February 16, 2019  

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Psychology Student Accepted to Programs Promoting Diversity in Graduate Education

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Latisha Swygert

University of Southern Mississippi undergraduate Latisha Swygert has been accepted to two national programs designed to promote diversity in psychology graduate education.

Swygert, a junior psychology major from Clinton, Miss. and a student in the university’s Honors College, will participate in the University of Minnesota’s third annual Diversity in Psychology Program Oct. 11-13 and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Diversifying Clinical Psychology (DCP) Weekend Oct. 27-28.

The two highly-selective programs, focused on attracting underrepresented populations to graduate psychology education, will give Swygert an opportunity to interact with faculty members and current students at the two schools and learn more about their experiences, as well as participate in informative workshops, panel discussions and seminars. The programs also pay all expenses necessary for students to attend.

“As a black woman interested in psychology, I get excited seeing universities and academic institutions initiating an interest in diversity,” Swygert said. “Diversity in all fields is important, but especially in psychology when working with people from all backgrounds and ethnicities.”

Swygert has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in USM Department of Psychology faculty member Dr. Nora Charles’s child clinical psychology lab, the Youth Substance Use and Risky Behaviors Lab. Dr. Charles describes Swygert as “a very bright and motivated student” and believes the two programs will be beneficial in guiding her in the next stage of her education. 

“I believe these programs will be helpful for her to learn more about psychology doctoral programs, to meet other promising students from underrepresented backgrounds, and get additional advice and mentorship about applying to graduate school,” Dr. Charles said.

According to Dr. Charles, graduate school admissions processes are challenging, especially for very competitive programs such as fully-funded clinical or counseling psychology Ph.D. programs. In a given year, she said these programs may receive hundreds of applications and an average of about 8 percent of those who apply.

For a student from an underrepresented background like Swygert, Dr. Charles said this can be a daunting experience.

“Because graduate schools and university faculties continue to lack diversity, first-generation students and students of color lack role models; and may question whether higher education is a good fit for them,” Dr. Charles said. “This is why undergraduate mentorship is so important. Students of color and from other underrepresented groups should feel they have a place in the academy, and I believe science as a whole benefits from a more diverse community to develop research questions and exercise creative problem-solving and innovation.”

A member of the Department of Psychology’s inaugural class of Psychology Scholars, Swygert was drawn to the field because it “offers opportunities to better understand ourselves and those around us.”

“There are so many different fields in psychology that all come together to answer the same question- how can we achieve a better understanding of ourselves and others?” she said. 

For information about the USM Department of Psychology, visit https://www.usm.edu/psychology.