The Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The undergraduate curriculum provides broad training in psychology, the scientific study of behavior. Principles of science are applied to the study of a full range of behavioral phenomena. These principles include:
- Emphasis on critical interpretation of results and standards of evidence.
- Objective measures of behavioral phenomena.
- Systematic observation and experimentation to test hypotheses.
Behavioral phenomena include the obvious examples of motor responses but also include verbal behavior, cognitions, emotions and physiological phenomena, all phenomena that require special considerations to objectively measure and scientifically study.
Undergraduate Major Tracks
The behavioral science major is strongly recommended to those planning on pursuing graduate study in psychology. The behavioral science major prepares students for a variety of graduate programs in psychology by emphasizing a stronger foundation in research, professional skills, and applied experience, as well as requiring a higher degree of rigor in completed coursework.
The general psychology major is recommended for students who are not pursuing graduate study in psychology. The flexibility offered by the general psychology major helps prepare students for a variety of career paths in which an understanding of psychology would be beneficial or for graduate study in disciplines outside of psychology.
The graduate programs in psychology are designed to provide professional preparation in psychology for persons interested in assuming positions in a range of settings including academic institutions, research, human resource and performance management, mental health service delivery or community service settings.
Each of these graduate programs has a pervasive natural science orientation and a strong emphasis in behavior analysis theory, an approach that focuses on the interaction between behavior and the social and physical environment as a primary influence on the acquisition, shaping and maintenance of complex behavior. Each graduate program requires training in a set of core principles that involve
- Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral theory
- Legal and ethical issues
- Research methods
- Systems management
Building on these core principles, each graduate program focuses on specialized applications and unique techniques for specific applications and settings (e.g., mental health problems, autism, developmental disabilities, performance management in business and school settings, safety and health related behaviors.
The programs encourage student involvement in instructional programming, the delivery of service in community agencies and the conduct of laboratory and community-based research. Program activities are coordinated with various community agencies, providing continual interaction between the department and community settings.
The granting of a graduate degree in psychology by Western Michigan University is not considered a basic right for all students admitted to the program; the degree must be earned by the student. It is incumbent upon each student to demonstrate competence within each required aspect of the curriculum as they acquire the skills to assume a role as a professional psychologist. This challenge goes well beyond passing courses, and the act of matriculating in a program is considered evidence of an agreement to accept this challenge. It is the student's responsibility to demonstrate mastery of each competence required in the student's area of specialty.