"We put an emphasis on students being colleagues," says Katherine Karraker, PhD, associate chair and director of graduate training. "The department's goal is for the student to acquire the kind of the experiences that they would get later as professionals through intensive faculty and student interaction."

All first-year students participate in a one-week orientation at the start of the year and weekly professional development seminars through year's end. In these sessions, Karraker says, faculty and students discuss strategies for succeeding in graduate school, such as setting and meeting goals, and other topics, such as professional development.

Students get hands-on experience in teaching and receive regular feedback from faculty supervisors, who also develop the courses for the students. Because students don't have to focus on what to teach, they are learning how to teach, asserts Karraker.

Robin Bartlett, PhD, a WVU graduate who is now an associate psychology professor at Northern Kentucky University, intended to focus on research when she came to WVU. However, the extensive teaching experience she received made her want to spend more of her time in the classroom. Because she was exposed to the full life of a faculty member, she felt prepared for her current position.

In addition to teaching, students also receive intensive training in research and clinical work. Research at WVU is highly collaborative, say Bartlett and Libby Tyner, a third-year clinical psychology student.

"Students are free, indeed encouraged, to collaborate not just with their advisers, but with other faculty and students," Tyner says. As a clinical student with a focus on forensic psychology, she has visited jails to observe and assist with forensic psychological assessments-including the occasional murder case-that her faculty adviser conducts as part of his practice.

"The faculty members are distinguished within their areas of expertise and make an effort to set up networks. They connect us with influential professionals in the field," she says. "There's no place I'd rather be."

Focus on diversity

Since 1990, the department of counseling psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has focused on training all students to be multiculturally competent in the areas of psychological services and research. The department decided to go beyond hiring faculty of color and recruiting minority graduate students by including diversity in the department's strategic plan, says Bruce Wampold, PhD, department chair.

"We decided we needed to accomplish our goals by integrating issues of race, ethnicity and culture in all departmental activities," he explains.

In departmental curriculum, he notes, issues of color, diversity and race are infused into all courses. For example, when students study assessment, they learn about the important issues involved when assessing people from different races and ethnicities. Topics include how mental disorders manifest differently in various cultures and how, in some groups, certain disorders may be over- or underdiagnosed.

Other examples he gives of diversity in the curriculum include the study of career development and vocational psychology. Traditional models emphasize career choice and development without considering barriers created by race, ethnicity, culture and status, and the effects these barriers have on not just access, but to individual mental health, he notes. At Wisconsin-Madison, students are taught that if they don't know about these factors, it is difficult to get a full understanding of vocational psychology for all members of society.

For one student, Wisconsin-Madison's program wasn't essential just to understanding cultural and psychological context, but to understanding herself. Alumna Laurie McCubbin, PhD-a native Hawaiian who is now an assistant counseling psychology professor at Washington State University-came to Madison unsure of how her culture and values would fit into the profession.

"I didn't know of any native Hawaiians in counseling psychology," she says. "The faculty at Wisconsin helped me find my voice." Now, her identity informs everything she does, says McCubbin. For example, her research work is focused on the resilience of indigenous populations-particularly Native American and Hawaiian.

Jenny Lindwall, a second-year student at Wisconsin-Madison, came to the program after working for several years as a school counselor. She chose the program because of her interest in how school counselors could play a role in promoting the positive development of culturally diverse youth.

"In our department, different people have varied interests and are at different places on the scientist/practitioner continuum, but the desire for social justice unites us," she explains.

Where biology, psychology and community meet

The UMBC human services psychology department uses a strong biopsychosocial approach in its training, says its director, psychologist Lynnda Dahlquist, PhD. The underlying philosophy of the department is that the psychological, biological and social are inextricably linked, she explains. Students may choose to focus on or combine three areas of concentration: clinical psychology, behavioral medicine or community/social psychology, and elements of all three areas are integrated into most courses. Thus, students who intend to conduct clinical work, for example, will be able to integrate behavioral medicine and community and social principles into service delivery, she says.

In keeping with the biopsychosocial systems model, the program offers the core psychology curriculum in a yearlong, second-year seminar that integrates the biological, developmental, cognitive/affective, learning, personality and social basis of behavior, rather than teaching these topic areas as separate courses. In this way, students are constantly challenged to examine how individual differences, biological factors and context interrelate, says Dahlquist.

Students are encouraged to combine concentrations-such as behavioral medicine and clinical, clinical and community, or behavioral medicine and community-in their choice of electives and in their research.

Students' practica also train them in combined areas of concentration, such as clinical/behavioral medicine placements in pediatric oncology or stroke rehabilitation; community/clinical placements in school mental health consultation and multisystemic family therapy interventions; or community/behavioral medicine placements in an HIV/AIDS community consortium or a home-based obesity intervention program.

Kris McKenna, a fifth-year clinical behavioral medicine student with a specialization in child clinical and pediatric psychology, says the intense competition for pediatric internships spurred her to choose a program that would help her get as much relevant experience as possible.

"UMBC has a lot of opportunity for practica," she says. "They are very flexible about finding opportunities that fit what the student wants and needs to do."

McKenna had the opportunity to work at several different hospitals in areas such as pediatric neuropsychology, rehabilitation and feeding, and hematology and oncology. The experiences gave her the credentials she needed to land a pediatric internship, she says, as well as marketable skills for the evolving heath-care environment.

Furtherb Reading

Nominations for the 2006 award will be accepted in the fall. For more details, visit the Graduate Education page.