Psychology Overview

Psychology is the science devoted to explaining cognitive and brain processes that underlie actions, decisions, and emotions. Psychology was founded as a separate discipline and as a science-- finally separated from philosophy and physiology (medicine)--in the late nineteenth century. Today many thousands of researchers around the world approach psychology as a natural science, conducting excruciatingly detailed studies and publishing in a huge number of journals.  And the new technologies in cognitive neuroscience have added substantially to this effort. On the other hand, many psychologists work in a service-provider role performing rather direct services of one kind or another in a variety of employment contexts. Indeed, a psychologist of one stripe or another can be found in most career categories.  Psychology is an extremely diverse field which admits into its purview a vast collection of specialty areas and foci within specialty areas, and psychologists work in a multitude of institutions and settings and in a wide variety of capacities.

The course offerings and faculties at Rockhurst University’s psychology program reflect the diversity of specialty area and focus, even if representing a fraction of the entire field.  Nonetheless, the content taught tends to derive from scientific efforts, whether it is knowledge or technique. The structure of the psychology major forces students to experience some of the breadth of the discipline by requiring majors to take at least one course from four specialty-area groupings of courses.  However, even with that restriction students retain the flexibility for in-depth focus within a specialty area or in a unique direction. 

Major Field of Concentration

The psychology major is structured around six course groupings  (see Table I) (PDF) .  All psychology majors must take the courses listed in the Foundational group and a capstone course from the Seminar group.  The Foundational courses should be completed with the sophomore year but the Seminar or capstone experience is saved until the end of the bachelor’s degree. 

Between the Foundational courses and the Psychology Seminar lay four groups of courses. These are labeled as follows: Group A (Applied), Group B (Biological/Experimental), Group C (Cultural/Social), and Group D (Developmental (see Table 1 again.)  Psychology majors must take one course from each group (A – D), forcing experiences in the breadth of the discipline.  To satisfy basic requirements for the major, students also take two additional courses from anywhere among these four groups, which facilitates building depth in a specialty area. Of these six courses at least two must be at level four (course number 4XXX). 

Hence, the psychology major requires a minimum of 24 hours of upper-division psychology courses.  (Courses numbered PY3XXX and PY4XXX are upper-division courses.) These include a methods course (Foundational group), six courses from among the four distribution groups (A – D), and then the culminating experience (Seminar).  All upper-division courses require a C or better to count toward successful completion of the major. The exact distribution of courses a student takes should be determined in consultation with a psychology advisor, because different combinations of courses are better suited for particular post-graduate plans. 

The psychology program aims for its majors to develop particular skill sets to compliment their content knowledge. Psychology majors will become proficient in a variety of research skills, data analysis skills, and skills involved in presenting results from studies (e.g., report writing, poster presentation, and oral presentation). Also emphasized are skills in, for example, interpersonal interaction, empathic response, and diversity acceptance; but across all courses there will be emphasis on critical thinking and leadership.

The psychology program strives to prepare students (1) for graduate study in an area of psychology, (2) for success in professional fields in which knowledge from psychology is desirable if not necessary (e.g., medicine, law, business, and service fields), (3) to be critical thinkers, and (4) to be women and men for others. Regardless of major, students frequently select courses from the psychology curriculum to compliment their elective liberal education so as to obtain a more empirical understanding of human beings, whether they face normal life challenges or not. 

Minor Field of Concentration

The psychology minor can be fulfilled by completing the Foundational courses  (see Table I) (PDF)  and then a course from each of three of the distribution courses, that is, from A, B, C, or D-group courses. Thus, the minor in psychology requires 12 hours of upper-division courses, to include 9 hours from three of the distribution groups (A, B, C, or D) plus a methods course from the Foundational courses. Also, to satisfy the minor requirement, a grade of C or better must be obtained on all upper-division courses counting toward it.