UA Program Addresses National School Safety Concerns

La Monica Everett-Haynes
Feb. 7, 2013

Looking for a job in 2013? U.S. News and World Report says consider school psychology – and it just so happens the UA has one of the longest running accredited programs in the nation.

The publication placed school psychology No. 14 on its 100 Best Jobs 2013 list and listed the field in first place among social services positions.

Given more visible nationwide concerns about school safety and security, the work of school psychologists and the training of students in the field and are increasingly important.

In a White House report released in January, improving school safety was listed as one of the top priorities for the nation with an emphasis on "creating safer and more nurturing school climates that help prevent school violence," among other things.

Increasing the prevalence of mental health specialists, like school psychologists, in schools is on the list of things to do.

"There is an important need to make sure school psychologists and other educators are well trained in crisis prevention and response," said Katie Eklunk of the UA's School Psychology Program, which trains students in assessment, intervention and consultation. "And school psychologists really do a great job helping children and youth to be emotionally and academically successful through collaborative work with parents and staff."

Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the work of psychologists, which includes school psychologists, will see rapid growth by 22 percent through 2020, adding 43,600 new positions.

Historically, school psychologists have been associated with assessment and consultation. But mental health expertise has increasingly become a core part of the job.

Overall, school psychologists work to create learning environments that "strengthen connections between the home, school and the community," said Eklund, an assistant professor in the UA College of Education.

"Our program embraces that philosophy of training practitioners and researchers," Eklund said, noting that the program's model emphasizes that students have a command of both the theory and the practical application. 

The 60-student UA program has existed since the 1960s and offers a five-year doctoral program and an educational specialist program, which trains students toward national certification. Last year, the UA also introduced a second educational specialist program, Chandler Fast Track, in Chandler, Ariz.

Students also complete for internships, working directly in schools to learn about the organizational, social and cultural aspects of school systems. 

And the degree is versatile.

Those who have graduated from the program have served as mental health professionals in schools, mental health clinics, and residential facilities; in private practice; they also are employed in research and faculty positions.

Numerous others at the UA are also directly working to address students and school safety and security:

  • Kris Bosworth, the Smith Endowed Chair in Substance Abuse Education, has worked with other University researchers and schools across the state to study and consult on issues of school safety.
  • Sheri A. Bauman is known nationally for her work around anti-bullying initiatives. Bauman, a UA disability and psychoeducational studies professor, was among those invited to attend the launch of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, a nationwide education and advocacy organization.
  • Stephen T. Russell, interim director of the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, has led and co-facilitated numerous studies and projects designed to improve social change and support healthy adolescent development, particularly among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
  • Lynne M. Borden, the Thomas W. Warne Professor of Excellence in Youth Development, is leading a project funded by a $1 million grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. The aim is to expand high quality after-school programs to improve the safety, welfare and engagement of adolescents and teenagers.

Interested in other fields of study? The UA offers programs in many of the other careers as identified by U.S. News and World Report. Among them include programs toward becoming an art director, architect, physician, pharmacist, interpreter and translator, mechanical engineer, speech-language pathologist and lawyer.

Contact: Katie Eklund of the UA's School Psychology Program and an assistant professor in the College of Education at 520-621-6689 or keklund@email.arizona.edu.

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