External Reviewer s Report January 16-18, 2008

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1 External Reviewer s Report January 16-18, 2008 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Master of Science in Psychology Concentrations in Industrial/Organizational and Research Psychology Reviewer: William J. Attenweiler, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and past Program Director Master of Science Industrial and Organizational Psychology Northern Kentucky University Introduction This program review was based on a two-day site visit, which included meeting with Provost Oldham, Dean Arfken, Dean Burhenn, Psychology Department Head, Watson, Program Coordinators Biderman and Ross, faculty members, students, and representatives of the Chattanooga community. It also involved a review of the following documents: Academic Program Review, Department of Psychology, UTC Graduate Programs self-study materials. Academic Program Review, Department of Psychology, UTC Undergraduate Programs self-study materials. The Strategic Planning Report of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (dated November 14, 2007). SIOP Guidelines for Education and Training at the Master s Level in Industrial- Organizational Psychology UTC s Psychology Department s I/O Master s Program website (http://www.utc.edu/academic/industrial-organizationalpsychology). Areas of Review Student Experience: Interviews with students and a review of associated reports and statistics indicate students are very pleased with UTC s Psychology Master s Program and Concentrations. Recruitment Qualified applications for admission to both program concentrations (I/O and Research) exceed the number targeted for admission. In 2007, 75 of 88 applicants were accepted. However, only 28 of the 75 accepted actually enrolled. One reason for the low ratio of enrolled-to-accepted is the lack of graduate assistantships available for talented students. This issue is three-fold. First, assistantships are filled competitively by individual departments throughout the Page 1

2 university. This meritorious hiring does not allow the program coordinator the opportunity to assure funding to the most qualified candidates. Other universities competing for these highly talented students offer assistantships, as part of graduate program acceptance. Especially the I/O concentration is placed at a competitive disadvantage due to lack of graduate assistant positions being committed to the program. Second, the number of assistantships does not provide sufficient opportunities for qualified students and many end up working offcampus, in unrelated jobs, distracting them from the focus of the program. Third, the stipend amount ($5,500/academic year) and tuition waiver need to be reviewed for competitiveness with other universities. Admissions Admissions and retention standards for the Industrial and Organizational Psychology concentration are appropriate, well documented, and publicized on the I/O program web-site. These standards are competitive, consistently applied, and provide prospective students the ability to self-select prior to completing an application. Enrollment is well above the critical mass needed, and the I-O concentration is considered fully developed in terms of enrollment. The RM concentration web-site is currently under construction and the admission standards are less well defined, including individual faculty mentor availability and interest. Curricular Offerings/Adequacy The I/O curriculum reflects very well the guidelines for master level graduate programs provided by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Through required and elective courses students develop solid technical underpinnings in research, statistical analysis, and content areas of I/O Psychology. Through internship and related work they develop business acumen. These are the primary competencies needed to begin a career as an I-O professional. The research curriculum includes some of the same research and statistics courses. It has fewer requirements overall. The RM curriculum is much more flexible and individualized beyond the scope of this review. Retention The I/O concentration has established an excellent graduation rate of 94.5 % over the ten year period (1997 through 2006), graduating 155 of the 164 students who entered the program. The RM program has established a graduation rate of 79% since Students from both concentrations report having a good sense of cohort and a supportive yet challenging environment. They are pleased with their opportunities, experiences, learning, and professors. Graduate Faculty Quality: Coordinators of both graduate program concentrations have earned the respect, cooperation, and appreciation of the respective faculties. They are extremely responsive to faculty needs, but need to become stronger advocates for the department and program outside the boundaries of the Psychology Department. They have worked to establish cooperative and collaborative scholarly environments. The UTC graduate Psychology Faculty is a very collegial and collaborative group. All the faculty members interviewed Page 2

3 seem very focused on meeting students needs, and prioritizing those needs above their own individual concerns. Qualifications The long-term goal of reaching a full and stable faculty for the I/O concentration appears to have been achieved with the addition of Dr. Chris Cunningham. Faculty teaching in both the I/O and Research concentrations are all very well qualified with Ph.D.s in their respective fields. They also have very productive research backgrounds. The specific backgrounds of the I/O faculty team complement one another and provide a broad range of research experience, expertise, and interest to that concentration. Additionally, faculty members have a great deal of relevant, professional, and managerial experience in a variety of organizations. Effective Mentoring of Graduate Students Faculty members are very well qualified to serve as mentors. They are very active in scholarly activity which adds to both their teaching and mentoring. Students are very well supported in their research/thesis work by a faculty with broad ranging experience and interest in both concentrations. Student evaluations of current faculty teaching are very high, indicating they are very effective mentors for the students, and appreciated. Professional Development Opportunities Faculty members pursue opportunities for professional development regularly. They also are extremely cost conscious in their pursuit of these opportunities. Travel funds needed for regional and national conferences, workshops, and related opportunities are not currently adequate. Funds available for travel need to be increased in order for faculty members to remain current in their disciplines. Additionally, increasing travel for professional development purposes will keep UTC nationally networked and visible through its faculty. Teaching Loads Teaching loads for the graduate faculty seem to be reasonable and equitable. They are in line with other programs, both internally and externally. The graduate faculty is expected to teach three preps (usually two graduate and one undergraduate class) per semester. The recent increase in students interested in the thesis option may create some equity issues, and needs to be monitored. Possibly an arrangement could include release time supported by a certain amount of thesis and/or independent study supervision. Teaching/Learning Environment: The environment of UTC s Graduate Psychology Program is very positive and supportive. It is a collegial and professionally challenging environment, a great place to work and thrive, for both students and faculty. Current Curriculum - As stated above, The I-O curriculum reflects very well the guidelines for master level graduate programs provided by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. There is a good mix of core and elective specialized courses. There are appropriate applied opportunities to learn the tools, techniques, and methodologies of the discipline. Courses are offered regularly, and a cohort of Page 3

4 students typically completes the master s degree every two years. The faculty is continually involved in updating and fine-tuning the curriculum and individual courses. Resources Available to Students: Library support for graduate students is very good, and includes on-line access to all APA journals. Computer and laboratory facilities seem adequate. However, graduate students do not, at this time, have any office space. This is a concern, as office space could help them stay focused and productive while on-campus and not otherwise engaged in classes, research, or assistantship duties. Most Promising Resource Needs of the Program: The prioritized needs of UTC s Psychology Master s Program are: 1. Increased and improved graduate assistantship opportunities 2. Increased funding for faculty travel and professional development 3. Scheduled regular technology updates (replace computers every four years) 4. Office space for graduate students. Outcomes: Now that faculty and enrollment in the I/O concentration has stabilized, the outcome indicators seem to be improving along with student satisfaction. No indication of any recent changes in the RM concentration was found. Competencies Expected of Students upon Program Completion - The I/O concentration has historically graduated about 80% of the students on a non-thesis basis, requiring successful completion of the comprehensive examination. This exam is revised/updated annually by the faculty and reflects the development of appropriate skill levels for a master s degree. The historic portion of students taking advantage of the thesis option appears to be changing, as more of the current students have expressed interest and intent to pursue the thesis option. This should be considered a very positive change, as the thesis project serves as a more applied active learning capstone compared to the alternative elective coursework and comprehensive exam. Additionally, it may indicate increasing interest in pursuing PhDs after completing the master s program. All students in the Research Concentration are required to complete a thesis for program completion. Completion Rates: The completion rate in the I-O concentration has been very high at over 94% The completion rate in the RM concentration is lower, 79%. Current locations of I/O graduates is included on the concentration s web site. Summary Recommendations UTC s Psychology Master s Degree Program Concentration in I/O should be considered a distinctive program and used as a model for other graduate programs. As an applied graduate program serving the metropolitan community, the I/O Concentration is uniquely aligned with several initiatives identified in UTC s new strategic plan. These initiatives include community involvement Page 4

5 through internship/practicum opportunities, consulting, and developed strategic partnerships. Other initiatives identified in the Strategic Planning Report include excellent teaching, high quality research, community service and contributing to economic development. The I/O concentration appears to fit, hand-in-glove with UTC s new strategic plan. UTC s Psychology Master s Degree Program Concentration in Research provides a very valuable service for a special group of students working to improve their qualifications for acceptance into a variety of Ph.D. Psychology Programs. It provides a very broad array of graduate elective courses and draws an eclectic group of students. Page 5

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