Department of Psychology

Points of Distinction


Student Learning Outcomes Curriculum Maps Assessment Plan Use of the Evidence of Student Learning Points of Distinction Mission Meaning, Quality, & Integrity

Points of Distinction

  • Faculty-Student Research
  • Emphasis on applied psychological experiences
  • Integration of psychology and Christian theology
  • Graduate school acceptance rate of 90%

The Department of Psychology is a part of the College of Natural and Social Sciences. All seven of the full-time faculty members are trained in counseling or clinical psychology, and two are trained in experimental psychology. The major in Psychology has three concentrations: General Psychology, Therapeutic and Community Psychology, and Character, Morality & Culture Psychology. The Psychology Department also offers a minor in Pre-Therapeutic Psychology.

A major point of distinction is our focus on developing student researchers. Each psychology major completes a year-long research course, which involves the design, execution, analysis, and presentation of an original experimental study. In addition, a number of advanced students collaborate with faculty in joint research projects each year. Most of these faculty-student projects are presented at the annual convention of the Western Psychological Association (see files below for a list of the “Faculty-Student Research”).

Psychology Department Research

  • At least one faculty-student research study per year has been presented at a professional convention for 20+ years. Student participation at these conventions typically ranges from 5-20 students per year.
  • In 2013, there was an International Psychology Student Poster Competition at the Western Psychological Association Conference in Reno, Nevada. Of the three possible 1st place awards, two of the three were awarded to our Dean of Social Sciences, Dr. Holly Irwin and her student researchers, Arianna Farinelli and Amber Cazzell.
  • In 2015, Katie Carlson won the Christina Maslach-Philip Zimbardo Research Award in Social Psychology at the Western Psychological Association Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • In 2016, Drs. Max Butterfield and Kim Schaeffer led a group of research students (Malia Rabatin, Enya Valentin, and Alexandra Bitter) who won a Psi Chi Regional Research Award.
  • In 2016, Dr. Max Butterfield  and his research students (Austin Sleeper, Alex Bitter, Lawrence Broome, Holly Goldgrabe, Enya Valentin and Brandyn Roach) won the 2016 Western Psychological Association Award.

Second, the department offers a number of opportunities to prepare students for graduate programs that lead to mental health professions. In addition to the classroom courses that focus on individual and family therapy, students also have the opportunity to participate in practical experiences related to mental health. These include facilitating freshman small-groups while being supervised by licensed Psychologists. In addition, the Department offers a number of practicum opportunities with mental health providers in the San Diego area, such as Sharp Memorial Hospital, Rady Children’s Hospital, Autism Outreach California, VA San Diego Healthcare System, and UCSD Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research (see files below titled, “Psychology Distinction_Practicum-Placement-Sites” for a list of past placements.)

Third, the Department places a strong emphasis on the integration of psychology and Christian theology. In addition to the dialogue between psychological science and theology that takes place in all our psychology courses, the department offers the following courses that intentionally integrate the two fields:

  • PSY 330 – Moral Psychology and Cultural Values
  • PSY 410 – Issues in Psycholtherapy-Theology Integration
  • PSY 440 – Psychology of Religion

Preparing students for graduate school is also a point of distinction for our department. During their senior year approximately one of three psychology majors apply to psychology-related graduate programs. Of these, over 90% are typically accepted to at least one program. Those graduates who do attend masters and doctoral programs consistently report that they feel strongly prepared for such study, and often cite their above-average preparation in the areas of research and psychological theory (see files below titled, “Psychology Distinction_Graduate-School-Acceptance-Rate” for acceptance rate data.)

In short, the Department of Psychology is a robust department that serves a large number of majors, minors, and non-majors. Alumni evaluations indicate a high satisfaction rate with the teaching and life impact of the psychology department. Our graduates are employed in a wide variety of occupations including clinical psychology, education, marriage and family therapy, health science, social work, management, and Christian ministry.