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Southern Miss School Psychology Program Achievements Multiply PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Contact David Tisdale - 601.266.5568   

A University of Southern Mississippi graduate program widely respected for the work of its faculty and achievements of its students and alumni continues to make its mark.

Southern Miss’ doctoral program in school psychology has earned full program approval by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and designation of national recognition from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Housed in the College of Education and Psychology, the program is one of 59 in the United States and Canada accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and one of the 178 NASP-approved programs. It has been continuously accredited by APA since 1983 and NASP-approved since 1989.

It prepares students to become professional school psychologists who can assume a diversity of roles in the field, including in academics, research, private or public settings, as well as in public schools and other mental health care related settings, both nationally and in the state of Mississippi.

“When NASP reviews programs, they primarily focus on whether they provide critical graduate education experiences and competencies needed to prepare graduates to deliver a continuum of services to children, youth, families, and schools,” said program training director Dr. Heather Sterling-Turner.

“APA focuses more on broad competencies and skills all applied psychologists, regardless of specialty area, should possess at the end of their training.”

NASP is one of the specialized professional associations (SPAs) of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and conducts program reviews as a part of the NCATE unit accreditation process. NCATE accredits units (e.g., schools of education), not programs, but does provide “national recognition” status to NASP-approved programs in NCATE-accredited units such as the one at Southern Miss.

Accreditation by APA and approval by NASP are considered important indicators of quality graduate education in psychology and school psychology, respectively; comprehensive content; and extensive, properly supervised field experiences and internship, as judged by trained national reviewers.

“Being recognized by both bodies facilitates our recruitment efforts and allows us to attract prospective students not only from Mississippi, but from across the country as well as internationally,” she said.

Currently, there are 24 students on campus in the program and two other students on internship. They hail from Mississippi and across the nation and world, including India and China.

Faculty, students honored by national organizations
Two of the program’s current faculty members, Brad Dufrene and Sterling-Turner, have been recognized as Early Career Scholars by The Society for the Study of School Psychology, and the program was ranked ninth nationally in 2007 for faculty publication productivity among school psychology programs. Other program faculty members include Joe Olmi, Dan Tingstrom and Sterret Mercer.

Two of the program’s recent alumni were awarded the Sidney W. and Janet R. Bijou Fellowship through the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis while they were students in the program. It has a more than 98% placement rate at APA-accredited internships, well above the national average for training programs.

Students have been placed at such prestigious sites as The Kennedy Krieger Institute affiliated with Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; The Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics & Rehabilitation in Omaha, Neb.; the May Institute in Boston; The Louisiana School Psychology Internship Consortium in New Orleans, and Atlanta’s Marcus Institute.

The campus-based School Psychology Service Center, directed by Dufrene and staffed by faculty and graduate students, also provides valuable training for graduates of the program. It offers assessment and intervention services for children, adolescents and young adults experiencing developmental delays or disabilities, learning problems and emotional and/or behavioral difficulties at home and/or school. It offers consultation services to area school and Head Start agencies

Doctoral student Shelly Benshoof of Plattsmouth, Neb., whose career plans include practicing behavioral therapy with children and adolescents, entered the program in August of 2006. She gained applied experiences in just her first week in the program.

“I’ve learned to assess children’s academic and behavioral concerns and develop interventions to address those concerns in local schools and in the School Psychology Service Center,” she said. “The opportunity to apply didactic training to aid teachers and parents improve services to children is a strength of the program here.”

Over the last seven years, the program’s graduates have achieved 100 percent pass rates on the national exam leading to licensure as a psychologist, the National School Psychology Certification Exam, and on the national exam leading to credentialing as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

“These internship placements, successes on national exams and faculty achievements speak volumes about the quality of our program and its students,” Sterling-Turner said.

Southern Miss School Psychology faculty include, from left, Heather Sterling-Turner; Brad Dufrene; Dan Tingstrom; Sterret Mercer; and Joe Olmi. The program’s faculty, students and alumni enjoy a longstanding record of national recognition for their work and achievements. (Southern Miss photo by David Tisdale)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at

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