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.