Graduate training in the Social Psychology PhD program is grounded in a research mentorship model. Students are admitted to the program based both on their academic merit and the fit of their research interests to those of one or more faculty members in the program.
With 6 core faculty and approximately 10-12 graduate students, the Social program is relatively small by national standards. This allows for faculty and graduate students to develop deeply collaborative and productive working relationships. Seminars are also small and can be very fruitful. By graduation, our students are well-prepared for the job market; almost all have secured post-doctoral, tenure-track, or visiting faculty positions, as well as research positions in government and in the private sector. Graduates from the program have taken faculty and post-doctoral positions at research universities (e.g., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, City University of New York, Northern Arizona University, California State University San Marcos, College of William and Mary) and at teaching colleges (e.g., Hope College, University of Richmond). Program graduates have also been successful in non-academic positions, including Program Directorships at the National Institutes of Health.
The main purpose of our PhD program is to train graduate students to become productive social psychologists. To this end, our students develop a number of important skills during their training:
Knowledge of social psychological science. Students become proficient in key areas within social psychology, including attitudes and attitude change, social cognition, self and identity, relationships, and stereotyping and prejudice.
Expertise in theory development, research design, and publication. Students accrue extensive experience with the entire research process, from idea generation to publication - learning to conceptualize research problems, develop testable hypotheses, become proficient in laboratory and field research skills, and publish in high impact journals. There are ample opportunities to present new research through the program’s bi-weekly colloquium, and students are supported in presenting their work at regional and national conferences.
Statistical know-how. Students take a rigorous two-semester course sequence in statistical methods during their first year, and are urged to take advanced statistical courses. The department, and the University more broadly, offer courses in meta-analysis, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, and more. Such training makes for expanded research employment opportunities upon graduation.
Instructor skills. Our instructor training is exemplary, and Social program students have won a very high percentage of departmental Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher of the Year awards. Graduate students typically serve as teaching assistants in two or three different courses. Upon completion of their master’s thesis, students can teach undergraduate psychology courses during summer sessions. Teaching is one of the best ways to develop breadth of knowledge and research ideas, and significantly enhances post-graduation employment prospects.
Mentorship skill development. Students have opportunities to supervise undergraduate research assistants and junior graduate students in their faculty advisor’s research lab. In addition, the Graduate Student Mentorship Program provides a year-long training in mentoring undergraduate research interns. The Preparing Future Faculty Program provides excellent preparation for academic positions.
Our Graduate Handbook for Social Psychology [PDF] provides further details on the program’s training philosophy and goals, as well as the curriculum and requirements for the PhD program.
Virginia Commonwealth University is located in Richmond, Virginia, a vibrant, culturally diverse city that has made a number of national top 10 lists. It also boasts easy access to Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, and the Blue Ridge mountains. Learn more on VCU's All About Richmond Page.