University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

A History of the University of Vermont (UVM) Department of Psychology

The study and practice of psychology at the University of Vermont has, in its 182year-long history, been marked by evolution, expansion, and innovation. Always true to its roots in scientific inquiry, much of the work that has come from the Department of Psychology focuses on real-world applications that elucidate and improve the human condition. The Department, caries a spirit of unity, collaboration, and commitment to educating undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology.

Burlington-born John Dewey (1859-1952) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UVM in 1879, earned his PhD in Psychology in 1884 from Johns Hopkins University studying under G .Stanley Hall the founder and first president of the American Psychological Association in1892.

Dr. Barry S Anton a graduate of the University of Vermont in 1969, was elected 2015 President of the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Anton joins with Dr. John Dewey who was elected President of the American Psychological Association in 1899. Dr. George Albee, served on the UVM faculty from 1979 to 1991 was also president of the American Psychological Association in 1970.

The first psychology course at UVM was in September and October 1834 through the Department of Philosophy. In 1921, Dr. John T. Metcalf was appointed the first professor of psychology at UVM. As a member of the Department of Philosophy, he administered intelligence tests to all incoming undergraduate students and was involved in the infamous Vermont Eugenics Survey. In 1937, Metcalf was promoted to the rank of Full Professor of Psychology and named the first chairperson of the newly independent Department of Psychology. In 1947, Drs. Heinz Ansbacher and James Chaplin joined the Department; Dr. Chaplin later served as Chair of the Department from 1951 to 1964.

Dr. Donald Forgays (1926-1993) was hired as Chair of the Department of Psychology in 1964. In addition to his duties as department chair, Dr. Forgays led an active research program studying the effects of sensory deprivation. He also taught the introductory psychology course the gateway to the psychology major. As Chair, Dr. Forgays was also tasked with developing two doctoral programs in general/experimental psychology and clinical psychology. The first Ph.D. in psychology at UVM was awarded to Robert Lavalee in 1967; the next year, Patricia Stone became the first female awarded a doctorate in psychology.

The doctoral program in clinical psychology was established in 1969, with Dr. Harold Lautenberg serving as its first director. Six new clinical faculty joined the Department between 1969 and 1972 to implement the doctoral degree program and to develop state wide psychological services and policies. The clinical program was quickly awarded a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Training Grant and the State of Vermont provided yearly stipends for trainees working 20 hours a week at various practicum sites around Vermont. In 1972, the Department established the Behavior Therapy and Psychotherapy Center (BTPC) to offer an on-campus practicum site. The program earned full accreditation by the American Psychological Association in 1973, a status it has maintained ever since. Dr. Rex Forehand a former Director of the clinical program was awarded the Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher Green and Gold Professorship in 2006 and the University Distinguished Professorship in 2009.

Among his many successes was Forgays’ acquisition of funds to renovate the former College of Medicine building to house the UVM Department of Psychology all in one location rather than being scattered in many different nooks and grannies across the campus. Upon completion of renovations in 1969, the building—which the Department still calls home today—was christened John Dewey Hall in homage to the influential Vermont psychologist.

The Department hired five new members in the 1990’s, and after the turn into the new millennium, the Department underwent several faculty/staff and leadership changes, including a new Chair of the Department (Dr. William Falls: 2006) as well as several new directors: Director of Clinical Training (Dr. Forehand: 2003), Director of the BTPC (Dr. Fondacaro: 2006), and Director of the General/Experimental (G/E) Graduate Program (Dr. Mark Bouton: 2004; Dr. John Green: 2011). In 2012, Dr. Mark Bouton was awarded the first Robert B. Lawson Green & Gold Professorship of Psychology, named for the emeritus professor and former Chair of the Department.

Prior to Dr. Falls, (2006-2015), the successive Chairs of the Department include Dr. Metcalf, who led the Department for 14 years; Drs. Chaplin (1951-64); Forgays (1964-73); Lawson (1970-71, & 2002-2006); and Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College (1978-1986) (John Burchard (1973-74); Musty (1974-81 &1982-87); Gordon (1981-82 & 1988-90); Howell (1987-88, 1990-92, & 2000-02), who also served as President of the Faculty Senate (1993-95) and Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1988-90); and Joffe (1992-2000), also President of the Faculty Senate (2005-2007).

The success of the Department is due in no small part to the overwhelming support and dedication of our staff, who together represent more than 152 years of service to the Department (and 185 years to the University at large)..

Dr. Lynne Bond became the first female professor of psychology to earn tenure and to be promoted to Full Professor status; Dr. Bond also served as Dean of the Graduate College (1988-94), Director of the G/E program (2000-04), Director of Undergraduate Programs in Psychology (2005-12), Director of UVM’s Faculty Mentoring Program (2007-12), and uniquely, Interim Chair of the Departments of Anthropology and Art and Art History (2011-12). Today the psychology faculty represents a near-even split between males and females, with a total of 15 women having achieved tenure status over the course of the Department’s history. In 1995, Dr. Sondra Solomon, a graduate of the Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, was the first woman of color hired as a faculty member in the Department,earned tenure in 2006, and held a joint appointment in psychology and psychiatry.

In addition to the growth of the psychology department faculty, the student body also thrived. It is estimated that the Department has awarded well over 6,000 undergraduate degrees, with the number of bachelors of arts degrees having increased from 108 (81 females, 27 males; 98% Caucasian, 2% people of color) to 162 (111 females, 51 males; 91% Caucasian, 7% people of color) between 1990 and 2012. During the 2011-12 academic year, the Department boasted a total of 561 undergraduate Psychology majors (157 males, 404 females; 83% Caucasian, 12% people of color, 1% international students). Since 1990, the graduate programs have admitted an average of 12 students per year (4 women per cohort) and a total of 268 students have passed their dissertation defenses (average of 11 defenses per year). Over time, the Department of Psychology has granted a total of 187 master’s degrees and 456 doctoral degrees.

On Saturday, December 15, 2001 the second floor of John Dewey Hall was covered in two feet of water. A water purification system that had been incorrectly installed on the fourth floor leaked 16,000 gallons of water throughout the building overnight, causing $470,000 in damage. Although described as a “horrendous” experience that "threw off" the Department for three years, the incident demonstrated the resiliency of the Department and the unity of the faculty, staff and students as we all worked together despite the scattering of the department in nooks and grannies across the university campus as in the early years prior to the Department moving into John Dewey Hall.

The future of the Department looks to be highly collaborative, with funding and space ongoing challenges. The Department hopes to achieve more tenured faculty, increase collaboration between the clinical and general/experimental programs and across departments within the University system, and strike a balance between teaching, research, clinical practice, and service.

Robert B. Lawson, February, 02, 2016

Last modified August 10 2016 11:28 AM