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EIU Department of Psychology

History of Psychology at EIU

Psychology professors at Eastern have had advanced degrees in Psychology, at least, as far back as the 1920s (e.g., Emma Reinhardt, the first woman to receive her Ph.D in Education from the University of Illinois in 1927). Because all students who graduated from Eastern prior to the early 1950s were studying to become teachers, the emphasis in psychology courses was on how psychology applied to teaching. For many years, Psychology at EIU was considered part of the Education Department, and courses were listed in the catalog under the Education program. Dr. Donald A. Rosthschild (1934-1967 at EIU) was the first to offer a “psychology” class at Eastern. On February 14, 1963, Eastern’s President, Dr. Quincy V. Doudna, announced that a new department of psychology would become operational on September 15th of that year. A year later, Psychology appeared as a separate department in the University’s catalog, with Dr. Rothschild as Chair, and faculty members Dr. Arthur J. Looby and Dr. Henry A. Stackhouse.  A year after that, in the 1965-66 academic year, Dr. Harold G. Coe and Dr. Francis E. Summers joined the department. The department continued to grow steadily to today’s number of approximately 20 tenured/tenure track faculty members. And, psychology remains among one of the most popular majors at Eastern.

Online BA in Psychology Degree Completion Program

The Department of Psychology was one of the first departments at EIU to offer online courses when Dr. Jeffrey Stowell offered Introductory Psychology online in spring of 2002. As more psych classes were offered online, it became possible to offer the psychology minor to students in other online degree programs (e.g., BGS, OPD). It then became clear that it might be possible to offer additional courses that would allow transfer students to complete their BA in psychology fully online, if they had previously completed their general education requirements. The department began a discussion in the 2014-15 academic year (AY); and, on May 12, 2015, held an all-day faculty retreat to lay out the path for the online degree completion program. The retreat was arranged by Interim Department Chair, Dr. Assegedetch HaileMariam, coordinated by Dr. Caridad Brito, and sponsored by the School of Continuing Education. Discussions and development of the Online Psych BA Program continued throughout the 2015-16 AY, with Dr. Jeffrey Stowell setting up the program’s website ( during that time. The Online Psychology BA Committee was formed and the committee met for the first time on September 23, 2016, with Dr. Caridad Brito chairing the committee and Dr.’s Ronan Bernas, Daniele Nardi, and Jeffrey Stowell serving as committee members. The committee developed procedures and processes for the program, assisted with recruitment and training of adjunct faculty, and coordinated with other offices and departments across EIU throughout the 2016-17 AY. The first group of online psychology majors enrolled in the spring 2017 semester. The first two students graduated from the program the following spring 2018 semester. The program maintains about 90 actively enrolled students each semester.

BS in Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the multidisciplinary study of the nervous system. In psychology, much focus is given to understanding of the biological basis of learning, memory, behavior, perception, and consciousness.

In the spring of 2009, then Department Chair, Dr. William Addison, encouraged the Department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) to consider establishing a neuroscience minor patterned after other institution’s neuroscience minors, without requiring a proliferation of new courses. The UCC invited the departments of Biology, Communication Disorders and Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Philosophy to review a list of suggested offered courses that collectively would result in a neuroscience minor. After some additional discussion and refinement of the requirements, the proposed interdisciplinary neuroscience minor was presented to EIU’s Council on Academic Affairs (CAA) on October 1, 2009, who approved the minor with a start date for fall of 2010. In the same meeting, CAA approved the Cognitive Neuroscience course proposal developed by John Best as one of the core psychology classes in the minor.

In December 2015, Department Chair, Dr. John Mace, asked Drs. Fayeza Ahmed and Daniele Nardi to Co-Chair a Neuroscience Committee with the aim of establishing a new Neuroscience major at EIU. Joining Drs. Ahmed and Nardi on the committee were Drs. Caridad Brito, Jeffrey Stowell, and Joseph Williams. The committee began meeting in the spring of 2016 semester. With Dr. Ahmed leaving EIU after the spring 2016 semester, Dr. Nardi became the sole Committee Chair in the fall 2016 semester. During the 2016-17 academic year (AY), the committee drew inspiration from other Neuroscience programs, developed the curriculum for the major, and created partnerships with the Biology and Chemistry departments. The process of obtaining approval for the major began within EIU during the spring 2017 semester and culminated with the approval of the major in the spring 2018 semester by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. With Dr. Nardi leaving EIU after the spring 2018 semester, Dr. Stowell became Chair of the Neuroscience Committee in the fall 2018 semester. The first neuroscience student enrolled in fall 2018. 

Graduate Studies in Psychology at EIU

Eastern Illinois Teachers College first offered a master's degree in 1951, a general Master’s in Education (i.e., MSEd). You could take courses within a certain field of study, but could not get a degree in a particular field. It was not until 1974 that we saw non-education graduate degrees were offered in the form of the first Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Sciences (MS).

General Psychology: 1974-1985

A graduate degree (MA) in Psychology became available to students in 1974. For many years, four tracks were available under the Psychology MA: general, experimental, clinical, and school. Dr. John Best coordinated the general option for a time: from 1982-1984; Dr. Randall Best (at EIU from 1968 to 1985) coordinated the clinical option; Dr. Herb Morice coordinated the school option; and, Dr. Frank Hustmyer coordinated the experimental option. In 1984, Dr. Hustmyer took over coordination of the general option from Dr. John Best, who became coordinator of the Departmental Honors Program. In the late 1980’s the general and experimental tracks faded away. In place of the school track, a Specialist in School Psychology degree emerged, and the clinical track became an MA in Clinical Psychology program. 

Clinical Psychology: Since 1986

In 1986, Dr. William Kirk , who had been a faculty member in the department since 1975, became the first coordinator of the MA in Clinical Psychology program.  He coordinated the program through 1999. Dr. Genie Lenihan became coordinator for the 1999-2000 academic year, and after she retired in 2000, Dr. Kirk resumed coordination until his retirement in 2003. During his last year in the department, 2002-2003, Dr. Kirk and Dr. Keith Wilson served as co-coordinators. Upon Dr. Kirk's retirement, Dr. Wilson became coordinator for several semesters, from fall 2003 to fall 2004. Dr. Wilson had previously, along with Dr. Russell Gruber, served as co-coordinator of the program during the 1998-99 academic year while Dr. Kirk was on sabbatical. In the spring of 2005, Dr. Anu Sharma became the fifth program coordinator. When Dr. Sharma stepped down after the spring 2011 semester, Dr. Wesley Allan became the sixth program coordinator in fall 2011, having previously served as Acting Coordinator during the 2009-2010 academic year while Dr. Sharma was on sabbatical. 

The program was designed primarily for students with career interests in master’s-level clinical practice or those who plan to continue doctoral training; as such, it adheres to the scientist-practitioner model with training rooted in theoretical knowledge and ethical practice. The program provides students with both practical clinical training (through coursework, practicum, and a 2-semester internship) and research experiences (through coursework and thesis). The program enrolls about 10 students per new cohort each fall; there are about 20 students enrolled in the program at any given time (1st year + 2nd years). The program also routinely draws international students from many countries, including China, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, and Turkey.

Specialist in School Psychology: Since 1990

According to program records, the first graduate student in "school psychology" completed her General Psychology MA degree in 1974. However, it was not until 1990 that the first Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) degree was offered; and ‘School Psychology’ was not mentioned in the catalog until 1986, when it was offered as an option to the MA in General Psychology degree. As late as fall 1988, students were granted the General Psychology MA degree after they completed 32 hours of graduate credit and then continued on until they finished state certification requirements. 

Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth joined the Department in the fall of 1985; she is credited with writing most of the Specialist program application in 1986, but left EIU in May 1987. The Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) was approved in 1990; but, for the first few years after the state approved the SSP program, students had the option to complete the MA in General Psychology or the SSP; very few chose the SSP route because it required a thesis. In 1992, (while under the supervision of then Department Chair, Dr. Fred Yaffe) the SSP became the only route to certification. The program received National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) approval for the first time in 1994. In the 2015-16 academic year, the program began granting a separate MA degree in route to the SSP degree. This “new” MA degree aligned the SSP degree with the pay scale in the IL public school system, which is based on Master’s plus credit hours. 

Three years after an independent Psychology Department was established, Dr. Herbert Morice joined the Department, in 1967. He was instrumental in putting together the School Psychology option for the General Psychology MA; he served as the formal “Coordinator” from 1970-1977. He was followed by Dr. George Batsche from 1977 until Dr. Batsche left the Department in 1983; then, Dr. Morice again served as Coordinator from 1983 until his retirement in 1988. Sue Stoner and Dr. Christine McCormick served as Co-Coordinators for the 1988-1989 academic year. In 1989, his second academic year at EIU, Dr. Mike Havey became SSP program Coordinator; he served in that capacity for 21 years, until his retirement in 2010. Dr. Assegedetch HaileMariam became coordinator in 2010 and served as Coordinator for 7 years, 2010-2017. Dr. Margaret Floress became the new Coordinator in the fall semester 2017. The specialist in school psychology program has a yearly enrollment of 25-30 students.


Thanks to the following individuals who initially helped assemble this history:

  • John Best, Psychology Department Emeritus Faculty
  • Eric Dawson, Psychology Undergraduate Student
  • Mike Havey, Psychology Department Emeritus Faculty
  • Assege Hailemariam, Psychology Department Faculty
  • Lori Henderson, Graduate College
  • Robert V. Hillman, University Archivist
  • Doris Jenkins, Psychology Undergraduate Student
  • William Kirk, Psychology Department Emeritus Faculty
  • Chris McCormick, Psychology Department Emeritus Faculty
  • Boyd Spencer, Psychology Department Emeritus Faculty

And, a very special thanks to Marjorie Hanft for sharing her recollections of all things EIU-Psych, and helping to tell a cohesive story.

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Charleston, IL 61920

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