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Department of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences

Issue 10

The following is the letter from the chair that appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Psychology Now

Greetings from UW Psychology Department Chair, Karen Bartsch Estes - -

I am delighted to share with you news about UW Psychology. Despite tumultuous changes at UW in the past several years, Psychology students, staff, and faculty continue to thrive and grow in scholarship, teaching and service.

As you may know, the short-lived UW Presidency of renowned psychologist Robert Sternberg in 2013 was followed by Dick McGinity’s  term as Interim President, which ended last May when Laurie Nichols became UW’s first woman President. In 2013 Paula Lutz became Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, replacing Oliver Walter who had led the college since before my own arrival at UW in 1992! UW’s 2016 declaration of a financial crisis led to more changes. UW is now a beehive of activity around re-invention and strategic planning.

Despite this tsunami of change, Psychology remains a pillar of strength at UW, offering the third-most popular undergraduate major on campus and attracting stellar doctoral students. I’ll mention some highlights:

Last fall we welcomed three new Clinical Psychology faculty: Robin Barry, an expert on dyadic communications in couples and families; Kyle De Young, who investigates eating behaviors/disorders; and Alison Looby, who studies use of substances such as alcohol and prescription medications.

UW Psychology is increasingly visible as a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) program, and our undergraduate program now culminates in a Bachelor of Science degree. With over 450 majors, Psychology was one of the first UW programs to complete a 2+2 agreement with each state community college, facilitating completion of a degree within four years. And with one of the few UW bachelor’s degrees that can be completed through distance education, Psychology’s Outreach programming has been accorded national awards yearly for several years.

Psychology’s visibility on campus is also increasing, enhanced last year by the visit of Dr. Carl Hart (a former student of Dr. Charlie Ksir, Professor Emeritus) as the Honors Convocation speaker. Dr. Hart, now Chair of the Psychology Department at Columbia University, received a UW Outstanding Alumni Award in 2015.

Excellent teaching remains a priority for Psychology, evident in the awards rained on faculty and graduate instructors each year. Last year, Dr. Josh Clapp received the Extraordinary Merit in Teaching Award, and Drs. Narina Nunez and Ben Wilkowski were named “Top Profs.” Our PSYC 1000 instructors (including Josh Clapp, David Estes, Matt Gray, and Scott Freng) routinely win PIE (Promoting Intellectual Engagement) awards (which come with pies!). Our classes are ever more creative. For instance, Tara Clapp’s new service-learning class involves undergraduates in working with children at Linford Elementary School to facilitate learning.

The Psi Chi/Psychology Club continues to meet regularly for pizza and to explore Psychology careers and research and service opportunities. Travel to research conferences is on the uptick. Two years ago UW swept the undergraduate awards at a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. The Psychology Club is central to the Department’s annual Bowl-a-Rama, competing with lab groups in an event that is increasingly elaborate, involving ridiculously themed costumes and a pie-in-the-face for an elected faculty member.

Psychology’s doctoral program is thriving. Last year the clinical doctoral training program was re-accredited by the American Psychological Association for the maximum 7-year period. Doctoral training is now offered in the areas of Clinical, Social, Cognition/Cognitive Development, and Psychology & Law, and we receive roughly 200 applications each year for the 6-8 available openings. With such large applicant pools, our recruitment from traditionally underrepresented minorities has more than tripled in the last three years (now a whopping 17%). Psychology graduate students are employed across the UW campus, working in Psychology classrooms, labs, and clinics, and also in the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities, and the AWARE and STOP programs, among others. Our doctoral students have won Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Teaching Awards for the past three years running (Alisa Estey, Angel Munoz Gomez Andrade and Stephanie Bachtelle), and we credit Dr. Scott Freng’s teacher-training course for that success. This year, as is often the case, clinical students competed nationally for pre-doctoral internship “matches” and were 100% successful. Our doctoral students continue to land excellent jobs. For instance, Casey Allington recently obtained a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth and Kim Schweitzer just completed her first year as an Assistant Professor in our own UW Criminal Justice Department.

Psychology research flourishes at UW, with 14 research labs that involve faculty, graduate students, and about 70 undergraduates each year. This past year, Dr. Matt Gray co-authored with former and current students Christina Hassija and Sarah Steinmetz a book, “Sexual Assault Prevention on College Campuses.” Ben Wilkowski along with students Liz Ferguson and Sarah Crowe, has been invited to publish a paper comparing models of self-control lapses in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Graduate student publications are at an all-time high.

Psychology’s service contributions to the state and discipline continue to expand. Under Director Dr. Cynthia Hartung, the Psychology Clinic provided more campus and community clients than ever with evidence-based mental health care. Perhaps you saw Dr. Carolyn Pepper on public television’s Wyoming Chronicles last year when she was interviewed about her research on suicide in the Mountain West. Carolyn has also shared her data with Governor Mead at his request. Dr. Matt Gray and his students continue to expand a telehealth program that makes therapy accessible to rural victims of domestic violence and sexual assault across Wyoming. Last year Dr. Christine McKibbin was awarded a $2.5 million grant to fund a Geriatric Workforce Education Program that will provide geriatric education and resources to the elderly and their caretakers throughout Wyoming. Dr. Narina Nunez serves on the Wyoming State Juvenile Justice Commission and has worked throughout the past year towards reform of the state’s juvenile justice policies. Dr. Hartung and her students provide workshops in Casper and services in Laramie schools to improve children’s attention skills.

As you see, much is happening in UW Psychology, and I invite you to stop by and check it out when you’re next in Laramie. Our main office continues to be superbly staffed by Mel Stinson, Dora Montez, and Cheryl Hamilton, who will be glad to direct you to me or to your connections here on campus.

We appreciate your interest in UW Psychology!

Karen Bartsch Estes
Professor & Chair


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