The Professional School of Psychology was founded in San Francisco during the late 1970s. It was initiated to bring high-quality graduate education in psychology to the ‘mature learner.’ In those days, it was difficult to find an institution of higher education that understood the complexities of being an older student – a full-time job, a family, bills to pay, and other responsibilities. Most traditional educational institutions required that a student attend day classes during the typical work week, and this was simply not practical for many qualified people who discovered they had both gift and talent to work in the field of psychology. This was particularly the case with the first students at PSP who were providing much-needed services (through an organization called Huckleberry House) to destitute teenagers in San Francisco, California. This founding commitment to provide high quality graduate education in psychology to those serving vital community interests remains a core commitment of PSP.
A Pioneer in Adult Graduate Education
The Professional School of Psychology was one of the first graduate schools to form around a new educational model called “andragogy” (see Four Models of Adult Education). This model challenged many of the traditional assumptions of higher education (the so-called pedagogical model]. PSP students need not drop everything in order to prepare for a major career shift or enhance their current professional skills. PSP was one of the first graduate schools to offer courses during evenings and, in more recent years, during weekends. Another pedagogical assumption was challenged regarding the purpose of a graduate education to fill the “empty mug." From the very first, graduate students entered their program with a mug full of life experiences. They often had extensive, practical knowledge regarding how to work with people facing major life challenges. Although we had ‘twenty-somethings’ in our programs, our average student age during our first two decades of existence was closer to forty-five than twenty-five. We attracted psychology students who were in their seventies as well!
The New Senior Tutorial Model
Since the turn of the 21st Century, the Professional School of Psychology has taken another step forward in the provision of graduate educational programs to mature, accomplished adults. We now offer senior tutorial programs that significantly increase flexibility in the scheduling of courses for individual students and cohort groups. It also offers a model of education (appreciative) that acknowledges and builds on the wisdom and experience which our students already possess. We begin with the assumption not only that the student’s mug is full, but also that the student has many other mugs of wisdom and experience that are full (even overflowing) that can be even more fully engaged in the student’s areas of greatest passion and commitment. We find that the most important book for our students to read is their own book (based on extensive interviews with our students) and that our role as senior tutor is to serve as learning coach rather than instructor, and as articulate appreciator rather than as primary source of knowledge. Once again, PSP is at the forefront of graduate psychology education for adult professionals.