February 15, 2019  

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Psychology Scholars Program Designed to Advance Student Achievement, Participation in Graduate Education

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The inaugural class of Psychology Scholars at USM include, front row, left to right, Bobbi Lee; Taylor Ben; Brandi McInnis; Barbara Gipson; and back row, left to right, Latisha Swygert, Abagail Bryant and Aerial Holmes. (Submitted photo)

Abagail Bryant looks forward to enhancing the skills she’s gained as a psychology major at The University of Southern Mississippi by serving as a mentor for fellow students in the fall 2017 semester as a Psychology Scholar.

The new Psychology Scholars program offers high-achieving students the opportunity to serve as peer mentors for new students in the USM Department of Psychology, and provides them additional experiences designed to help them succeed in graduate education and in their careers. Through workshops and hands-on training opportunities, Psychology Scholars participate in a year-long, intensive mentoring experience provided by the Department of Psychology faculty. Applications are accepted in the fall of the junior year.

Initiated by Department of Psychology faculty members Dr. Michael Madson and Dr. Bonnie Nicholson, the program aligns with the American Psychological Association’s (APA) pursuit of the expansion of diversity in graduate education overall and particularly in psychology. It is also supported by USM’s Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) – Pathways Grant Program.

“Graduate education in psychology is a necessary step for those students who wish to pursue careers involving advanced research and professional practice,” Dr. Madson said. “Therefore, we began the Psychology Scholars program to support entry to graduate school for these high-achieving majors, particularly those from diverse backgrounds.”

In addition to serving as a mentor, Psychology Scholars are required to attend specialized workshops presented by department faculty members that provide information about developing various components of the graduate admissions application in psychology or related fields; how to secure a job in the field with an undergraduate degree; and basic counseling and group facilitation skills useful in graduate school or in a human services work setting. 

Bryant and her cohorts will be assigned a group of incoming freshman and transfer students this fall to help them develop and implement their goals adapting to life at USM and fostering success. Promotion of student success is a university-wide initiative, and connecting new students with successful, advanced students is one way to assist in the development of critical skills for college success. 

“This is an amazing opportunity for all involved,” said Bryant, a junior from Laurel, Miss. “I plan on being a professional counselor in the future, and this will be my first official step into the counseling world so not only are we receiving additional help and guidance for our future in graduate school, we also get additional training and involvement in the field.

“I’m so honored and excited to have been chosen to be a part of this group of scholars, and I know it will bring only great things.”

In the short time she’s been a part of the program, Aerial Holmes of Indianola, Miss. says she’s already learned much about developing her curriculum vitae, personal statements, graduate school and more, and eagerly anticipates working as a mentor for new students in the Department of Psychology.

“I’m looking forward to helping incoming psychology majors,” Holmes said. “I know coming into college after high school can be like entering a new world, and I’m happy to know I will be a part of making that process easier.”

Other students selected for the inaugural class of scholars, in addition to Bryant and Holmes, include Taylor Ben of New Orleans; Barbara Gipson, Purvis, Miss.; Bobbi Lee of McHenry, Miss.; Brandi McInnis: Wesson, Miss.; and Latisha Swygert, of Fort Worth, Texas.

Psychology department chairman Dr. Joe Olmi and department faculty member Dr. Emily Yowell see the program as a way to not only support their field by expanding the number of qualified applicants for graduate study, but also enhance the skill sets of future counselors and researchers.

“It’s an outstanding opportunity for our undergraduates to further their academic careers in graduate school,” Olmi said. “Valuable information is offered in the course pertaining to every aspect of the graduate school experience, from entrance to exit.”
Yowell, who also serves as director of training for the department’s master’s program in counseling psychology, said the program’s experiential learning element and workshops are great benefits for participants. “In my interactions with the Scholars, they ask relevant and insightful questions about their experiences and personal career development.”

For more information about the Psychology Scholars program, email Dr. Madson at michael.madson@usm.edu or Dr. Nicholson at bonnie.nicholson@usm.edu. For information about the USM Department of Psychology, visit www.usm.edu/psychology.