Alaska Pacific University’s Counseling Psychology degree program has been identified in recent rankings, both this academic year and last year. Best Masters in Psychology has recognized APU as offering one of the most affordable degree programs at a small university. APU ranked 25th on their list, which is determined using data from the NCES College Navigator database. Organizers of the ranking wrote to us in an email that their mission is to ”connect students with everything they need to know about choosing a graduate degree in psychology, as well as valuable resources needed to flourish as psychology professionals.”
Another listing from colleges.startclass.com gives us 80 out of a possible 100 points. This is significant as we are the smallest University to reach this high on their rankings, and the only University in Alaska to make the list. In addition to these, just last year we were mentioned on the “great small college” list for psychology.
In recent years, the Counseling Psychology department at APU has been given numerous recognitions for their affordability and applicability to the real-world and mental health issues statewide. The University as a whole prides itself in taking efforts to make higher education affordable for their students.
It is notable to recognize that we have not submitted ourselves as candidates for these listings, and these organizations have determined to consider us of their own volition—our inclusion in these rankings is a proud moment for the department and the University as a whole. “They used their own independent methods, found us through our web presence, and made the determinations themselves based upon publicly available information. I think that is pretty cool.” said, Renée Georg, a professor of the Counseling Psychology department.
I recently had the opportunity of speaking with Renée Georg who has been teaching as an adjunct at APU in the Counseling Psychology Department since 2001. Renée is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is approved by the Alaska State Licensing Board as a Counseling Supervisor. She is an avid leader at the University, and passion-stricken for an understanding of the human mind and experience. Renée has stated, “I have experience with a wide range of Human Services agencies, including work in the domestic violence and sexual assault, community mental health, and child development fields. Counseling specialties include working with children, working with groups, and working with folks who have experienced trauma.”
In an email from Prof. Georg she went into detail about the specifics of the department and what makes it such a successful match for many students: “Because we are a small school in a state with a small professional psychology community, the faculty at APU can help students with networking in ways that might not happen in larger population centers or areas where the professional community is larger. Many of these folks work as adjunct faculty members and/or support our students in practicum and internship experiences. We regularly have community professionals in our classrooms as guest speakers and regularly have our students touring local agencies to get an idea of the breadth of opportunities available to psychology graduates.”
APU’s central locality to the mental health issues that are present within the state, and to the Alaskan population as a whole, mean that students at APU are already at the heart of the job market for professional Psychologists. Especially students seeking a Master’s degree and a connection to the community, which APU prides itself on. These students have an opportunity that may be missed among other schools, the students at APU are very literally graduating directly into a demanding career field in the State of Alaska. Many students find themselves already immersed in their prospective job fields upon graduation and through APU’s extensive community outreach, they have established a wealth of knowledge and professional connection in the local mental health and psychology communities.
We are also different from many areas of the country in that issues around mental health, substance abuse, trauma, and suicide rates are of concern when compared to other states. Opportunities to work in the field exist at all levels of training, and positions often remain unfilled across the state. We recently surveyed our MS alumni (2014) and found that nearly 80% had a job in the field within 5 months of graduation, and nearly 90% (88.9) had a job in the field using their degree within a year of graduation. Undergraduate students are often employed in the field directly from their practicum experiences prior to graduation.
Because we have degrees at all levels, students are supported should they want to complete the BA at APU and continue on for the MS. Students who have completed a MS degree often return later to complete a PsyD with us. Our graduate programs are geared towards the needs of working adults with all classes being in the evenings or during weekend intensives; other schools ask graduate students to avoid working while completing advanced degrees. – Renée Georg
The wealth of experience that exists within the department’s faculty is impressive and inspirational in itself. To name just a few—the department staff include such people as:
Nora Miller, who has experience in outdoor and activity based therapy interventions; working with non-profits such as Running Free Alaska, NANA Nordic, Healthy Futures, and Kicks for Kids.
Ebony McClain-Owens maintains a private practice in addition to her teaching, which provides a connection for students to keep up to date on issues related to the profession and field practice, such as changes in the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.
Sue Fallon has been a big support for student projects and has a strong connection to the National Organization of Human Services.
Robert Lane, a “Substance Abuse treatment guru” and a master in teaching mindfulness practices.
Kim Kjaersgaard is the developmental specialist and has advanced training in psychological testing. She has an interest in spirituality and counseling, and natural therapy.
Ray Pastorino is also a lawyer with a focus on mediation training and has clinical expertise in integrated behavioral and medical health care.
Stephanie Morgan, is a “statistics queen with a keen interest in social justice” as it applies to psychology.
And of course, Renée Georg, a helpful role in creating this piece about the department says, “My background is in community mental health and in the use of expressive therapies and play interventions.”
You can learn more about the community and Counseling Psychology Department or degree fit at their webpage here.