UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Richard Carlson, associate head and director of undergraduate studies in psychology, is the recipient of the 2015 Undergraduate Program Leadership Award.
Colleagues say Carlson has made “transformative” enhancements to traditional and online classes in his field.
He was chief architect in designing the psychology program for Penn State World Campus. He oversaw the course design and the growth of full-time lecturers in the ballooning field, which now ranks fifth in size at the campus with 580 students currently enrolled in the major and 159 graduates in 2013-14.
Carlson has also improved and revitalized the psychology program at University Park, one of the campus’s largest fields with more than 900 majors. Responding to concerns that growing pains could compromise learning, Carlson worked to create a set of changes to the major requirements, including the initiation of entrance into the major. This better aligned the number of students majoring in psychology with teaching capacity.
Carlson also implemented a transition in which students taking the introductory psychology course can participate in research while addressing ethical and educational considerations. He contributed to the development of a required course for majors, which provides an overview of the field and addresses career options, clarifies the role of research and addresses ethical issues in research and practice. Finally, Carlson led the development of a required senior seminar where small class sizes allow for high-quality discussions and a capstone experience.
“Carlson is dedicated to students, faculty and advisers in our resident program, to faculty at other campuses, and to those involved with our online program,” said a colleague. “He makes sure to learn about what is going on ‘in the trenches.’ His efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate education in psychology are tireless.”
Carlson, who has been teaching at Penn State since 1985, has conducted extensive research on conscious control of skilled mental activity and how control and experience change with increasing skill.
The Undergraduate Program Leadership Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership benefiting a Penn State undergraduate degree program. Specifically, it recognizes those individuals who have major responsibilities for the delivery of undergraduate education within a unit and who are providing leadership that has transformed or revitalized the undergraduate program in some way.