For most students, the history of how the Psychology department came to be may be a mystery. To find out more, I interviewed Dr. Dyer Bilgrave to gather some details about what our department was like as it transitioned from Villa Jullie College (VJC) to Stevenson University in 2008. Among all the current faculty members, Dr. Bilgrave is the most knowledgeable about this piece of history since he has been teaching here for more than 30 years!

Dr. Bilgrave and Makaylah Morton 1

Dr. Bilgrave and Makaylah Morton

To my surprise, Psychology was not available as a major early on. According to Dr. Bilgrave, prior to 1995, VJC only offered about 8 psychology courses as a part of its general education curriculum. The college was unable to offer a Psychology major because the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) was concerned that it would merely be a replication of the programs offered at other colleges. Interestingly, MHEC later approved the Psychology program and the major “Liberal Arts and Technology-Computer Option- Psychology Focus” was created. The last student from this track graduated in 2002.

In 1997, MHEC finally gave VJC permission to develop a full fledge Psychology major! Dr. Bilgrave and Dr. Nancy Sherman designed a curriculum and Psychology became one of the majors being offered. In 2002, Dr. Bilgrave was appointed as the department chair for Psychology. He guided the department to create a curriculum with clear and well-articulated goals and objectives that aligned with the undergraduate Psychology standards created by the American Psychological Association (APA). The Psychology department leadership has also changed a few times over the years. It went from Dr. Bilgrave (2002-2005) to Dr. Michele Lewis (2005-2006), to Dr. Barbra Smith (2006-2010), and to Dr. Jeffrey Elliott (2010-present).

Fast forward to the present day, our department chair Dr. Elliott has worked extensively to update the curriculum to align with the APA guidelines. The department has flourished over the years and now consists of 6 full-time faculty members (each with a Ph.D.), 22 adjunct faculty, 187 majors, and 42 minors.

Although it has taken the Psychology department some time to make its debut, it offers not only a strong flexible curriculum, but many opportunities (e.g., research, field placement, internships) to help students achieve their goals and dreams. I am proud to be part of it.

SU Psychology

Students working in the Psychology Department area on a Monday morning. We have created a close-knit community!

By Makaylah Morton