University of Pittsburgh Bradford
Psychology labs give hands-on experience

By LINDA DELANEY

One of the improvements that was created by the renovation of Swarts Hall is a dedicated psychology lab suite where students can work on their counseling techniques, observe other sessions, conduct data analysis and hone their research skills.

The new arrangement, located in Room 238, features a 14-station computer lab, which functions as a classroom, and a counseling lab that incorporates a soundproof interview room and adjacent observation room.

“This setting offers students the opportunity to gain practical experience beyond the textbook,” said Dr. Warren Fass, associate professor of psychology and director of the program. “They can put into practice what they have been reading.”

            Students heading into the psychology computer lab turn right upon entering the suite and walk straight ahead to the counseling lab, passing its observation room.

The computer area includes two handicapped-accessible stations and lines the sides of the room with a professor’s station near the entrance. Students taking Psychology Statistics, Data Analysis and Experimental Psychology classes use a statistical software package called SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) in their studies, but the computers offer the standard set of university software available in all campus computer labs.

The new counseling interview room contains a two-way mirror, wall-mounted videotaping cameras, chairs, table and a couch. The adjacent observation room allows a professor or student to watch and listen to the interviews through the mirror and speaker setup.  

“Several years ago Pitt-Bradford’s faculty identified a psychology lab as a much-needed strategic initiative,” said Dr. Steven Hardin, vice president and dean of academic affairs. “It was therefore included in the current strategic plan for the campus. I’m happy that we were able to identify resources and a location to accomplish this initiative.”

Dr. Warren Fass, associate professor of psychology who has been teaching at Pitt-Bradford for 28 years, said the new location of the psychology labs is the realization of long-range department goals.

“After an external evaluation and review of the psychology program a couple of years ago,” he said, “one of our long-standing goals to incorporate a dedicated psychology lab into the curriculum became a priority. We’re grateful for funds allocated to the program that are helping us achieve this goal.

“And we’re also really grateful to the computing, telecommunications and media services staff for helping us purchase the lab equipment, and setting up and servicing the equipment in both labs.”

Dr. Gregory Page, associate professor of psychology, said the operational learning laboratory enables he and he other professors to dedicate much more space to a counseling lab.

            Page, who has been teaching at Pitt-Bradford for six years, teaches a variety of psychology classes. He said that his Counseling Psychology class, with a requirement to conduct mock counseling sessions, will afford students several opportunities to use the new lab.

“Now students can practice counseling techniques, observe other sessions and use the taped sessions for later review,” he said. “This lab offers quite a unique opportunity for undergraduate students, one that is usually unavailable even at larger undergraduate universities. A lot of our students go into positions requiring counseling skills and need that experience. Now they can sharpen these skills before getting into the real world. In fact, when I was an undergraduate student I didn’t have a counseling lab available. I did as a doctoral student and it was a great advantage.”

Fass and Page said the students’ reaction to the new space were positive; they seemed to appreciate having a dedicated space.

The lab had been housed at 31 Taylor Drive, known as the “Red House” by the campus community for the color of its siding. When Swarts Hall reopened in the spring, the psychology department, along with the lab, was the first to move back into the building.

According to Dr. Samuel Fohr, chairman of the division of behavioral and social sciences, “It’s good to have the labs more integrated into the campus and easier for students to access.”