At the end of the spring semester, more than 150 individuals gathered in the Bay Vista Room to attend Senior Psychology Day, an annual event that featured the research of 38 seniors in a poster presentation to the HNU community. The event, a longstanding tradition in the Department of Psychology, included an introduction by Associate Professor Kate Isaacson, PhD, who teaches the Senior Coordinating Seminar, and a history of the psychology program at HNU, provided by Sister Maureen Hester, PhD, professor emerita in psychology. This year the psychology program celebrated the largest number of senior seminar students in school history.
To graduate, each senior psychology student researches and prepares a thesis on the science within a specific area of psychology. Topics explored this year included the use of positive psychology as an intervention for depression, the facilitation of post-traumatic growth, treatment for victims of drug trafficking, learning disabilities among African-American youth, and the consequences of neglect and abandonment during adolescence.
“The project requires that students work with the research of others in a very deep way,” Dr. Isaacson said. “Students learn to analyze the strengths of the body of research, and they also learn to critique what does not work, as well as to identify the questions that have yet to be answered.”
In her introduction to parents, HNU faculty and staff, and other supporters, Dr. Isaacson explained that seniors selected their area of mastery after a long and deep engagement with psychological science. “Each student here has studied the physiological underpinnings of behavior, development and change, emotion, personality, and the many ways society and others influence our thoughts and feelings and behaviors. They have also studied the complex dynamics involved in adjusting to life, relationships, work, and change,” she said. “They have studied how clinicians help others adjust, thrive, and grow through therapy, counseling, and clinical work. They have conducted their own experimental research projects in psychology, and they have conducted field research on topics of their own design.”
While this educational process is not an easy one, students are rewarded with enhanced self-knowledge and intellectual growth, Dr. Isaacson said.
“Each of you has dedicated yourself to the study of psychology. You have studied this discipline inside and out, from history to application,” she said. “Tonight would not have been possible without each step of your long journey. You are here because of a cumulative effort in your life to study and master this academic subject matter—and for that we all applaud your efforts.”
The seniors catered the event themselves, bringing in homemade desserts and other foods, many representing their diverse cultural backgrounds. The students and their projects were individually presented to the audience by the professors from the psychology program. Dr. Isaacson, Professor Martin Lampert, PhD, and Assistant Professor Perri Franskoviak, PhD read the students’ biographies, which explained how the students came to HNU, became interested in psychology, and selected their research topics. The introductions ended with students’ expressions of gratitude for those who helped them on their academic journey and a statement of their future plans, including the announcement of numerous graduate school acceptances.
Sr. Maureen provided a historical overview of the Department of Psychology. She joined the department in 1942, and is only the second person in the history of the course to teach the Senior Coordinating Seminar. Her distinguished career at HNU includes many years of teaching and serving as chair of the Division of Social Sciences. She has published research on the psychology of humor and religion as well as the history of psychology.