Psychology department pushing for name change


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One of the most visible departments on campus might see a name change.

On Thursday, the state Board of Regents’ Education Committee will discuss the proposed name change of the University of Iowa Department of Psychology to the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, as proposed by the university.

Psychology Department head Jodie Plumert said changing the name better reflects the work done on the UI campus.

“We have to convey two things,” she said. “That the work that we do that involves psychological sciences is scientific and also that it reflects the work we’re doing in neuroscience … it provides a nice umbrella of the wide amount of research we do in our department.”

According to the regents’ report regarding the proposal, “although the field of psychology is a science, the perception outside of the university is that psychology is exclusively about clinical analysis and therapy,” which the name change would help correct.

After a long process of approvals from different department and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences officials, the proposal is now ready to be talked about on Thursday. The regents’ Educational Committee will consider whether to recommend the name change to the full board for approval.

Plumert said nothing else is slated to change in the department beyond the name.

“What’s interesting is that the degree that students will get is the name, called ‘psychology,’ ” she said. “But, as a name representing the department, I think it will help people who are interested in neuroscience. People will realize [the department] will provide them with a great education.”

UI sophomore Lauren Kennedy, a psychology major, said the name change would better represent the department.

“It’s nice they are trying to give it more of a scientific representative because [psychology] can often be jokingly called a ‘fluffy’ science because it’s more speculative research,” she said.

Officials said the department has been thinking about changing the name for more than five years. In December 2013, department officials had their first meeting to discuss what the name would be, if changed.

In April 2014, 80 percent of department voting faculty approved of “psychological and brain sciences.”

UI junior Nicole Schmitt, who has taken psychology classes since her freshman year, said the name, if changed, would be a good reflection of some of the classes offered through the department.

“Psychology needs to be integrated with all other sciences in order to benefit more people,” she said. “The biological science class was one of my favorite classes from the Psychology Department. Psychology incorporates a lot of science, so the name change would represent the holistic thing, rather than just psychology.”

Department officials at UI aren’t the first who thought a change was necessary, Plumert said.

Other schools such as Indiana University, University of California-Santa Barbara, Johns Hopkins, and other great science departments also have changed their department name, Plumert said.

“That’s to reflect all the changes that have gone on increasing neuroscience work,” Plumert said. “It’s trying to understand how the brain works and how it produces behavior.”

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