Dear perspective student,
To start with a disclaimer, everything on this site is unofficial and from the voice of a limited amount of students (often just one). This is just one of many faces of the department. Many who study and instruct within the department would present our collective work and process in a very different way, and their perspective is just as legitimate. By reading this page, in particular, you are getting the perspective of one doctoral student.
My name is Ken Lewis, and I am a doctoral student and the developer of this website. I love our department. It is not perfect, but it is a great. We are grounded in a history of innovative questioning about the nature of life, the mind, and the human experience. We approach epistemological and ontological issues with vigor. We dig deep, and we often don’t come up with clear answers. The search for truth or meaning, or whatever it is that we individually and collectively are seeking, is one which often leads us from certainty to ambiguity. If you can’t handle ambiguity, this might not be the place you’d want to study. If your idea of learning is downloading information from your professor’s head and from the texts, then this form of contemplative, introspective, and critical inquiry just might not be for you.
Our department takes many approaches to education. And, we explore many schools of psychology. We use journaling, critical inquiry, contemplation, and research. Social psychology, developmental psychology, transpersonal psychology, critical psychology, existential psychology, humanistic psychology, Buddhist psychology, psychoanalysis and Lacan, consciousness studies, contemplative studies, mind-body psychology, parapsychology, counseling psychology, nomadic feminist psychology, discursive psychology, and much more are offered here; mixing theory, research, and practice. As you can discern from the list above, our program and faculty are quite progressive and diverse.
The faculty at UWG’s Psychology Department are wonderful. Foremost, they care about humanity and their students, and they see psychology and psychological education as part of being “agents of change” in the world. Some our our faculty and their interests include:
- Dr. Kareen Malone’s critical psychology, psychoanalysis, and Lacanian thought
- Dr. Jim Dillion’s work with myth, journaling, and the decline of the humanities
- Dr. Mark Kunkel’s passionate approach to psychology education
- Dr. Krystal Perkins work with social issues such as race, migration, and identity issues
- Dr. Chris Aanstoos’ phenomenology, consciousness studies, and humanistic psychology
- Dr. Christine Simmons-Moore’s parapsychology research on anomalous experiences and psi
- Dr. Alan Pope’s Buddhist psychology, transpersonal psychology, and consumer psychology
- Dr. Don Rice’s hypnotism, dream studies, and humanistic/transpersonal commitments
- Dr. Kathy Skott-Mhyre’s fascinating nomadic feminist psychology
- Dr. Eric Dodson’s radical questioning and challenging of all of our assumptions
- Dr. Neill Korobov’s mastery of discursive analysis research and teaching of qualitative methods
- Dr. Tobin Hart’s childhood spirituality, contemplative education, and Transpersonal psychology
Many of our doctoral students are absolutely in love with our department. One of my doc student peers who has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern and a master’s from Harvard said about this program:
“in some ways it has been more enlightening than three years at Harvard.”
I did my undergrad at Emory and grad work at University of Chicago, and I feel exactly the same. This place is a magical learning environment IF it fits you. The faculty’s interests and the scope of free, out-of-the-box thinking is extraordinary.
Some doctoral students have quit this program. As I said, it is NOT for everyone. It is like dating, if you go out with the wrong person for the wrong reasons, the date will not go so well and you’ll be unhappy in the end. So, let’s look into why it doesn’t work out for people:
1. The program is not clinical. N-O-T. If you want clinical, then go elsewhere. If you are hoping to become a psychologists of that vein, then go to one of those departments/institutes. There are a couple back door ways for our doc students to leave with the opportunity to hang a Georgia LPC shingle, but they are compromises. One is to take an extra year of master’s level classes and then apply for permission (which may or may not be granted) to do the practicums, and not have any of it count towards your degree. The other is to go to the department of education and take doctoral level classes that can count towards your credit requirements, however you won’t get any practicum supervision that way. Both are compromises, and potentially complicated.
Do yourself a favor- if being a practicing psychotherapist is your thing then go pursue it. Otherwise you will likely resent the department for not fulfilling your needs, and you’ll show up without the enthusiasm and gratitude that makes for good class conversations and positive community.
2. The program does not guarantee teaching opportunities to all of its doc students. Teaching opportunities certainly are there, yet they are by invite based upon many factors including one’s participation and performance in a Teaching Practicum. So, don’t plan on coming here to teach. It may, or may not, happen.
3. There is minimal quantitative support here. If you want to do a quant dissertation, you will likely find it difficult to get a dissertation committee here. We offer no quant classes in our department, which leaves us to go out to other departments to fulfill our one quant/statistics requirement.
4. There is no official advising system here. You need to forge your own relationships, and seek assistance as needed. While a structure is in place, it is a very open structure. If you find it hard to take initiative, you may prefer a program that guides you along more carefully. In many other departments you learn through imitation. Here, you learn through innovation. It is a different twist, and leaves some students struggling to find dissertation topics.
5. For the first 3-4 years, most students get a tuition waiver and a Graduate Research Assistant stipend, but it is NOT enough to live off of. The new cohort for Fall of 2012 got a mix of GRA stipends and out-of-state tuition waivers. So some will be paying the in-state tuition unless they can secure a GRA elsewhere on campus.
The limited funding causes many of our students to work while they study. Graduate student loans are no longer federally subsidized, which means that interest accrues while you are in school. If you are comparing our department to large research universities, you are likely going to be able to put more time into your study there and put less thought onto money. If you are comparing us with private schools and institutes, this might feel like a total bargain (which was my case). A related issue, is that the job market in Carrollton is weak, and it often takes people many months before they land a decent source of income. If you are bringing a spouse or significant other with you, keep in mind that their job prospects will be poor also.
6. It is a PhD program. One of the risks of offering a PhD program for the department is that some people will apply despite a potential mismatch just out of attachment to getting “that” degree and the opportunities that arise from it. The degree was formerly a theoretical PsyD, and as such it attracted a wide range of socially concerned, humanistic, heart-felt students with a deep dedication to the well-being of mankind. Now as a PhD we are receiving some applications from people who are more attracted to the PhD than to the department. They won’t be as happy here, and are much more likely to not complete the program.
7. The department is not a bastion of Husserlian, Heideggerian, Sartrian, and Merleau-Pontian thought. These philosophers have helped contribute to the foundations of the existential-phenomenological stream of humanistic psychology, and they do come up a fair bit in conversation. However, we study psychology and not philosophy. If you want to just throw around ideas without relating it to the questions, concerns, and practices of psychology, then maybe a philosophy department would be a better match. Just as with the clinical issue, be clear on what you want, and don’t compromise with your direction by rushing into a long-term relationship with our program.
8. If you are single, you might find our little town of Carrollton, GA to be a painful town to live in. Living in Atlanta might just consume too much time/money/pollution in commuting (at least an hour per direction without traffic). Many have a love/hate relationship with Carrollton. This is the bible belt, this is die-hard Republican country. Every time you are on the road bumper stickers will remind you that the average person here is not actively pursuing self-actualization, but rather pursuing hunting and Jesus. Unlike the master students that tend to come together as a community, the doc students are often married (70%?), frequently with kids (40%?), and don’t socialize much outside of the department. Don’t expect much of a social life, and expect even fewer dates. This may change now that the doctoral degree has changed from a PsyD to a PhD, but this is the status quo at this point. As a general rule of thumb, the more domestic bliss one has the more tolerable Carrollton seems. Note: we do have a bit of life here: a CSA (farmer’s co-op), a farmer’s market, a couple nice cafes and local restaurants, an alternative bar full of nontraditional types, etc.
Be honest with yourself in the process. A doctoral program is like a marriage in many ways, and you don’t just want to get married to avoid being single. The process involves so many sacrifices and responsibilities that will feel heavy and burdensome if you are at the wrong school. Over half of all coursework are required courses, so if the perspective of the department doesn’t match your interests you will feel enslaved rather than inspired.
Admission is only for Fall semester, and the deadline for admission is usually the first or second week of January . If after reading this letter you feel like the department is exactly what you are looking for, then I urge you to apply. More information on admissions can be found at: http://www.westga.edu/psydept/index_7769.php
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at mrkenlewis <@at@> gmail.com (broken apart here to prevent spam).