Students flock to ASU's online psychology degree

September 25, 2012

From Arizona to Australia, ASU’s online bachelor’s degree in psychology is proving to be extremely popular.

Less than two years after it was launched, the degree from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has the largest enrollment of all fully online degree programs offered through ASU Online. Among such degrees, it’s also the university’s fastest-growing program. Kristen Carstensen Download Full Image

Online psychology students have been attracted not only from across the United States but from countries including Australia, Canada and Slovenia. Forty-five U.S. states and territories are represented, with Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois and Colorado comprising the top five in enrollment.

“This program presents scholarly and rigorous coursework enabling students to acquire core skills for entry into graduate school or for career preparation,” said Lorraine Festa, program manager for the online degree.

Unlike online offerings from other universities that involve “facilitated” instruction by part-time instructors, courses in the ASU Online psychology program are mostly taught by New College faculty members – PhD lecturers who are experts in their field. The curriculum is the same as in the face-to-face program offered by New College on ASU’s West campus.

If enrollment growth to date is any indication, students are responding enthusiastically to the quality of the course offerings. From the spring 2011 semester to the spring of 2012, total enrollments grew from 190 to 504, a jump of 165 percent.

“Basing coursework on the independent, motivated and disciplined characteristics of an online student, the presence of solid, organized and knowledge-based course content will guarantee further student enrollment,” Festa says.

One student who is happy with her decision to pursue the degree is Kristen Carstensen, a mother of three who works full time. Carstensen said that besides enabling her to pursue her studies during times that fit her busy schedule, the online program contains a number of features designed to create a sense of community and connect students with each other and with faculty members.

“I get regular emails from my professors, checking in and letting me know where I stand, so I’m never wondering where I am and how I’m doing in the class,” she said. “And thanks to ‘Hallway Conversations,’ which is an open forum for all students, I get the feeling that I’m sitting next to other students in class. We can set up study groups, post questions and reply to them.”

For both online and on-campus students, the bachelor's degree in psychology equips students with skills in critical thinking, quantitative and qualitative research, and the ability to interact effectively with groups of people from diverse backgrounds.

“Graduates from New College’s psychology degree programs routinely go on to successful careers in social services, counseling, human resources, criminal justice, teaching, law and public administration, while others choose to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees,” said Robert Taylor, associate dean in New College. “Our commitment is to provide an online program that delivers those same opportunities for graduates.”

The program offers a range of courses that reflect diverse perspectives on individual and group behavior, including clinical, cognitive systems/behavioral neuroscience, cross-cultural, developmental, organizational, and social psychology, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as health psychology and law and psychology. Students also take courses in statistics and research methods.

In both the online and on-campus programs, courses are presented in the context of cultural, socio-historical and transnational issues, enabling students to understand the relationships among psychology and other social and behavioral sciences. Undergraduate students may add practical experiences to enrich their program of study through service learning, internships and research conducted under the guidance of individual faculty members. The online undergraduate program in psychology emphasizes developing skills in critical thinking and reasoning, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and writing to round out students’ preparation for careers or graduate studies.

In addition to the academic growth she is experiencing, Carstensen said she has other motivations to succeed in her studies.

“I want the personal fulfillment of accomplishing my goal in obtaining my college degree, and I want to set an example for my daughters,” she said. “I want them to see that their mom was able to go to college and get her degree, and I hope it will inspire them to pursue higher education one day too.”

Forum to address border issues: fear, immigration, justice

September 25, 2012

Say the word “border” and images of migrants struggling through the desert, hoping to evade capture, come to mind – at least in America’s southern border states.

Add the words “immigration” and “race” to the conversation, and hackles start to go up. Download Full Image

Why are people so afraid of those words?

That is the question that will be addressed in a free forum titled “Race and the Border: At the Intersection of Fear, Immigration, and Justice” to take place at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the Phoenix College Dome, 3110 N. 10th Ave., Phoenix.

The event, part of the Healing Racism Community Dialogue Series on Race Relations, is sponsored by ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD). Panelists discussing issues related to U.S. immigration law, race and fear will be Todd Landfried, executive director, Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform; Tia Oso, Arizona organizer, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and co-chair of Black/Brown Coalition of Arizona; and Sarah "Amira" De la Garza, associate professor and Southwest Borderlands scholar and director, Innovative Inquiry Initiative in ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

“Americans are so afraid of the border because it represents a demarcation of struggle,” said Matthew Whitaker, director of CSRD and ASU Foundation Professor of History. “When people think of the border, they think of immigration, which is a very emotional and political issue – one that is imbibed with all sorts of ethnic, racial, classist, and even gendered notions of who is worthy of citizenship. When people think of those things, it engenders a lot of fear and apprehension.

“This event is to help dispel some myths about who immigrants are, why they’re coming here, what their lives are like when they get here, and their relationship to economy, education, and health care and more.”

Whitaker said immigration fears are often intensified when the economy is in a recession.

“When things get tight we start looking at the new guy on the block. It’s about access and money – historically speaking, it seems that’s when all of our bias and baggage comes out.”

The Healing Racism Community Dialogue Series on Race Relations, which now is one of the cornerstone programs of CSRD, grew out of various anti-racist events in Phoenix that were held between the spring of 2004 and the spring of 2005. Whitaker, the Rev. Phillip Rice, pastor of the Community of Hope Church in Phoenix, Lee Storey of Phoenix’s non-profit Ambassadors for Change, Godwin Out, of OTU Business Consulting, and Rory Gilbert, Senior Manager, HR Solutions Center, Inclusion, Maricopa Community Colleges, organized the first event, a forum titled “The Color of Fear.”

Since then, the dialogue series has included many more such events.

“We like to take on difficult, challenging and emotional issues and examine them in a civil, coherent and informed way,” Whitaker said. “The last time we had a forum on race and immigration was in 2006. At that event we had almost 200 people, including Minutemen, business leaders, health providers and others. When people arrived, you could feel the tension in the room. Many came for an informed and courteous conversation, but they feared that they would get another angry, belligerent confrontation. They were pleasantly surprised to be a part of a civil dialogue. Political and ideological enemies found themselves deep in passionate, but courteous discussion. It was revelatory and we proved that when people put our humanity first, even the toughest issues can be engaged constructively.”

One of the Healing Racism ground rules is that “We are there to have a civil conversation,” Whitaker said. “We’re not going to suppress any opinions, but we’re going to express all opinions respectfully.”

“People want a space where they are protected and where they feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable, not be attacked by someone who disagrees with them. Our mission is to help build an informed citizenry and more unified communities. We can only do that if we have some space where people can go and not be shouted down.”

CSRD sponsors events throughout the year. The next event that the CSRD will support after “Race and the Border” will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 15, at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, titled “Listen Up! A Community Conversation on Civility.” The event is co-sponsored by the Scottsdale Human Relations Commission and the Scottsdale Public Library.

Panelists will be Fred Duvall, board member, National Institute for Civil Discourse; Whitaker; Lisa Urias, regional expert on civil rights and communication; Chris Coppola, Scottsdale community editor for the Arizona Republic; and Cynthia Wenstrom, Scottsdale Leadership board of directors.

For more information about CSRD and all the events, go to