The doctoral program in School Psychology at Michigan State University has earned national accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA) through 2027. This recognition was formalized in April 2018 through the APA’s Commission on Accreditation, certifying the program has a faculty group, curriculum, ongoing process monitoring and student outcome data that fully and clearly meet nationwide standards.
The 10-year accreditation period is the longest assigned by the commission. MSU is one of the three programs nationwide to be accredited for this length of time at present. MSU leaders say it is a reflection of the program’s current strength, which has been fully accredited through the APA since October 1985.
“Accreditation has profound implications on recruitment, retention, graduation and placement,” said Professor John Carlson. He, along with graduate student Allie Siroky, co-authored the lengthy documentation process that led to reaccreditation. “The history of accreditation has allowed us to bring a large, diverse group of individuals into the program and to connect them with a range of school and community-based service agencies who serve school-aged populations.”
Carlson and Siroky helped coordinate a self-study and a site visit from the APA in 2017, along with providing “hundreds of pages of documentation” ranging from program handbooks and course syllabi to employment status of alumni, annual review forms, supervisor evaluations and employer surveys.
Addressing state needs
Totaling 93 course credits and 24 dissertation credits, the coursework covers a large number of topics including general psychology to more specific school-based, clinical and professional knowledge and skill. Coursework is taught by seven core School Psychology faculty, along with additional affiliated faculty from across the College of Education and MSU.
“This tends to be a close-knit program,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Jana Aupperlee, who served as co-director of the program with Carlson in spring 2017. In fall 2017, Aupperlee became the sole director. “I love to be involved in student growth and development over time, helping us and them to engage deeply in practice and learning.”
Accreditation allows students to apply for high quality internships and post-doctoral opportunities, preparing them to become licensed psychologists and health service psychologists.
Graduates make a difference in a variety of ways, Aupperlee continued. “Our students go on to become faculty members in research-focused universities, to work in schools, to focus on pediatric psychology in healthcare settings and to become clinicians, providing mental health services to children, adolescents and families in community settings. We prepare students to work with a school-aged population, or birth through about 21 years old, with a primary focus on preschool through adolescence.”
Recent alumni have found positions across the state and nationwide, with other universities, hospitals and outreach organizations.
“Through the program, you feel there is an opportunity to impact schools and lives in a very positive way,” Associate Professor Sara Witmer added. “There is a huge demand for school psychologists that corresponds with a growing understanding of the need for mental health support in school settings. School psychologists are on several critical shortage lists at both the state and national level.”
Aupperlee is leading the way to address this at MSU. She was instrumental in developing the Mid-Michigan Psychology Internship Consortium, dedicated to providing more opportunities in-state for students; she currently serves as the training co-director. “Historically, if our students wanted high quality training, they needed to leave the state,” she acknowledged.
Through the consortium, created in 2016, Aupperlee has helped formalize five partner internship sites—two school-based, one in a hospital and another at a clinical site—in the local area. Three interns will be starting in fall 2018.
Whether in Michigan or across the nation, School Psychology alumni are making an impact. Jeffrey Shahidullah, an assistant professor of School Psychology and a licensed psychologist at Rutgers University, credits MSU for the “solid footing” he had to start his career.
“The experiences I had at MSU gave me the skillset to make me a jack of many trades,” said Shahidullah, who has a dual appointment at Rutgers’ medical school in the Department of Pediatrics. While at MSU, he worked and studied in a range of places, including a Head Start preschool and a children’s hospital.
“All of these experiences helped me arrive at what I actually wanted to do, and now I have a lot of research and clinical experience. That’s what makes MSU unique. It prepares students for both clinical and research paths at a high level,” he explained. “The program provides current students with a breadth and depth of experience to give opportunities that may be new and challenging, all while having the support of renowned faculty.”