Professor Gregory Koop works with students in an undergraduate psychology class at Eastern Mennonite University. A new accelerated program allows high-achieving students to earn both a BA in psychology and an MA in counseling in five years. The first two students in the program begin graduate coursework this fall. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

High-achieving psych majors can now earn BA and MA in Counseling in five years

A new accelerated program at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) will allow high-achieving students to earn both a BA in psychology and an MA in counseling in five years. The first two students in the program begin graduate coursework this fall.

“The eligibility requirements are rigorous, so numbers moving into the MA program will be small,” says Judy Mullet, professor of psychology. “However, for those highly motivated, mature students who know they want to be counselors, this path can expedite their education.”

Professor Judy Mullet (at right) helped formulate the accelerated BS-MA in Counseling program.

In the accelerated track, undergraduate coursework is compacted into the first three years, and students then begin the 60-credit graduate program in their fourth year.

“This program is an important way to bridge psychology and counseling,” says Professor Teresa Haase, who directs the MA in Counseling program. “In the past, students from the undergraduate psychology program have been exceptional and well prepared for graduate study. We deeply appreciate the collaboration.”

Rigorous admission requirements

The impetus behind the new program came in part from recent psychology graduate Rachel Bowman, Mullet says. Like many students, Bowman came to EMU with some college credit already in hand and had fulfilled academic requirements to complete her undergraduate degree by her junior year. Mullet worked with  psychology faculty, Haase and Professor Gloria Rhodes—who leads EMU’s other accelerated BA-MA program in conflict transformation—on program requirements.

Students must have a minimum high school GPA of 3.6 (on a 4.0 scale), maintain a 3.6 GPA in the first semester of classes at EMU, receive the recommendation of a psychology advisor by the end of their first year and successfully achieve acceptance into the psychology major by the end of their second year. Students formally apply to the MA in Counseling program during their third year.

“Admission isn’t guaranteed for accelerated students, who have to go through the same process as any applicant,” Haase says. “The interview process is rigorous, and the application process competitive, so we are not in a position to hold spots. Academic performance is important, but of equal importance is emotional maturity, readiness and fit for the profession.”

The need is apparent: A survey of psychology program alumni who had graduated in the past five years found that 56 percent of respondents had entered a graduate counseling program. Accelerated programs are also a growing trend in higher education, as more students pursue a master’s degree.

Two students enrolled already

For psychology students Bethany Chupp and Mackenzie Lapp, entering their fourth year at EMU, the timing worked out perfectly.

“One of my good friends, Rachel Bowman, was consulting on how to make this work,” Chupp says. “She was too far in to fit it in, but once it got passed, she said, ‘You should look into this.’ It’s really convenient that I was in the year that was able to maneuver to fit and do it right away.”

Chupp, a Yoder Scholar from Canby, Oregon, and winner of the 2016 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest, was drawn to EMU by its Honors Program. She entered EMU as a first-year student with the equivalent of two semesters of college credit. Chupp completed her cross-cultural program as a sophomore, which allowed her to tailor her third-year classes to meet the accelerated schedule.

“I don’t think I would have done a master’s directly after my undergraduate without this program, especially coming so far from home,” Chupp says. “Being able to keep the same friendships and mentors and have that support system seems like a huge benefit.”

Chupp presented her senior project, “Adoption as Trauma: Viewing Adoption Through a Restorative Lens,” at the Virginia Association for Psychological Science annual conference this past April. She says she hopes to focus her career on children who experience developmental trauma.

As a groundbreaker in the accelerated MA program, she’s well on her way.

“It’s exciting to think about going to my five-year high school reunion with a master’s degree,” Chupp says. “That feels like an accomplishment!”