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Professional development series illuminates pathways in psychology and neuroscience

Grace Binion, an assistant professor of psychology, speaks to students during a Find Your Path Fridays professional development session in September 2023.

Last updated September 28, 2023

By Furman News

It’s been easy to find the path to the second floor of Johns Hall on several Fridays this fall: Just follow the aroma of food being served in Farmer Commons at about half past noon. The more complex navigation comes after lunch, when students convene in a classroom to discover the many directions they can take as psychology or neuroscience majors.

Presented by Furman’s psychology department and neuroscience program, Find Your Path Fridays is a professional development series designed to help students interested in those two fields start thinking forward about next steps but also equip them with the tools to take those next steps, according to Grace Binion, an assistant professor of psychology. “A lot of people have general ideas about internships or grad school but don’t know how to get there,” she said. ” This is designed to connect the dots and help people find something that inspires them and have the know-how to take that next step.”

Exploring and encouraging interests

A middle-aged white man wearing what appears to be an unstructured linen jacket sits on a desk in a classroom in gestures as students look on.

Andy Coe, associate director of Furman’s internship program, speaks to students during a Find Your Path Fridays professional development event presented by the psychology department and neuroscience program in Fall 2023.

This year’s series launched in September with sessions on graduate school, covering psychology-related program options, timelines and application processes.

Elija Hicks ’26, who has declared a psychology major and is considering a double major in health sciences, attended those first two sessions.

“I was very unsure about what opportunities were available to individuals who were pursuing a psychology degree,” said Hicks, recipient of a Bell Tower Scholarship, who hopes to apply to a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology or health psychology. “I was surprised at the length of time involved with getting a doctoral degree, (but) my interest in these fields was encouraged due to the enthusiasm I shared with the presenters.”

Those sessions also gave psychology major Thomas Demetre ’25 a few things to consider as he prepares for a doctoral program.

“I learned that some psychology programs are harder to get into based on the subfield,” said Demetre, who is also a Bell Tower Scholarship recipient. “I definitely learned things about pursuing a career and Ph.D. in social or organizational psychology.”

Serendipitous discovery

Demetre returned on a later Friday as a panel of psychology and neuroscience majors discussed their summer internship experiences on and off campus. Internships and academic credit were the topic of another session led by Binion and Andy Coe ’91, associate director of Furman’s internship program.

“Many employers want to see a demonstrated interest or commitment to the field that you want to work in,” Binion told the class. “That’s something that an internship can do for you.”

“And a lot of the most successful internship experiences come from people who have a reasonable degree of confidence in what they want to do, and then while they’re there they meet another professional doing something that turns out to be way more interesting,” said Coe, who had majored in psychology at Furman.  “So, the best part of it was the serendipitous discovery about a new professional field or niche.”

Paths less traveled

Binion and Coe also outlined the process of earning academic credit through PSY 505, the structured internship course, and pointed students to Furman’s extensive internship database and one-on-one counseling.

“There will almost certainly never be another time in your life when you have somebody so willing to sit down and say, ‘What are you interested in? We’ll try to make it happen,’” Binion said.

“It is a competitive, application-based system,” added Coe, “but you are competitive applicants because you go to Furman.”

Other Find Your Path Friday sessions were planned to share majors’ experiences with summer research fellowships, provide academic advising and explore careers with a psychology degree.

“We get a lot of good feedback from students,” said Binion. “They’ve said, ‘I had no idea you could be a therapist and not get your Ph.D.,’ or ‘I had no idea you could pursue doing data analysis as a career in mental health.’ We’re trying to elucidate and illuminate those pathways, not just the ones that are most obvious.”

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