Campus to offer new master’s degree in psychology

South Dakota State University plans to offer a new master’s degree in psychology starting in the fall of 2016.

The industrial and organizational psychology program will seek to teach graduate students how to apply psychological principles, theories and statistics to the workplace.

“Most master’s level programs in industrial organization are designed to create practitioners,” said Kevin Mahoney, assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology.

This degree program is unique to the state, according to Mahoney and Brad Woldt, department head for the Department of Psychology.

“While there are many psych majors at the state universities, there’s only two graduate programs offered, both at USD… [this will be] the third graduate program in the state,” Woldt said.

Dennis Papini, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there’s been a lot of interest in this degree for quite some time and a desire for students with this skill set to enter the workforce.

“There’s six or seven IO [industrial/organizational] psychologists working in the state already who definitely see the need for people with that kind of training and background,” Papini said.

Papini is a psychologist by training and during his time as chair of the psychology department at Middle Tennessee State University, he saw firsthand a nationally ranked industrial and organizational psychology master’s program.

“As I worked with those faculty and got to see that kind of training, I became very impressed by preparation those students had going into the workplace,” Papini said.

During his first year as a dean at SDSU four years ago, discussions for this program began. It’s been about a two-year process that has gone relatively quickly, Papini said.

As a land-grant university, an industrial and organizational psychology program fits well with its mission, according to Papini, which makes this new program a perfect fit for the institution.

“Students will be receiving a state-of-the-art curriculum…” Papini said. “As we think about the role of the College of Arts and Sciences at a land-grant university, it’s important we develop those kinds of terminal master’s programs that will launch students into mid-level professional opportunities.”

Many departments at SDSU do not offer master’s degree programs, including the Department of Psychology, until now. Because of this, students with undergraduate degrees in psychology have gone to other universities for graduate-level education.

“A lot of times those students don’t come back [to South Dakota],” Papini said. “We think it’s important that we offer high-quality graduate programs so that students who want to stay in the state can get their educational goals met here.”

Because Mahoney is the only industrial and organizational psychology professor currently on campus, more will be hired once the program is underway.

“We will be hiring one industrial and organizational psychologist in the fall of 2016 and another to begin in the fall of 2017,” Woldt said. “So we’ll have three Ph.D.-level industrial and organizational psychologists in the grad program.”

Woldt said the department expects around nine students to graduate from this master’s degree program each year once it is fully operational.