VSU Gains Approval for Ph.D Program;
First of Its Kind in Virginia
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recently approved Virginia State University’s (VSU) request to launch the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first Ph.D. program in Health Psychology. The program is slated to begin in Fall 2008 and will be led by Dr. Oliver W. Hill, Jr., chair of VSU’s psychology department.
The venture marks the first-ever Ph.D. program at VSU, although the university has offered the Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision since 2002. VSU currently has a Master of Science Degree in Psychology.
“Health psychology is the fastest growing area in psychology and no one else seems to be offering this type of doctoral program,” Dr. Hill said.
The Ph.D. program will consist of a clinical track that will propel students toward state licensure and a behavioral community health sciences research track. Students in the program will work closely with The Center for Preventive Health Research on Children and Adolescents (CPHR).
In the two-track Ph.D. program, doctoral students will focus on researching the interaction between physical and psychological health and will closely examine health disparities in minority communities. “Doctoral students will attempt to identify the source of those disparities and come up with interventions to help solve those problems,” Dr. Hill said. “We want to help produce practitioners and prepare them to have a positive impact in this field.”
The university plans to enroll eight students in its first class and triple the class size over the next several years. VSU will partner with community agencies and organizations such as the City of Petersburg, the Petersburg Department of Social Services, Southside Community Hospital and Central State Hospital to provide doctoral students with hands-on experience. “We are very excited,” Dr. Hill said. “This is going to have such a positive impact on the university community.”
VSU is hoping to draw research funding for its inaugural Ph.D. program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NIH recently awarded VSU a $4 million biomedical research grant to support an initiative aimed to reduce health disparities. The NSF awarded VSU a three-year, $1 million grant aimed at increasing minorities in the sciences.
“This new Ph.D. program represents Virginia State University’s mission to integrate the highest level of instruction, research and public service in an effort to positively impact our local, national and even global community,” said VSU President Eddie N. Moore, Jr. “We are extremely eager to bring new doctoral students aboard and continue our school’s immense accomplishments.”
The Ph.D program is part of VSU’s 20/20 Vision Plan, a set of long-range goals aimed at placing VSU onto the list of top tier universities nationwide. Last year, U.S. News & World Report named VSU the top public, master’s level HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the country. This past year, VSU awarded doctorates in education to the university’s first doctoral students and graduated the university's first nursing students.