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Psychology (School Psychology) - Doctorate

Availability: Hattiesburg Options

Is School Psychology Right For You?

The School Psychology training at USM prepares behavioral scientists who can apply their skills to the solution of a broad range of problems related to the processes of education. Our program is based on the scientist-practitioner model with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis. Generalized, empirically-based problem-solving skills represent the program's primary emphasis and are seen as essential for graduates to assume the diverse role associated with school psychology today and in the future.

Meet the School Psychology Faculty

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100%APA-Accredited internship match
100%student co-authors on peer-reviewed publications 
100% student co-authors on national presentations

What Will I Learn?

The School Psychology program trains practitioners who will demonstrate a behavioral, data-based problem solving perspective. Students are trained to identify strengths and needs across diverse clients, and interpret assessment data and develop corresponding interventions. Students receive rigorous training in implementation of interventions at individual, group, and school level. Students receive training in direct service provision, consultation, and the provision of supervision. Program emphasizes need for students to become intelligent consumers and producers of research, and are trained to deliver culturally sensitive and ethical practices.

One of the program’s primary training objectives is to produce School Psychologists who approach their professional activities from a cohesive frame of reference. The data-based problem solving model teaches students to view all school psychological functions from a problem-solving perspective requiring systematic progression through steps of (a) problem identification, (b) problem solution, and (c) problem evaluation. In addition, the data-based problem solving model stresses the importance of basing hypotheses and conclusions on empirical data.

The School Psychology Doctoral Program values diversity and has a strong commitment to promoting the growth for our students in an atmosphere emphasizing the significance of diversity.

Our student-led and faculty-supported Diversity Committee promotes a greater understanding about the impact of diversity on the profession of psychology and in school systems. We work to enhance the diversity among our students, faculty, and staff. We infuse conversations about diversity into all aspects of training including research, coursework, practica, and professional development.

Students disseminate a DEI newsletter summarizing their work. 

We also offer the Go Gold Diversity Fellowship which is awarded annually to a diverse graduate student following a competitive application process. Applications are invited from any newly admitted, diverse School of Psychology graduate students with an interest in applying their training to affecting the lives of diverse populations through research and/or practice.

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

Cohorts admitted to the School Psychology program are small. Our model admits students to the program instead of a research lab. This encourages students to participate in research activities with several faculty members before identifying a faculty mentor. Faculty members invest significant time to ensure students are well prepared for post-graduate experiences. This includes regular research mentorship, including publications and presentations, and includes supervision in the in-house training clinic and in externship sites. A listing of School Psychology Research Labs can be found here

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

Students are admitted to the program and not to a specific faculty member. All faculty members in the School Psychology Program maintain active research teams, and admitted students are encouraged to quickly get involved with faculty members. Much of the research conducted in the School Psychology Program is applied in nature, emphasizing the scientist-practitioner model of the program. Graduate students in the School Psychology Program are expected to engage in all aspects of the research process including presentations at national conventions and publications in top-ranked journals in the field.

The School Psychology program is behaviorally-oriented, with students becoming experts in behavioral assessment and intervention. Cohorts are small, allowing students to receive individualized training experiences. The faculty in the School Psychology program are highly research active. For students interested in pursuing careers in academia, this allows students to gain substantial experience in designing studies, publishing, and presenting. For students interested in applied careers, the empirical focus of the program ensures that students are receiving cutting edge training that will provide them with the necessary tools to be effective practitioners.

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

Practicum experiences include training opportunities in our on-campus clinic, the School of Psychology Center for Behavioral Health, as well as paid training opportunities in community sites. Community sites include school districts, Head Start agencies, and community behavioral health providers. Practicum experiences are closely supervised by licensed faculty members and provide a high quality, closely supervised training environment emphasizing evidenced-based interventions. Most externships are set up as paid GA positions offering students a stipend, tuition scholarship and access to health care. The majority of students from year 2-4 are able to complete their training through funded practicum/ externship experiences. 

Regarding internship placement, students in the school psychology program have had a 100% match rate for internships accredited by the American Psychological Association over the last five years, exceeding the national average.

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

Graduate Assistantships support students by providing both a full tuition scholarship and a 9-12 month stipend. Opportunities exist for teaching, teaching assistantship, research assistantship, or paid externship. Externships may be in school districts or local behavioral health agencies. The majority of students from year 2-4 are able to complete their training through funded practicum/ externship experiences. 

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

We have a good deal to be proud of! 

Student accomplishments:

  • Abigail Lawson – USM Travel Award 2023
  • Sarah Butt – Symposium Award for Essay written About Multicultural Issues in Graduate Training 2021
  • 100% of students in our program publish in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters
  • 100% match rate for internship last 5 years 
  • 100% of students present research or applied practice projects at local (e.g., BAAMS, MPA) or national (e.g., National Association of School Psychologists) conferences 
  • 100% of students complete practicum experiences through externally funded partnerships with school and community-based organizations 

Faculty accomplishments:

  • Smith, S.D., & Dufrene, B.A.. The Development of New Technology to Promote the Fidelity and Sustainability of a Universal Preventive Intervention in Real-World Educational Settings  
  • Dr. Emily DeFouw- Society for the Study of School Psychology Early Career Award
  • Dr. Zach LaBrot: Filling the Gap: Expanding Autism Diagnostic Services in South Mississippi. Learn more here
  • IES Single Case Design Institute: Dr. Emily DeFouw, Dr. Brad Dufrene, Dr. Zach LaBrot
  • Dr. Zach LaBrot- keynote speaker at the North Dakota Association for Behavior Analysis Convention 
  • Dr. Brad Dufrene - 2018 Conference of Southern Graduate Schools Outstanding Mentor Award 

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

The priority deadline for receipt of all required admissions materials is December 1 for admission beginning the following Fall semester. Please note that this differs from the Graduate School. The GRE is no longer required. 

In addition to the standard graduate application, please submit the following:

  • Transcripts
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • CV
  • Personal Statement: Your personal statement should address the following:
    • Why are you interested in School Psychology, particularly the School Psychology Program at the University of Southern Mississippi?
    • What are your research and practical interests, and how would the program allow you to pursue these interests? (tip: connect your response to a specific faculty member)
    • What strengths do you believe you would bring to the School Psychology program?

Learn more about the School Psychology program by visiting our YouTube channel (@USMSchoolPsychology). 

Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data

Please review the Student Admissions, Outcomes, and Other Data for program admission and graduation rates and other important program outcome statistics.

The School Psychology program has been continually accredited by the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation since 1983. For information about our accreditation status, you can contact the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association at:

Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Phone: 202-336-5979
TDD/TTY: 202-336-6123
Fax: 202-336-5978 

Professional Licensure Disclosure

Our program is modeled after the psychology licensure requirements in the State of Mississippi. We cannot determine if our program meets the licensure requirements in other states. We recommend that students verify their program of study meets the desired state’s licensure requirements.

For a list of the state psychology boards overseeing school psychology licensing, review the National Association of School Psychologist State School Psychology Credentialing Requirements webpages.

For more information on licensure in other states, please visit or contact Dr.%20Brad%20Dufrene, Director of Training, with questions.


Degree Plan Availability
Psychology (School) PhDHattiesburg
  • School Psychologist, School Setting
  • Licensed Psychologist, Private Practice & other mental health settings
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Assistant Professor, School Psychology
  • Dr. Roderick O’Handley, 2016, 
     Assistant Professor, California State University-San Bernardino
  • Dr. James Moore, 2002, 
     Director of Autism Solutions, Canopy Children’s Solutions
  • Dr. Thomas Schanding, 2006,
    Associate Professor, University of Houston-Clear Lake
  • Dr. Abby Lambert, 2015, 
    Licensed Psychologist, Live Oak Children’s Center.
  • Dr. Allison Battaglia, 2017, 
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Nationwide Children’s Hospital