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Department of Psychology

Department History

Psychology Faculty - Back row: Quentin Hollis, Steve Wininger; 3rd row: Rick Grieve, Bill Pfohl, Carl Myers, Carl Myers, Pitt Derryberry, James Prather; 2nd row: Sally Kuhlenschmidt, Tony Paquin, Robin Lovell, Ronda Talley, Jacqueline Pope-Tarrence; Front row: Ginny Pfohl, Qin Zhao, Michelle Hanley, Jenni Redifer, Krisstal Clayton, Lisa Duffin;

Faculty Honors and Awards
Student Honors and Awards

The Early Years from First Courses in 1907 to Establishment of the Department in 1931

          Psychology at WKU had a quite auspicious beginning. The first courses were taught in 1907 by Dr. Andrew J. Kinnaman who received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1902 from Clark University. The president of Clark at that time was Psychologist G. Stanley Hall, instrumental in the founding of the American Psychological Association, and APA's first president. Hall also founded the American Journal of Psychology, the journal in which Kinnaman published his dissertation.1  From 1880 to 1920, Clark was one of the top three institutions in the U.S. for the study of psychology.2  

          Kinnaman retired in December, 1925, and WKU hired Dr. Marion LeRoy Billings. Billings received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Michigan under the direction of Walter B. Pillsbury, an eminent figure in the history of experimental psychology. Billings' academic lineage traces back to Wilhelm Wundt through Edward B. Titchener, who received his Ph.D. under Wundt, and Pillsbury, who received his Ph.D. under Titchener. 

          Billings began laying the groundwork for Psychology to become an independent department in 1929 and the Department was officially formed in 1931, with Billings as head.3  By this time, psychology at WKU had grown from an initial enrollment of 50 students in Kinnaman's 1907 classes to an enrollment of 1,038 in 1931.3  The curriculum comprised 11 courses, not counting Comparative Psychology, Psychology of Music, Psychology of Language and Speech, History of Psychology, Vocational Psychology, and Modern Psychologies, any of which could be offered given sufficient demand.4   In addition to Billings, the Department had one other full-time instructor, Dr. Milton B. Jensen, who obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and one part-time instructor.

          True to WKU's origins as a teacher training school, the first psychology classes under Kinnaman were offered as part of the one-year and four-year courses of study leading to teacher certification. The psychology course for the one-year program was simply listed as Psychology; two terms of Advanced Psychology were required in the four-year program.5  During the period from 1907 through 1930, some psychology classes were probably taught by education faculty as Kinnaman was the only psychology faculty member through 1925, and Billings was the only psychology faculty member from 1926 to 1931. Also, Kinnaman served as dean (a position somewhat comparable to academic vice-president or provost in today's academy) from 1907 to 1922 when he  stepped down to be head of the "Department" of Psychology. Even in 1931, psychology courses were primarily intended to provide a foundation in "laws of human behavior" for future teachers, school administrators, and superintendents.4

         The first graduate degree at WKU was offered in 1931, discontinued from 1936 to 41 and continued since 1941. As late as 1962 graduate education at WKU was completely Teacher Education or School Leadership focused although School Psychometrist training was available. Several of the graduate programs required or recommended Psychology graduate courses but there wasn't a degree in psychology.

        A full graduate degree in Psychology (an M.A. of 30 hours) was first evident in the 1969-70 graduate catalog and provided "methodological and theoretical preparation for students who seek teaching positions at the college level" and "specialized skills for students who wish to pursue careers in industry, government, school or clinical psychology (p. 87)."  This catalog also mentioned an M.A. in Education with a Psychology major or minor.  Ten years later, in the 1979-80 catalog (p. 62), the MA in Psychology offered 3 options: Clinical-School; General-Experimental and General (which offered an Industrial focus). The 1980-81 catalog (p. 60) reveals that the MA in Psychology offered 4 options: Clinical, Industrial-Organizational, School, and General-Experimental.  The Ed.S. in School Psychology first appears in the 1995-97 catalog (p. 68). According to Dr. W. Pfohl, retired faculty, the degree was approved in 1993, too late for that catalog, and the first Ed.S. was awarded in 1993.

         On November 1st, 2013, the department divided into two units, the Department of Psychology in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Psychological Sciences in Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the Industrial/Organizational and Experimental degrees moved to Ogden. The General program was dropped. The School and Clinical graduate programs remained in the Department of Psychology.

         The department’s Doctor of  Psychology (Psy.D.) in Applied Psychology program was approved by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education on November 21, 2014 and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on June 22, 2015. This program has both a School Psychology specialization and a Clinical Psychology Specialization. This is the 4th applied  doctoral program for WKU. In April 2015 the department added a new minor in Clinical and Community Behavioral Health. 

         To learn more about the history of the Psychology Department, including photos and articles visit the university archives and enter Psychology as the search term. If you just want to see the photos choose “photos” from the list of items at the top of the page. If you click on the photo it will open in a viewable size. If you recognize anyone, please give the archives information by using the Feedback link at the top of the viewable photo page.


1 Kinnaman, A.J. (1902). Mental Life of Two Macacus Rhesus Monkeys in Captivity. American Journal of Psychology, 13,  98-148, 173-218.
2 Clark University ranked third, behind Columbia University and Harvard University, in the graduate training of psychologists ranked among the 200 most eminent psychologists of the time in a study published in 1903 by James McKeen Cattell.  [Cattell, J.M. (1903). Statistics of American psychologists. American Journal of Psychology,14, 310- 328.
3 Teachers College Heights, 1931, p. 51.
4 Western State Teachers College Catalog and Announcements 1931-32, pp. 171-174.
5The State Normal Bulletin, 1907, pp. 18-22.




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 Last Modified 11/13/18