Program endowment funding enables students to focus on helping others

December 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of the longest-accredited doctoral school psychology programs in the country, Penn State’s School Psychology Program trains students to become scientist-practitioners with interdisciplinary coursework across the fields of psychology and education. The majority of the program’s graduates work as professional school psychologists in schools or community settings; however, a significant number also work in higher education as faculty who train the next generation of professionals and engage in research to address problems that many children encounter in schools today.

Funds from a program-specific endowment enable the program to support its students during “critical junctures” in their academic pursuits. These critical junctures typically occur in the second and fourth years in the program, as students are completing their master’s degree projects and dissertations. School psychology aims to assist students during these demanding times, showing them that they are valued members of the program and affirming their significant efforts to become doctoral school psychologists.

Emily Sturtz, a fourth-year doctoral student in school psychology, described philanthropy’s impact on her, saying, “This scholarship assisted me with logistics throughout the academic year, as well as continued membership to a variety of professional organizations and programs.”

The endowment funds allowed Sturtz to take care of financial concerns so that she is able to focus on the experiences that matter most to her.

“Every practical experience I have completed through my program has truly solidified my passion not only for working with children but also the field of school psychology in general,” Sturtz said.

Alumni of the school psychology program have continued to provide the primary support for the school psychology endowment, as they have experienced firsthand the merit of their education and the work that they perform. As these alumni know extremely well, school psychology is a unique profession that both provides necessary mental health resources to individual students as well as works to improve educational systems as a whole.

“Our alumni truly care about the current graduate students in the program, even as they’ve gone off to work in schools and universities throughout the country.”

— James DiPerna, Penn State professor of education

“Our alumni truly care about the current graduate students in the program, even as they’ve gone off to work in schools and universities throughout the country,” said James DiPerna, professor of education and the current professor in charge of the program.

At Penn State, the "Text to Give" program allows users, via campaign-specific keywords, to make gifts of at least $5 over their phone with 100 percent of donations going directly to a stated fundraising cause. All gifts retain Penn State’s tax-deductible charitable status.

Today, gifts made by texting PSUSchoolPsych to 41444 will allow the College of Education’s School Psychology Program to advance its mission of training psychologists to work in schools and meet the needs of students, teachers and parents.

The school psychology endowment officially began in 1992 as a result of a collaborative effort between College of Education alumni, friends and professionals in related fields. Additional financial support today will help the program continue to be able to recruit and retain highly talented graduate students who are passionate about making a meaningful difference in the lives of youth and families.

The endowment provides the school psychology program with some flexibility regarding use of the funds, giving opportunities for both scholarships and for program support costs. DiPerna emphasized the faculty’s primary goal has been to use the funds strategically and maximize their impact by providing students with timely support during their graduate training.

School psychology programs — and increasing their sources of funding — have become increasingly important at Penn State and across the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers through 2026. Though this demand for school psychologists exists, more students need to pursue the academic path to this career in order to fill positions.

Societal awareness of the importance of mental health, especially in places of learning, is growing — which causes more people to seek psychological services for themselves or their children.

This has caused a noticeable shift across the United States, and a need for more psychological resources. As DiPerna noted, some of the places with the most need are rural communities, such as those found throughout central Pennsylvania.

To help offset the lack of services in certain areas, Penn State’s school psychology program requires students to complete a full-year, full-time internship in schools as a capstone experience to their doctoral training. In addition, the program also offers mobile clinic services where advanced graduate students work part-time in schools to provide educational and psychological services for children and adolescents whose needs would otherwise go unmet.

Intensive doctoral programs like this one rely heavily on funding from outside sources. It was for this reason that the program leadership in school psychology has recently decided to take advantage of the University’s Text to Give program. As philanthropy modernizes, giving via text has become a popular and easy way to underwrite important events and projects, especially for nonprofit organizations.

“I’m truly optimistic that this [initiative] will allow us to have a greater impact on our school psychology students and the students they serve,” DiPerna said.

To make an online gift to the Department of School Psychology, visit http://raise.psu.edu/PSUSchoolPsychology online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 03, 2019