Monday, April 9, 2007

USC Psychology Department: More Fieldwork Opportunities Needed

As a proud first generation college student in one of the most renowned institutions in the world, the University of the Southern California, I am keenly aware of the fact that I have much for which to be grateful. In addition to a top-notch education, valuable experiences, and cherished memories, USC has provided me with an opportunity to actively pursue my dream of one day working in and contributing to the field of psychology. That is why I consider myself a true believer in the university’s central mission, which continues to be “the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” In these precarious times of technology-driven growth of information and communication, globalization, growing competition, and calls for accountability, one reason for USC’s unceasing success in her unwavering loyalty to the aforementioned core values is the acute recognition of this volatile environment. The USC 2004 strategic plan states, “We must acknowledge the fact that conditions in the world are changing ever more rapidly. Thus, more flexible strategies must be developed which will enable USC to accelerate its progress under evolving external circumstances.” One clever method of developing these new strategies includes the College Dean’s Prize, which involves the input of USC students in the form of proposals that seek to enrich academic life and educational experience at the university. Participants are encouraged to “think seriously about learning, be creative and daring, and inspirational.” In this week's post, I have decided to offer my own proposal that would help improve the quality of undergraduate education in my unit, the Department of Psychology.

As much as I have learned from lectures, books, labs, discussions, and other instructional methods, I feel my education was lacking in one respect, the hands-on experience. I always believed strongly that the best way for an individual learn about something is to experience it first hand. As a leading university, USC offers many possibilities for undergraduate students to directly engage the community through research and outreach programs but does not provide undergraduates with as many opportunities to participate in actual fieldwork relevant to their specific area. Currently these opportunities mostly exist for the graduate students. This should be changed in order to accommodate the willing and capable undergraduates a who would like a chance to test themselves in an authentic setting. In order to better prepare all students for the real world, I believe USC’s Department of Psychology would greatly benefit from an expansion of psychology-oriented fieldwork opportunities that are currently available predominately to graduate students. This would make it possible for more students to gain valuable knowledge from a broad range of circumstances, in a more meaningful manner. (USC Bovard Auditorium is pictured above)

As much as it pains me to say it, UCLA has already implemented programs that give its undergraduates access to real world settings. UCLA offers four courses in total, in psychology and cognitive science, which allow interested students to take part in a large variety of different fieldwork opportunities. Students can select from a multitude of various mental health organizations, each with their own set of requirements and duties, ranging from children hospitals, peer help lines, research labs, counseling centers, family services, community housing groups, retirement homes, and even with USC’s Information Sciences Institute. Participants are required to work a minimum of six hours per week and attend mandatory weekly seminars. Each class is worth four units of upper division course credit for the experience.

Expanding fieldwork opportunities for undergraduates with the possibility of course credit is a feasible goal with many benefits. Not only would it be beneficial for the students and the reputation of the university, it would undoubtedly serve the communities involved. As USC’s mission statement notes, “In our surrounding neighborhoods and around the globe, USC provides public leadership and public service in such diverse fields as health care, economic development, social welfare, scientific research, public policy and the arts.” If USC is to continue to thriving in these fiercely competitive times, it must always remain vigilant to the needs of those it serves.

Monday, April 2, 2007

USC Honorary Degree: Dr. David Drew Pinsky

May is just around the corner and that means that for most universities, including my institution, the University of Southern California (USC), spring commencement will soon be under way. Traditionally, at every graduation ceremony at USC, at least one outstanding nominee is awarded an honorary degree and is entrusted to deliver the commencement speech to the graduating class. According to the USC Honorary Degree criteria, these degrees are awarded “to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” The selection of such an individual worthy of this prestigious accolade can not be taken lightly. As James Freedman, president emeritus of the University of Iowa and Dartmouth College, noted: “In bestowing an honorary degree, of which there is a long tradition in American higher education, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” In this week’s post, I have decided to recognize an individual who has truly distinguished himself in the field of Psychology and, in doing so, is deserving of such an honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

As an alumnus of the University of Southern California, Dr. David Drew Pinsky (pictured below), better known as “Dr. Drew”, has already demonstrated that he possesses the qualities inscribed in our beloved mascot, Tommy Trojan (pictured to the left): faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous, and ambitious. All kidding aside, Dr. Drew truly is an incredible person. He continues to have a remarkable career as an American board-certified physician and Addiction Medicine specialist, a successful author, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine, a medical magazine editor, a notable television personality, and film actor. However, what Dr. Drew is most famous for is his nationally syndicated radio talk show, Loveline, which can be heard locally in Los Angeles, Sunday thru Thursday from 10:00 pm to 12:00 am on KROQ 106.7 FM. What started out as a once-a-week segment in 1983 while Dr. Drew was still only a fourth-year medical student at USC, has turned into a highly influential program heard in over seventy markets, aimed at helping people, primarily youths and young adults, with relationship, sexuality, abuse, and drug addiction problems. This is where Dr. Drew shines the most. As a practicing internist and addictionologist with training in psychology, Dr. Drew's answers to call-in questions offer sound medical credibility along with compassionate, understanding, and knowledgeable guidance. Some might say that over the years Dr. Drew has grown a bit cynical towards today’s youth, but perhaps they simply have not listened to the show long enough to understand that even at times when he may become frustrated with some of the more scandalous callers, his genuine passion and devotion to help others is always present.

With over twenty-seven years of experience in the fields of medicine and psychology, three successful books, countless interviews, and numerous television and movie appearances Dr. Drew is truly a voice for our generation. One of his greatest traits is his ability to relate to today’s youth whether it is in identifying the serious issues affecting them today or simply by being tuned in to all of the latest trends and current humor in contemporary pop culture. Both are powerful tools he uses to connect with young people that would prove to be very valuable assets in his commencement speech. He certainly would impart the graduating class with useful knowledge in how to succeed in life in a realistic yet approachable manner. With all of his qualifications, attributes, accomplishments, knowledge, and popularity, we should all, as James Freedman said, “celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement” by honoring this fellow Trojan, Dr. David Drew Pinsky.