Psychology trend increases enrollment

By Gus Bode

SIUC students have signed up for the study human behavior more resoundingly this year than any other in nearly a decade.

The Department of Psychology has reached its second-highest undergraduate enrollment in 10 years, department chair Jane Swanson said, because psychology is a broad and flexible major. Because psychology is a broad area of study, it can be applied to a number of professions and jobs – a commodity that is decreasing among students of this generation.

Last semester, the department welcomed 130 new students into the program with interests ranging from therapeutic intervention to clinical studies with either children or adults.

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Swanson attributed the popularity to the fact that it covers such a variety of interests.

“It gives you a good background to go into different fields,” she said.

Swanson said she was surprised the majority of students who enrolled last fall are freshmen. She said high schools rarely offer courses in psychology that would make students want to declare it as a major.

Swanson said during her undergraduate studies she had planned on majoring in another field, but psychology was something that grabbed her attention.

Steve Fiske, a senior from Crystal Lake studying psychology and philosophy, said he has begun to apply for graduate school in psychology, and is looking forward to a career in the field.

“Almost the entire psychology department has really helped me out,” Fiske said. “Even though I had to seek them out, the opportunities are out there.”

The department has also seen an increase in enrollment of students who are choosing to double major in psychology. The most common are undergraduates who are majoring in administration of justice because of the amount of psychology courses they are required to take, Swanson said.

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Although the faculty is happy with the current enrollment of students, they are continuing to make sure enrollment levels stay steady in the future.

“The department wants to not only increase the major, but also enhance the experience,” said Meera Komarraju, a professor of

psychology.

An undergraduate committee made up of several faculty members meets every Friday to come up with more programs and plan events to encourage students to choose psychology as a major. Komarraju said having an open house at the beginning of each semester, as well as making sure to recognize the excellence of those students already in the program, shows the commitment of the faculty to make sure everyone excels.

The department allows students to engage in research labs and independent study with members of the faculty to prepare for their future careers. Faculty members also help students find externships so that after graduation students will know how to market themselves, Komarraju said.

Beginning fall 2008, all undergraduates in the program will be required to take the new course “Career in Psychology.” Although the concepts of the course are still in development, Komarraju said the course would provide help on topics such as how to pursue a higher degree in the field or learning how to obtain a job.

Jenn Lofton can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 270 or [email protected]

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