Active involvement in studying the human mind

Elon’s psychology program emphasizes the discipline as a basic and applied science. Based upon the principle that psychology is best learned not simply by studying but by doing, psychology majors learn the theories, principles and techniques that shape the field, but also put knowledge and skills into action through original research and internships. These experiential activities allow Elon’s psychology majors to gain invaluable experience that complements and broadens a classroom education.

Psychology is the largest liberal arts department on campus. As a psychology major, you will reap the benefits of a program large enough to offer a variety of courses and opportunities and small enough to provide a close-knit, mentoring environment. Recently, the Department of Psychology collaborated with the Department of Exercise Science to create Elon’s new minor in neuroscience, further broadening opportunities for psychology students.

Led by committed faculty with diverse areas of expertise, psychology majors explore the myriad facets of human thought, feeling and behavior. You will learn to gather information systematically; think critically, analytically and creatively; and communicate effectively. You will also develop essential skills in research, evaluation and counseling. As a psychology major, you will gain all the tools necessary to pursue further study at the graduate level or to embark on a career in any number of fields.

Elon’s psychology department has enhanced my sense of self-efficacy, challenging me to think deeply and critically in classes, to engage with my peers in discussions, and to answer a burning question I have through research. Undergraduate research, under the guidance of my mentor, has been the most fulfilling part of my Elon experience, equipping me with a valuable skillset for future endeavors as I’ve learned how to design a study, collect data, and run analyzes, culminating in an Honors thesis and presentations at conferences.

Cara McClain ’14

A balanced curriculum

Elon’s psychology program provides both a broad-based liberal arts education and a focus on research and professional communication.

Through research methods courses and classes such as Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, Lifespan Development and Social Psychology, you will study the fundamental principles, methods and research that define the field. Upon that foundation, you build a course of study focused on your individual interests, studying topics as varied as industrial/organizational psychology, psychology of personal relationships, child psychopathology and health psychology.

Upper-level students pursue advanced studies, including personality, educational and abnormal psychology, and a capstone senior seminar course. Psychology majors participate in organizations including the Psychology Club and Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology.

Expert, active faculty

Elon encourages close working relationships between students and faculty, inside and outside the classroom. Psychology students enjoy small classes that allow professors to take active, personal roles in helping students identify their interests, set their goals and then achieve them. Elon’s psychology faculty are recognized experts in the field and have published numerous books and articles. They bring a variety of specialties and research interests to the table. Among our professors are experts in clinical psychology, biological psychology, educational psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, cross-cultural psychology, personality, child development, interpersonal relationships, the psychology of aging and many other topics.

Research opportunities

The Department of Psychology firmly believes that research experience is an invaluable part of a student’s education. Research not only expands the base of knowledge within the field, it also builds essential skills including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and data analysis. Psychology faculty encourage students to join them in research projects, or to conduct their own independent research projects with faculty direction. Among the tools at students’ disposal are the Noldus behavioral observation coding system and a BIPAC electroencephalogram (EEG) machine.

Students often present research findings at Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), at regional and national professional conferences such as the Southeastern Psychological Association Conference and the Association for Psychological Science Conference, and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Psychology majors have presented papers on topics including the effectiveness of alibis, first-year teachers’ emotions, male body image dissatisfaction, stigma associated with illness, and parent/child play. Some students have published their research with faculty in professional journals.

In addition, majors have the opportunity obtain support for research through Elon’s Lumen Prize program, and the Elon College Fellows and Honors Fellows programs. Psychology majors are among the students that have received research funding through the Lumen Prize, Elon’s premier awards for academic achievement. The fellows programs offer scholarship support and study abroad grants, special courses and much more. Visit the Elon Fellows programs Website for more information.

Hands-on experience

No classroom session, however expertly designed, can fully reproduce conditions in the real world. For this reason, many psychology majors choose to include one or more internships as part of their education. Internships help students clarify their own interests, and the hands-on experience internships provide forms an invaluable complement to their other training. Psychology majors complete internships in a variety of settings, including group homes, industrial and organizational settings, social service agencies, police departments, parole agencies, psychiatric wards and special education facilities.

Elon’s Psychology department faculty encouraged me to think critically and develop a unique perspective applicable to situations inside and outside the classroom. Completing an undergraduate research project, with the guidance of my mentor, was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my time at Elon. I was able to present with my mentor at a national professional conference and co-author an article that will be published in 2013. The mentorship and high expectations of the curriculum and faculty helped me to become prepared to succeed in a professional graduate program.

Lindsay Swenson ’13, University of Missouri St. Louis, College of Optometry

Graduate study

Many psychology majors elect to attend graduate programs. Elon’s psychology curriculum fully prepares students for graduate school in disciplines including clinical psychology, counseling, education, law, social work and many others. Elon graduates have been accepted to graduate programs at many of the top schools in the nation, including:

  • The Ohio State University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • James Madison University
  • Loyola University
  • Villanova University
  • College of William & Mary
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
  • University of Georgia
  • Wake Forest University
  • Brandeis University
  • University of Pennsylvania

Varied career options

Elon’s balance of a strong basic liberal arts and sciences education and in-depth training in research, communication and critical-thinking skills prepares psychology graduates for successful careers in a variety of fields. Graduates have used their Elon experience as the foundation for careers in court counseling, daycare, social work, group home counseling, law enforcement, government agencies, human resources, personnel management, sales and marketing, and many others.