Attending the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, Austin, TX, for the first time was a unique experience. Unlike conferences with thousands of attendees, the COGDOP gathering was small enough to have many one-on-one and small group interactions. As Chairs (Directors, at VU) of graduate programs, we share similar experiences that people in other roles may not.
FROGS IN A POT
The combination of pressures on Graduate chairs is unique. We teach courses and work with students on their Theses and professional projects. We help students network. We hire, manage, evaluate, help, and support full-time and adjunct faculty. We carry responsibility for enrollment/recruitment/marketing our programs. We need to maintain our involvement in the discipline via our own research – both for our own sanity, and to be able to attract high quality students to our programs. Sometimes we embark on innovation projects not knowing if there will be support for these projects next year. We encourage students to present at conferences, and then try to find ways to support student attendance when they present. We try to help students learn and faculty teach while shielding them as much as possible from the impact of budget cuts and other stressors. Sometimes we do not know if things are normal or if they only seem normal because we are the frogs in the pot about to be boiled. We might be psychologists, but we wonder if we are sane.
SHARING COMMON CONCERNS
COGDOP provided a unique opportunity to interact with chairs/directors of graduate programs in psychology in a non-competitive, collegial environment, and to learn from their experience. The mix of responsibilities is not the same – some do not teach, some are not involved in recruitment – but many of the concerns are the same. Roundtable discussions about evaluating faculty, supporting students in career transitions, and dealing with budgets provided many great ideas.
The look of shock on the face of the Chair of Eastern Kentucky University program upon hearing how may thesis students Vanguard faculty advise, and the story of what happened to the Texas Methodist’s program when it was moved off campus, helped validate our sanity and legitimacy of our concerns. And yet, as new as our program is, our experience was also helpful to others – while some programs are only starting to look for ways to connect their students’ education to job prospects, we have built this into our program from the start.
While others are still grappling with distinguishing grading, course assessment, and program assessment, we have a clear system that is understood by all faculty. I hope to be able to propose an assessment-focused session for the upcoming conference, as this seems to be a need, and an area in which Vanguard M.S. in Organizational Psychology (MSOP) has much to share.
HILL COUNTRY IN TEXAS
Oh, and what did I see in Austin? A lot of rain and fog…that’s about it.