Hands-On Learning in Psychological Sciences


Psychological Sciences students can take their education beyond the classroom for rewarding, hands-on experiences that add a real-world dimension to their studies.

To learn more about internship opportunities, contact The Center for Career and Professional Development.

Students in HawaiiStudying in Hawaii

Since 2018, students have joined psychological sciences professor Ayesha Shaikh and sociology professor Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez in a course that travels to Hawaii to combine psychology, sociology to explore historical and cultural trauma — along with cultural resilience — in native Hawaiians.

This May term, following two weeks of intensive learning, 15 students traveled to O‘ahu to learn about the colonization of Indigenous populations and how Hawaiians heal from the negative repercussions. Students visited sites like the Polynesian Cultural Center, Bishop Museum, ʻIolani Palace, and Kaimana Beach.

“It's a great opportunity for students where they still feel like they're getting to experience a different culture without the need for international travel,” Shaikh said.

Read more about the course "Ohana in the USA."

Erika NgoMaking a Difference in the Community

Erika Ngo spent a summer interning at the Center for Asian Americans United for Self-Empowerment (CAUSE).

Erika was one of only 15 students throughout the country who were selected to be a part of the CAUSE Leadership Academy. Her internship cohort included students from schools such as Amherst College, Duke University, Yale University, and others.

The Leadership Academy was founded to create a pipeline of leadership for the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. 

Throughout the program, the interns had the opportunity to meet with APA leaders and discuss the issues that were important to them.

“Growing up, this lack of representation in both the media and education definitely contributed to the confusion I had about my identity as an Asian American. Early in the Leadership Academy, I had a discussion with one of the CAUSE staff members about how important it is to introduce more diverse history early on and from the actual perspective of these minority groups,” Erika said.

A dog looks upWorking with Animals

Sydney Kanne studied how dogs can be trained to provide therapy through compassion and comfort, and she loved every moment of it.

Students in the Psychology of Learning class, led by Professor Christina Scott, go off campus to observe how the Pet Prescription Team trains dogs to become therapy animals. Students pair up with a pet and its owner to watch, week after week, how the dog becomes a source of comfort and compassion to people in hospitals and nursing homes.

The exercises demonstrate, in a real way, what Sydney and her fellow students learn in the classroom about conditioning. As they observed the dogs’ training sessions, they could see how “natural” stimuli (such as dog treats) can be paired with “unnatural” ones (such as words or hand motions) to condition the mind; in this case, a furry friend’s.

“Having the opportunity to see the things we were learning in class in action was a wonderful opportunity,” Sydney said. She added that the experiences made her studies much more memorable than rote memorization.

At the end of the course, Sydney and another student even spoke at an anniversary event for the program on behalf of Professor Scott, their class, and Whittier College.

“I fell in love with Psychology of Learning and will be studying it further in grad school once I have reached that level,” Sydney said.