Conferences, Research Assistantships, and More: 4 Ways IPFW Psychology Majors Get “Real World” Experience

Posted by IPFW Admissions Team on 6/16/16 7:30 AM

IPFW psychology professor, Dr. Lesa Rae VartanianIf you’ve got psychology on your mind, you’re not alone. IPFW’s College of Arts and Sciences offers a substantial program for psychological studies inside and outside the classroom.

Professor Lesa Rae Vartanian is an associate professor of psychology at IPFW who feels that one of the university’s key differences as a smaller university (compared to larger state institutions) is the amount of “real world” experience—whether you’re getting involved in faculty research or are on-site in the classroom as a teaching assistant (TA)—we can offer to undergraduate students.

“This could have been a distinguishing factor 10 years ago,” Professor Vartanian says, “but today employers expect you to have some experience.”

Graduating with some experience already in your professional arsenal is one of the best goals you can set for your path through higher education. Experience from co-ops, research projects, internships, and more will plump up your résumé and help you land a job once your degree is (finally) in your hand.

Luckily for IPFW’s psychology majors, there are four significant opportunities for experiential growth available to students on their way to the “real world.”


Research assistantships.

While a lot of activities take place on campus, students commonly attend conferences as well, including the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago.

“We take as a department probably somewhere between 12 and maybe up to 30 students each year to that conference. They are co-presenters with us on different pieces of research,” Professor Vartanian says. “They’re getting to go to a major regional research conference and see all the sorts of things they’ve been learning throughout their time as psychology majors and more.”

Not only do students in attendance get to learn from other researchers, but they also gain the ability to acclimatize in the conference environment.


Field experience course in the curriculum.

Similarly to for-credit internship opportunities, students can accumulate field experience by pairing with a community partner (such as a social services agency, Crossroads, Park Center, or Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau). Students often gravitate toward mental health and social services.

Of this vein of student opportunities, Professor Vartanian says, “We have had students who do end up getting job offers as a result of their field placement experience, which is fantastic. One of the realities at this time, and it’s been this way I think for a while, is that it can take 6 to 12 to 18 months to land that first job coming out of your bachelor’s program, so anything that students can do to build that network early on and test their skills in a real world context is going to facilitate their transition.”


Service learning within other courses.

“For some number of years,” Professor Vartanian says in regard to her course Death and Dying, “we had service learning opportunities with hospice providers, so students would basically go along and job shadow as hospice volunteers.”

Similar opportunities—such as one with Erin’s House for Grieving Children—allow psychology students to establish a tolerance for heavy “real world” situations they may face on the job, depending on their field and workplace.

“I think those kinds of opportunities, even when they occur within a particular class for one semester, it’s still something that students can put on a résumé in terms of relevant job experience and be able to talk about in the context of an interview. I think those kinds of things are really necessary anymore.”

In the upcoming year, Professor Vartanian will be teaching a section of child psychology and is hoping to incorporate a service learning project for reading to children, working at Lutheran Children’s Hospital, and interacting with patients.


Undergrad TA opportunities.

For most colleges and universities, TA opportunities are reserved for graduate students. Not unlike a research opportunity, students often think these opportunities are a moot point if a career in teaching isn’t on their horizon. However, being a TA is a great opportunity for all students to learn about leadership, motivation, and to get over public speaking anxiety.

TAs lead a lecture each semester on a topic of their choosing that is related to the course. For example, one TA in the spring 2016 semester lectured on the neurological effects of meditation.

Still mulling over a career in psychology? Start your journey with the campus, itself! Express your interest to someone in the department via email, like the department chair (but don’t forget to chat up faculty and students). 

Schedule a campus visit through the IPFW Admissions site and “stalk your program” online—that is to say, check out what courses are offered and who teaches them. This will help you prepare questions before you even set foot on campus.

Learn more about IPFW’s psychology department and schedule a campus visit today! Don’t forget your College Visit Checklist to accompany you on your trip to IPFW.

Get the free guide: College Visit Checklist

Topics: Going to School at IPFW





Search the Blog