by Jessica Jervis-Viville

Before 1967, then-West Georgia College did not have a psychology department, but the dream was there—a dream for a psychology department that would focus on student lives and would take a humanistic approach to psychology.

A profile of Mike Arons stands beside the Melson Hall entrance.
A profile of Mike Arons stands beside the Melson Hall entrance.

Faculty member Jim Thomas had been carefully studying the work of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow and Arthur Combs. After conducting research on the humanistic approach, he convinced his colleagues to initiate a program. They consulted Maslow on who should fill the role as department chair. He suggested Mike Arons. At that point, West Georgia’s psychology department was born.

Fifty years later, the psychology department continues to be place where student lives remain the focus, a department where students and professors use human experience to understand the psychological world.

“The Department of Psychology's 50th anniversary celebrates the perseverance and far-reaching impact of a unique vision for psychology,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reber, psychology department chair. “One that does not take its cues from the natural sciences but is firmly rooted in the humanities, the arts and the meaningful experiences of persons living in relation to each other and the world.”

The psychology department has grown tremendously since its initial conception in 1967. It services students who are interested in any spectrum of psychology including psychology as a human science, human growth and potential and social psychology.

“The department's unique approach to psychology permeates its three degree programs,” explained Reber. “The undergraduate psychology program, which continues to offer courses developed by Arons and others in 1967 and currently serves more than 800 majors; the graduate program, which currently serves 71 students and has maintained its focus on the personal growth and development of students' minds and hearts since 1967; and the Ph.D. program in consciousness and society, which celebrates its 10th year as a doctoral program, currently serves 39 students and has successfully placed graduates in universities, nonprofits and human service organizations around the world.”

In order to commemorate this special occasion, the psychology department will host a conference from Oct. 5-7. The conference will include symposium talks and a recognition and awards dinner featuring alumna and keynote speaker Aimee Copeland. Dinner will be followed by a musical performance by Ten Blocks Away.

In addition, artifacts detailing the history of the department will be on exhibit at Ingram Library from Oct. 2 through Dec. 22. There will be a reception at the exhibit on Oct. 7 at noon following the conclusion of the conference.

“Alumni of our psychology program are now more than 4500 strong and are living and working across the nation and around the globe,” said Dr. N. Jane McCandless, dean of the College of Social Sciences. “This 50th celebration invites our alumni to reconnect with each other and the faculty, as well as meet current students and learn about the plans for the next 50 years.”

For more information about the conference, visit

Posted on September 29, 2017