Graduate students upset with psychology program

Students in the school and educational psychology graduate program in the Department of Psychology say they are not receiving the educational experience for which they signed up when they entered the program.

“If you can’t offer an efficient experience, you shouldn’t have a program,” said Ernson Augustin, 24, a second-year graduate student from Eastern Shore, Va.

The problems nine psychology students have brought to the attention of officials this semester include lack of communication about the program’s curriculum and direction; lack of accountability by DeAnna M. Burney, director of the school of psychology graduate programs; and dissatisfaction with the training provided.

The students in the psychology program met with the director of the program, the chair of the psychology department and the dean and assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences three times in October.

Officials in the psychology program say they are working to fix the problems.

“I understand the students want the problems to be resolved quickly. We do too,” said Huberta Jackson-Lowman, chairwoman in the Department of Psychology. “We’re making progress, but (some of the problems) are not going to be resolved immediately.”

But the students say the issues they are experiencing are urgent and if not taken seriously, could affect their graduation and ability to qualify for internships.

Students in the program have not received the same experience in practicum, which is a major part of the program that focuses on out-of-class training, Augustin said.

“Practicum is where theory meets practice. This is when we get to go out into the real world, and the theory is crystallized,” he said.

Augustin is one of the students who began practicum at Florida State University in May, but he said some were not placed into a practicum location until the fall semester.

There is no available, up-to-date curriculum for the students, and there is question as to when some students will graduate, said Roxanne Simpson, 23, a second-year psychology graduate student from West Palm Beach. She said there is also a difference between the skills students are supposed to acquire and what they are being offered.

Also, according to an official complaint composed by the nine students, they have not been made aware of the details of resolutions to the problems that have been brought to the psychology department.

“They could at least give us the progression of what’s going on. We’re in the dark,” said Carol Cyprian, 22, a first-year graduate psychology student from West Palm Beach.

“We have been working to address the students’ concerns,” said Jackson-Lowman. “The Ed.S degree is a new degree that was just started this year, so there is a lot of debugging to do to get the program functioning properly.”

The students in the psychology program receive a master’s degree and are a part of a new education specialist degree program that began in the spring 2006 semester. Although the educational specialist degree is new, the graduate psychology department was created in 1974.

According to an assessment document created by Burney in April, the program is collecting information from internal and external sources to measure the program’s effectiveness.

Desmond Hodge, a third-year graduate psychology student from the Virgin Islands, said, “Ever since 2003, when Burney came, the unit has been having problems with communication and organization. Every class since then has had meetings with the dean of arts and sciences and the chair of the psychology department about problems.

“Some changes have been made, but they have been small changes or temporary ones that applied to one class and not the next,” Hodge said.

Simpson said: “If nothing is resolved, they don’t need to accept more students. The program should be put on hold until they can rectify the problems.”

Most of the nine graduate students did not attend FAMU during their undergraduate years.

“When I talked to Burney (before attending FAMU), I thought the program had its stuff together, and I believed I would be very prepared after graduating,” Cyprian said. “But now I feel discouraged.”

Jackson-Lowman said officials met last week to address some of the concerns with communication in the program. “The students are not being ignored, and we don’t believe their concerns are irrelevant,” she said.

Chanta Haywood, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research, said, “We definitely do not want the students’ education to be delayed because of administrative issues, so we are working collaboratively in their best interest.

“I would much rather see them spending their time studying and doing their work to graduate than the (effort) they are spending on this matter.”

Burney could not be reached for comment.