Psychological Science @ Castleton

The Hub Science for Helping People

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A day in the life of a School Psychologist

If you’re a Psychology student nearing the end of your undergraduate years, you may be wondering “what’s next?” Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychological Science opens many paths, but which is right for your interests and goals?


Professor Anita Phillips

Here at Castleton, we have launched Vermont’s first graduate program in School Psychology this year!  If you are interested in working with children, working in a school setting, or combining your interest in Psychology with interests in Education, you might want to consider School Psychology.  But what does a School Psychologist actually do? In the post below, Professor Phillips describes “a day in the life” of a school psychologist. Read on to find out if this is a career path that may interest you!


A typical day in the life of a School Psychologist

Typical, what’s typical? The role of a School Psychologist is multifaceted and filled with many different experiences. Conceptualizing exactly what happens in a day is best described by this visual representation:



So, what does this really mean?

“WITH STUDENTS”, the happiest moments (usually) doing counseling, crisis intervention, assessments, or chatting about a student’s day whether it be formal and tied to a behavior plan or informal.

“AT DUTY”, yes this means lunch duty, bus duty, hall duty, and other stuff! If you are hired by the school district, employees usually have a duty depending on the school. Mine was hall monitoring in the morning-what a wonderful way to become part of the school culture in a different way!

“TEACHING A LESSON”, and a very exciting one at that-most School Psychologists make connections with teachers and talk about topics that the student body may benefit from. Social workers are great partners to pair with when teaching lessons. Common topics to teach are: Tolerance, Diversity/Accepting Individual Differences, Character Building (Be Safe, Positive, Responsible), Good & Bad Touches, How to Build Good Friendships, and other fun stuff!

“IN MY OFFICE”, means leave me alone-in a polite School Psychologist kind of way of course. School Psychologists do a plethora of paperwork from writing psycho-educational evaluations, counseling treatment plans and progress notes, to Individualized Education Plan Drafts and more informal interventions, etc. Office time is sacred for returning calls to concerned parents/guardians, service providers, and medical providers. Oh…and don’t forget the e-mails…mostly to touch base with administration and teachers. Yes! School Psychologists are often called the glue or the web that holds everyone together.

“VISITING A CLASS”, this is never a dull moment! Oh the things you learn when you observe students in the classroom environment…very different from the way he or she may act in your office. Visiting a class tells the rest of the story-gives a true picture of the student, teacher, and peer interaction! This is when you receive a true education of the lingo and nuances of “what’s in” according to students and the influences on the student at the moment.

“OUT OF THE BUILDING”, this will take some time…Could be a crisis meeting at the county building for a student or to the district/central office to meet with administration. The number one best reason to be out of the building (my opinion of course) is to find the others…yes the other School Psychologists who do what you do. Maybe you are borrowing a test kit/assessment or trying to figure out the scoring on a BDI, WPPSI, or a BASC (no worries-there are an endless amount of acronyms). Whatever the reason, it’s time well spent and validation that others do what you do!

“IN A MEETING”, oh…yeah and last but never least School Psychologists attend many meetings to provide data and information on a behavior plan or functional behavioral assessment. Or…maybe it is a committee meeting to determine if a student has a disability impacting his or her learning based on a multidisciplinary evaluation—of which the School Psychologist is a big part. Meetings are held for an endless number of reasons and could be formal or informal, small or large group. Regardless, they all have one thing in common-meetings are for the benefit of students and are based on data and systematic observation within the school context …a microcosm of society.

And of course, there will be moments for quick breaks when I am catching my breath and taking a moment to refocus and regenerate. Maybe a trip to the car? Maybe a trip to the coffee shop? Maybe a quick chat with a colleague? Who knows, but it’s probably for a great reason to be at our best to serve the unique needs of students and staff.

That does it! Simply put…School Psychologists strive to gather evidence based data within the parameters of the school district to best serve the needs of students… unique learners that may need a voice to help “level the playing field” to promote learning and growing to become a functional and successful adult.


So why not join in on a rewarding and invigorating career. Castleton University’s School Psychology Graduate School Program is in full swing! Don’t miss the chance of a lifetime.

The Value of Volunteering & Leadership

A core feature of a Castleton education is community engagement. In the Department of Psychological Science this is not just something we encourage and facilitate for our students, this is a fundamental component of our professional lives as engaged scholars and practitioners. Dr. Shannon Newell recently returned from a weekend representing Vermont and our great university at a conference for School Psychologists. Here she writes about why she does this important work.



I just spent my entire weekend away from my family, sitting in meetings for 10 hours, tired and sore from sitting so long. My husband asked “are you getting paid for this work?” and of course my answer was no. “Why are you doing it?” he asked. Good question. I volunteer as a leader in my state and national organizations because this is part of my identity, it is who I am, and I get so much from my leadership and volunteering. Are you involved in leadership in some capacity? Why or why not?

There are so many benefits to volunteering and here are just a few:

  • It makes me better at what I do. Volunteering keeps me up to date on the latest initiatives (federal and state laws), current trends, concerns (did you know there are 17 different types of school psychology shortages?), as well as issues that may arise in the near future.
  • Networking. I have met so many interesting people within my state (state presidents, secretary of education, people within the agency of education who develop guidance and regulation) and across the nation, including organization presidents, authors of textbooks – yup I had dinner the other night with a key author in our program, publishers of information critical to practice in our field, and most importantly, other practitioners and educators with whom I can collaborate, share ideas, and gain expertise from colleagues. By the way, did I mention I get to socialize with some of the most influential people in our field?
  • Influence. Being involved in state and national leadership allows me to have a voice. I provide input regarding what topics we should cover during our state conference and I get to vote on what I think is important. At the national level, I get to inform policies and procedures and have a say about what is important and how it should be addressed.
  • Greater opportunities. I learn so much about various committees, work groups and different task force groups (like graduate student preparation or social justice reform) that provide me more opportunities to get involved. I wouldn’t know these opportunities existed if I wasn’t involved in leadership.
  • It’s fun and it feels good. I enjoy hearing what others are doing across the state and the country, what their concerns are, and how we can address them together. We’re a fun group. It’s not all work. After those long days of meetings we go out, we socialize, we have fun. Where else can you make a joke related to your field and have people “get it?”
  • I get to see how governance works. Not every organizational body works the same. They may follow different rules and/or expectations of its constituency. Being involved at the state and federal levels allows me to see how organizations work and which principles one should keep and which they should change or get rid of.
  • Travel. Due to my responsibilities, I get to travel. I had a wonderful time exploring back roads as I headed to our state meeting a few weeks ago, and this weekend, I got to spend time in Bethesda, MD.  My flight was paid for by the organization and I ate, and ate, and ate and foods were different than I get at home. Last year, I got to travel to New Orleans and the year before that, Disney World. In February of 2017, I get to head to San Antonio, TX and when I’m not in meetings, I plan to explore. What a nice balance of work and fun!


People in organizational leadership positions have often been leaders in other areas of their life or held previous positions in their organization. Personally, I felt the need to start somewhere. I can’t learn as much if I don’t get fully and actively involved. What do you want/hope to get out of being an active member of a club, athletic team, interest group, or organization? It doesn’t have to “be in your blood” in order to participate and make a difference. As some of my esteemed colleagues have said, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” So my advice, get to the table, be seen, speak up when needed, advocate, and most of all, meet new people, make connections, and have fun!


Welcome to Fall 2016!

Welcome to Fall 2016!


As the University is beginning to come to life after a long quiet summer, we here in the Department of Psychological Sciences are ready to hear students’ footsteps in our hallway, fascinating discussions emanating from classrooms and offices, and the whirr of activity and learning from the Psych Lab. In addition to looking forward to seeing familiar faces and doing familiar things, we are also pleased to announce some new and exciting changes to our department.


  1. Our name: We have officially changed our department name to the Department of Psychological Science. This new name reflects our discipline’s increasing emphasis on our identification as a science. For example, introductory textbooks are being called “Psychological Science”, (Gazzaniga, M., Heatherton, T., & Halpern, D., 2011), and research has indicated that Psychology is one of the seven Hub Sciences, among Math, Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, Medicine, and the Social Sciences (Boyack, Klavans, & Borner, (2005), Mapping the backbone of science. Scientometrics, 64, 351-374). Finally, other colleges and universities have begun to make this change and we want to be current with practices in our field.


  1. Our new faculty member: We are so pleased to introduce Dr. Greg Engel—the newest member of our department. Dr. Engel studies the neurobiology and genetics of addiction using animal models, specifically fruit flies. We are delighted to have a neuroscientist join us so that we can increase our offerings in coursework and research opportunities for our students in this important area of Psychological Science. This will be the first time that the Castleton Psychology Department has had an active animal lab in 50 years. We will now be able to train our students in lab science techniques and practices, and have them produce basic science research in genetics and neuroscience. We believe this addition to our Department, along with Dr. Blossom’s research and expertise in Psycholinguistics and Cognition, and Dr. Newell’s expertise in Psychological Measurement, is an important step for us toward the kind of modern Psychological Science Department that we are seeking to become.


  1. Our Graduate Program: After years of planning and Dr. Newell’s hard work, we are absolutely thrilled to launch our Master of Arts and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in School Psychology. This is the first program in school psychology in the state of Vermont and we are proud to bring training opportunities in this growing field to our state. The graduate program is a residential three-year program that leads to eligibility for licensure and national certification in School Psychology, a field that is currently the #2 ranked job in social services by U.S. News and World Report. Our first cohort of students will begin their rigorous and exciting training this week! We are looking forward to integrating our graduate students with our already close family of learners and community leaders here in the department.


2016-2017 promises to be a great year!

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