Focus, Health Care, and Higher Education

GVSU adds graduate program

March 7, 2014
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Grand Valley State University will offer a Master of Science in school psychology beginning this fall, with a focus on clinically training students in a field that is in high demand.

There is a shortage of school psychologists not only in the local area but also on the national level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022.” 

In addition, the Michigan Department of Education placed school psychologists on a shortage list in July 2013 due to anticipated retirements in the near future.

Amy Campbell, who specializes in school psychology and is director of the program at Grand Valley, said it was partly the need for school psychologists locally that prompted the program. The other reason was the lack of a training program in West Michigan.

“We thought that Grand Valley could do it well,” said Campbell.

Campbell said it was a long process to develop the program, requiring a team effort that involved several other professors, including Amy Matthews and Jamie Owen-DeSchryver. Matthews specializes in child clinical psychology, serves as vice chair on the Michigan Autism Council, and is the project director at Statewide Autism Resources and Training. Owen-DeSchryver’s current research focuses on children with autism spectrum disorders; she specializes in clinical psychology and is a project faculty on the START project with Matthews.

In proposing the idea of a school psychology graduate program, Campbell said they had to create a perspective outlining the necessity of the program, the purpose and an estimated budget to run it. After various committees agreed to the proposal, the team moved forward to build a full proposal that included goals, objectives and a fully developed curriculum. The approximated budget also was fleshed out, and from a university standpoint, is considered budget neutral, according to Campbell.

The new master’s program was designed to be progressive and includes training in autism spectrum disorders and a variety of other critical areas that are in high demand, according to Campbell. It also will follow the standards outlined by NASP with “an emphasis on evidence-based practices,” according to the program description.

In the fall, a cohort of 12 students will begin the school psychology master’s program and remain as a group throughout its entirety. The curriculum will include 66 credits of coursework, 600 practicum hours in schools and clinical settings, and a 1,200-hour internship in the third year.

Campbell said Grand Valley’s program is different due to the expertise the faculty will bring in high-needs areas, such as autism. The goal is to improve existing practices within schools by training students in a clinical manner.

“I really hope that it will not only fill the need in terms of the shortage, but I also hope that it will introduce improved practices in schools,” said Campbell. 

The program will incorporate coursework and experiences “that will prepare them for Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification,” according to the university’s website. Once approved, it will be the only school psychology program in the state allowing students to become licensed as a school psychologist and a board certified behavioral analyst, Campbell said.

That’s one of the reasons the program attracted Megan Murray, an undergraduate student at Grand Valley.

“There are not a lot of behavioral analysts in Michigan because there is really only one program in the state to get your license as a behavioral analyst,” said Murray. “It kind of opens up a whole set of new job opportunities.”

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