By Morgan Faith ’24

New partnerships, flexible degree concentrations, and faculty expertise are leading Wilson’s Psychology Department to enhanced academic offerings and student empowerment. Guided by Assistant Professors of Psychology Alexandra Toms and Brittany Harman, Ph.D., the program has undergone significant transformations, aiming to attract diverse student learners and equip them with the tools necessary for both academic and professional success.

Two Paths to Success

Together, Toms and Harman have redefined the psychology degree’s advanced studies courses to cater to the varied aspirations of their students— either preparing them for the rigors of graduate study or to directly enter the workforce.

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Brittany Harman

Starting with the 2023-2024 academic year, psychology students can choose between two distinct paths of study: senior thesis or advanced seminar. While the traditional Senior Thesis track prepares students to apply for graduate school, the advanced seminar option is a novel addition, designed to be a practical workshop where students enhance their employability through activities like resume building, job shadowing, mock interviews, and portfolio development. Professor Harman shares this approach is “a work in progress,” underscoring the program’s commitment to dynamic improvement and staying relevant to today’s students.

A Concentrated Study

The degree program also now offers specialized tracks of study through concentrations. Rather than incorporating specific major choices, such as neuroscience or social psychology, the revised program allows students to choose a minor or concentration along with the psychology major. Concentrations now include leadership and organizational management, healthcare, and the newest – neuroscience. Both professors agree the concentration model offers students more options. “Having a concentration model rather than a focused degree, allows students to have more flexibility when it comes to their career paths and choices,” said Toms. Harmon explains further, “The purpose of the concentrations is to allow students to tailor their education toward what they are interested in.”

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Alexandra Toms

The development and offer of the neuroscience concentration is made possible through a partnership with RIZE. Students who enroll in the neuroscience concentration take most of their general education courses in-person. They then supplement their studies with neuroscience- specific courses offered online through RIZE. Courses include: Cognitive Neuroscience, Clinical Neuropathology, and Biological Basis of Perception and Movement.


Professor Toms reflects on the addition of the neuroscience concentration to Wilson’s pedagogy, “Neuroscience is a growing field across colleges. The RIZE partnership was a happy marriage with Dr. Harman teaching here and neuroscience being one of her areas of expertise.” Harman hopes that with additional interest, she will be able to teach the neuroscience courses in- person in the near future.

Wilson College Online

With the introduction of Wilson College Online, traditional undergraduate and adult learners now have the option to earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology online.

Professor Toms gives insight as to how the psychology program has adapted for the online modality, “We have worked to maintain the rigor and integrity of our online psychology degree comparable to the experience of our ground-campus students, while also providing flexibility to meet our online students’ needs.”

Christina Johnson, Wilson College Online student

Students like Christina Johnson, a full-time social worker, have chosen to pursue their Wilson degree online because of the advantages that experience offers.

Johnson began her journey with Wilson College Online in the fall semester of 2023 and is working towards her bachelor’s degree in psychology. “What I love about Wilson College Online is that I am able to work at my own pace. Of course, you have your deadlines, but I can have all my assignments written out so that way I can stay ahead of the course workload,” she said.

Johnson also shared, “I was a little leery at first of participating in the online college and having a full-time job, but it has been a great experience so far. The online program has allowed me to see that I can get my degree and still have a full-time job. It has made me more self- aware and more confident as a student and as a professional.”

Creatively Engaging

For the past three years, the psychology club has hosted Brain Awareness Week to foster awareness and enthusiasm for brain science. The week often includes a keynote speaker, a brain hunt (similar to the student favorite duck hunt), trivia competitions, TED Talk-style lectures, art therapy sessions, and a student poster presentation. Professor Toms shares that the poster presentations are a “low-stress way for students to gain experience discussing challenging information in a fun and interactive way.”

Lesley Rodriquez and Hennessey Strine 

Some students, like Hennessey Strine and Lesley Rodriquez, embrace the chance to be creative with their posters. Strine and Rodriquez are both third-year students with double majors. (Strine is psychology/sociology; Rodriguez is psychology/animal studies.) For last year’s presentation, they jointly developed posters that explored “The Zombification of the Brain.” Through their creative approach, they detailed the changes that occur in the brain when someone becomes a zombie, such as experiencing damage to the amygdala and thus becoming aggressive and violent. They shared how a zombie’s cerebellum eventually dissolves, causing the individual to lose fluidity of movement and only able to walk with a staggered gait.

Plans for the Future

Professors Harman and Toms both believe their efforts to redesign the psychology program and make it more relevant to students’ future goals will set Wilson’s program apart from others.

“The hope is that this will help develop students’ interest more, reach a broader audience, and increase student enrollment in the program,” said Toms. Until then, these dedicated professors will continue to provide the individualized attention each student needs to succeed, graduate, and pursue their intended career path.

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