For close to 10 years, the Psychology Department at Jacksonville State University wanted to have its master’s program accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Though the idea had always been on the department’s list of things to accomplish, it didn’t become a reality until Dr. Paige McKerchar, now the Psychology Department Head, came to JSU in 2007.
First serving as the department’s graduate coordinator in the summer of 2009, Dr. McKerchar made her main goal to achieve accreditation by ABAI. In December of 2009, Dr. McKerchar and the Psychology Department began working on its self study, the first process of becoming accredited. After a year and a half of hard work, the self study was submitted to ABAI in December of 2010. In May of 2011, site visitors from ABAI came to JSU to observe the department and faculty for themselves. In April of 2012, Dr. McKerchar received word from the chair of the board of ABAI that JSU’s Master of Psychology program was going to be recommended. Since the board only met twice a year, it wasn’t until their next meeting on December 9, 2012 that the final decision was made. ABAI did, in fact, give JSU’s Master’s in Psychology program official accreditation.
“I felt great,” Dr. McKerchar beamed. “It’s been on my to-do list since 2009. It’s been really nice to see the students excited about it.”
Dr. McKerchar explains that she graduated from an accredited program when she completed her doctoral work and she is grateful to have the opportunity to have JSU’s psychology department now accredited.
“Now when we go to our association national convention every year, when they hand out nametags, JSU students will get one that says accredited under their name,” Dr. McKerchar says. “It’s nice to see our students and faculty able to wear those accredited nametags.”
The department has every right to be proud. Only eighteen master’s programs in the entire United States are accredited by ABAI, and JSU is the only university in the state of Alabama among them. There are roughly fifteen students currently in the psychology master’s program at JSU, and Dr. McKerchar is hoping this number grows now that the program is nationally acknowledged.
Though the program is just now being accredited, the department has been operating at the optimal level all along.
“The accreditation doesn’t change anything about what we do,” Dr. McKerchar says. “It just now attracts more attention from students and from the community.”
Executive Director of Planning and Research at JSU, Dr. Alicia Simmons, explains that JSU now has a total of forty-three nationally or specially accredited programs. The university as a whole is also accredited by the Southeastern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
“Accreditation is important because it’s an indicator for the quality of programs,” Dr. Simmons says. “It means that faculty and the program itself have had to measure up to higher standards than programs that are not accredited.”
Dr. Simmons says that in the past, JSU had the most accredited programs among the regional institutions of Alabama. In January of 2010, the Counselor Education program at JSU was accredited by the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and before that, the Communication Department was accredited by the Accrediting Counsel on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
“Becoming accredited is very difficult,” Dr. Simmons says. “It’s a huge accomplishment, and the faculty is to be congratulated.”
Congratulations to Dr. McKerchar and the JSU Psychology Department’s hard work. You’ve earned it!
For more information on this story, contact Jacksonville State University’s Office of Public Relations at 256-782-5636.