Brief History and Mission of the School of Psychology
The University of Southern Mississippi was founded as Mississippi Normal College in
1910. In 1912, a single course, Psychology, was offered. Subsequently, several psychology
courses were offered, all linked with the original mission of the University, training
In 1940, the Psychology Department was formed. Post World War II, there was a growing
interest in psychology, and the Department grew to five faculty members by the late
1940’s. The 1950’s are marked by considerable growth in psychology offerings at the
University serving not only psychology students, but also graduate students in Education.
Service delivery began in 1953 through the Psychology Clinic, one of the first settings
offering such psychological services in the region. A Masters Degree program was approved
in 1958 with a doctoral program approved in 1960. The first Ph.D.'s were granted in
In approximately 1958, within the newly formed School of Education and Psychology,
the Department of Counseling and Guidance, the precursor of the Department of Counseling
Psychology was formed, issuing its first doctorate in 1962 and establishing itself
as a state and regional leader in the training and preparation of counselor personnel.
Under the leadership of Dr. John Alcorn as the Department Chair, the Department broadened
its scope of training to include rehabilitation and mental health. During the 1970’s,
the focus shifted even more with the emergence of the program in Counseling Psychology
while still maintaining its training in the areas of school counseling and college
Today’s Department of Psychology was born in 1992 through the merger of the Psychology
Department and the Department of Counseling Psychology, with Dr. John Alcorn as its
inaugural Department Chair. By that time, the Department was comprised of approximately
35 faculty members and is a vibrant department comprised of a robust undergraduate
program, four doctoral training programs (Experimental, Clinical, School, and Counseling)
and a terminal Masters Program in Counseling Psychology. The three applied programs,
School, Clinical, and Counseling are all fully accredited by the American Psychological
Association, with the Counseling and Clinical Programs receiving full accreditation
in 1979 and the School Program in 1983. It is believed that the Department of Psychology
is the only department in the country with three fully accredited applied programs
located within the same department.
Beginning in July, 2018, the Department of Psychology became the School of Psychology as part of a university-wide reorganiztion effort.
School of Psycholoygy Mission:
The mission of the School of Psychology is to engage in the discovery and creation
of knowledge associated with psychological and biological processes and their relationship
to human and animal behavior and to disseminate that knowledge through the scholarship
and teaching processes. To these ends, faculty and students in the undergraduate and
graduate programs comprise the learning community through which these endeavors coexist.
The School strives to nurture in its students, staff and faculty a collegial environment
that has at its core the value of respect for individuals from diverse backgrounds
with regard to ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, socioeconomic status,
nationality, language, culture, and ability. Furthermore, the faculty, staff, and
students in the School aspire to the highest ethical standards of the profession in
the teaching and research processes and fully support the overarching mission of The
University of Southern Mississippi.
Undergraduate Training Mission:
Psychology is the study of human and animal behavior, and application of that knowledge
for the betterment of humankind. Accordingly, students are mentored to think as young
scientists within a broad-based liberal arts tradition. Throughout the Undergraduate
Program, students develop effective communication, writing, and technological skills.
Students are trained in the basic concepts of psychology and the methods of scientific
inquiry and learn how to become critical consumers of research. Undergraduates are
encouraged to participate in active research as a component in their degree programs.
Graduates are prepared for a wide range of career opportunities in law, business,
mental health, social services, and education. Additionally, undergraduate training
in the Department prepares students well for advanced training in psychology and other
The psychology major at The University of Southern Mississippi is based on the assumption
that all psychology majors are expected to learn general areas of knowledge and skills.
Operating within a liberal arts tradition, the Psychology BS/BA program introduces
students to the content and methods of psychological science while providing strong
training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking. Student learning outcomes follow
the recommendations of the American Psychological Association for undergraduate programs
(APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major, 2007) and include:
Knowledge Base of Psychology: Students demonstrate familiarity with the major concepts, theoretical perspectives,
and empirical findings in psychology.
Research Methods: Students understand and apply basic research methods, including research design,
data analysis, and interpretation.
Critical Thinking Skills: Students use critical thinking and, when possible, the scientific approach to solve
Application of Psychology: Students apply psychological principles to a variety of issues.
Values in Psychology: Students weigh evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and reflect other values
that are the underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
Technological/Information Literacy: Students demonstrate information competence and the ability to use computers in their
Communication Skills: Students communicate effectively in variety of formats.
Sociocultural/International Awareness: Students understand and respect diversity.
Personal Development: Students develop insight into behavior and mental processes and apply self-improvement
Career Planning and Development: Students emerge from the major with well-developed plans for career or postgraduate
education after graduation.
Graduate Training Mission:
Scientific research is the core mission of all graduate programs in the School. Graduate
programs seek to prepare students to become competent professional researchers, mental
health professionals, and psychologists who approach the science and practice of psychology
from an empirical perspective. With sound training in human and animal behavior, psychological
assessment, research methods, consultation, treatment and intervention processes,
all students are prepared and expected to engage in scientific research in their respective
specialty areas, thereby contributing to the science of inquiry. Engagement in research
and scholarship activities is basic to success within graduate programs at USM and
is expected of all faculty and graduate students. Graduate research faculty are expected
to serve as models and mentors for graduate students in all aspects of professional
development including teaching, scholarship and service to the profession.