History and Context
In 2007, West Georgia was granted a Psychology Doctorate (Psy.D.) program in “Personal, Organizational & Community Transformation.” We had originally petitioned the Georgia Board of Regents for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), but were excited about getting a new doctorate to go along with our long-standing and internationally known Master’s program. With the help of many in the University system, our Ph.D. aspirations were eventually realized. The psychology department now offers a Ph.D. program with dedicated focus on “Consciousness and Society,” which engages approximately thirty doctoral students a year in our rigorous curriculum of study and research. Our Ph.D. students arrive to study from many places: the United States, Argentina, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Trinidad, Turkey, and the Virgin Islands. Some notable universities attended by these students during their undergraduate and master degrees include Brigham Young University, Catholic University, Emory University, Harvard University, University of California, University of Georgia, University of Miami, University of Oregon, Shorter College and University of Tennessee.
A holistic approach to human science psychology: Our psychology department believes that in order to understand psychology deeply and effectively, a holistic approach is essential. Therefore, our Ph.D. curriculum is grounded in humanistic, transpersonal, existential, phenomenological, dialogical, and critical perspectives, which all come together to emphasize the epistemological framework of "psychology as a human science." The diverse perspectives that inform the curriculum express our program's underlying commitment to a human science psychology, which privileges the human being’s subjective account of an event in experiential or discursive terms, and explores human experience as the primary source of psychological knowledge. Through various methodological and theoretical approaches, students are invited to explore the phenomenological grounding of consciousness, cultivate wisdom from the Eastern, Western, and African spiritual traditions, and examine how consciousness and subjectivity are situated within and shaped by historical, institutional and sociocultural contexts. Courses in mind-body studies, liberation psychologies, phenomenological psychology, narrative psychology, and dialogical theory are examples of this commitment. These approaches also serve as anchors to the scholarly trajectory of doctoral students in developing their own research interests.
The interdependence between the individual and the community: Our understanding of the intertwining of the individual and the community translates into our support of social justice and ecological thinking. The Ph.D. curriculum emphasize the social, cultural, political, and historical dimensions of psychological life, leading to close examination of sociocultural representations and practices. Students are even required to think through the history of psychology itself. Doctoral students are encouraged to creatively address the relationship between the individual and the community, and between theory and praxis, through ethically-informed and socially-engaged modalities of research such as qualitative, theoretical, and participatory methods. Our curriculum is also guided by the belief that a truly ethical approach to psychology requires us to explicitly reflect upon our own subjectivities and social positionings as psychologists, researchers and knowledge-producers.
Scholarly excellence: Alongside developing their scholarly aptitude through coursework, doctoral students are exposed to a variety of opportunities to foster rigorous and creative scholarship alongside social engagement and transformation. Faculty encourage and guide Ph.D. students to submit articles to national and peer-reviewed journals and other national publications for professional development. Students receive opportunities to present papers and posters at regional and national conferences that represent their areas of interest and further advance the goals of evolving our human science perspective of psychology. Students are also encouraged to apply their skills in the community, through participatory action research, program intervention design, and other forms of community-engaged scholarship.
Mission and Vision
Grounded in humanistic, transpersonal, existential, phenomenological, dialogical, and critical perspectives, our mission is to provide a doctoral educational experience that allows our students to develop:
- An awareness of consciousness as embodied-being-in-the-world-with-others-throughtime;
- Mastery of human science approaches to consiousness studies;
- A transdisciplinary conceptualization of human beings as cohabiting personal, intersubjective, sociocultural and political contexts;
- An attunement for further developments in their understanding of consciousness, including how interrelatedness lives in perception and language, in mind / body studies, in social and in ecological contexts, and in its historical conceptions;
- Facility in engaging cutting edge theory and research; and
- Knowledge of how to make original contributions to scholarship and practice.
Students will demonstrate achievement of these objectives as they:
- Cultivate the ability to conduct human science research;
- Work toward becoming thoughtful and masterful educators;
- Make progress in their oral and written communications;
- Develop a broad mastery of literature relevant to sociality and consciousness;
- Pursue expertise in relation to specialized research interests;
- Enhance their ability to think critically and engage in flexible problem solving;
- Listen attentively, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively; and
- Creatively facilitate transformations in a global society.