History of the Department of Psychology

History of the Department of Psychology


Courses in psychology have been taught at Bloomsburg University almost since the time we became a normal school in 1869. The first individual specifically designated as being responsible for psychology classes was Frances V. Mason, who was hired in 1920. One longtime early contributor to the development of psychology here at Bloomsburg was Professor John J. Fisher, who taught from 1924 to 1951. He was the psychology instructor and director of the Psychology Clinic. When he retired in 1951, he was noted for having been in charge of the development and administration of a complete testing program at Bloomsburg.

During these early years, courses in psychology were taught as support for the primary mission of preparing public school teachers. Most of these sections were comprised of general psychology, developmental psychology, and educational psychology. Prior to 1967, faculty in psychology at "Bloomsburg State College" were a part of the school of education. In that year, the six faculty members in psychology were incorporated under Arts and Sciences as a department with Dr. Merritt Sanders as head of the department. Other faculty included Martin Satz, Louise Seronsy, Cal Walker, Jim Pietrangeli, and Don Bashore. Later Martin Satz became the first "department chair" under the new collective bargaining agreement at Bloomsburg University with department offices located in the nearly abandoned Old Science Hall. Don Bashore taught mass lecture sections of General Psychology in Haas Auditorium, and by his retirement in 1980 had taught over 25,000 BU students.

In 1970 a decision was made to create a bona fide major, and Dr. Satz hired two experimental psychologists to set up the core courses in statistics and experimental psychology. Other department chairs in the 70’s included Victor Fongemie, Michael Gaynor and John Baird. In 1979, the department included a pigeon lab, rat lab, and 20 new Monroe calculators in our own statistics laboratory. A social psychology lab was established with videotape equipment, and money was gained for individual faculty offices in Old Science. The department had about 65 majors. A Practicum course was created to offer student field experiences in the community.

In 1980, Dr. Calvin Walker became department chair and in 1984 the department was moved to the new McCormick Human Services Center. Facilities included extensive laboratory spaces for animal and physiological studies, a statistics computer lab, and small group spaces. During the next decade the department grew to 15 faculty members and over 300 majors. In 1995 Michael Gaynor was elected department chair, and then in 1999, Dr. Winona Cochran was elected to this position.

The course in Experimental was split into two separate classes, and the curriculum was expanded to include over 20 different courses. Distinguishing features included faculty-student independent studies, an active practicum program, and continued emphasis on undergraduate excellence. During that time, approximately 35% of psychology majors continued to graduate study. Faculty research productivity remained strong, especially in the areas of neuroscience, learning, social, developmental, clinical, and community psychology. Outstanding graduates have completed doctoral psychology programs in experimental, clinical, educational, and other areas of psychology, as well as graduate programs in social work, counseling, education and business. Department faculty members have served in numerous campus and community leadership roles.

In 2001 the College of Arts and Sciences divided into two colleges and the Psychology Department was moved to the College of Liberal Arts.