Dr. Max McFarland
chair and professor, Department of Counseling & School Psychology, 308.865.8318

The University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Counseling and School Psychology this week officially became the first in the world to earn international accreditation from the International School Psychology Association (ISPA).

The official presentation of the Certificate of International Accreditation took place on the UNK campus with UNK faculty, staff, students and administrators linked to representatives of the accrediting organization and university administration via video conferencing. Graduate students in the program presented UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen with the certificate of accreditation on behalf of ISPA.

In accepting the certificate, Chancellor Kristensen said: “Today is an historic day. This certificate is about doing what we do best–making students better, and having students present the certificate speaks volumes.”

Dr. Peter Farrell of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom led the accreditation team. In the current ISPA newsletter, he wrote: “The accreditation team was most impressed with the overall quality of the program and had no hesitation in granting full accreditation. UNK should be congratulated for offering an excellent program that provides exemplary training to its students who, without exception, go on to become outstanding school psychologists, serving the needs of children, schools and communities throughout Nebraska and elsewhere. This was the first such accreditation that ISPA has completed and marks the culmination of many years of labor by many of our members.”

The accreditation process began in August of 2010. Last November, the department submitted an application, and in March of 2011, selected members of the accreditation team were on the UNK campus for the review. Members of the accreditation team included Professor Farrell; Dr. Peter Whelley, Plymouth State College, Plymouth, N.H.; Dr. Mariekie Van Dam, University of Utrecht, Netherlands; and Professor Paul Bartolo, University of Malta. Members of the team met with university administration, faculty, students, employers, the Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska School Psychology Association.

In comments made during the certificate presentation, Dr. Bill Pfohl, immediate past president of ISPA, described the UNK program as “bold, progressive and pioneering” and said that “UNK not only met but exceeded all of the standards.”

Of the 500 ISPA members world-wide, Dr. Pfohl said that 50 percent were from the United States, 25 percent from Europe and the remaining 25 percent are from locations around the world. At the last ISPA conference, more than 40 different countries were represented.

The Department of Counseling and School Psychology has been actively internationalizing the UNK program for more than a decade.  UNK and Black Hills State University in South Dakota have had a partnership with the Vytautas Magnus University Lithuania. Through the partnership, faculty on the campuses collaborate on research, publish internationally, and students and faculty take part in international exchange opportunities.

As a result of the collaboration, the “International Journal of Psychology: A Biophysiosocio Approach” was established. Five reviewers from around the world review the journal submissions for the journal. Dr. Max McFarland, former chair of the UNK Department of Counseling and School Psychology, and Dr. Teara Archwamety, also a professor in the UNK department, serve as editor-in-chief and associate editor, respectively. The two each share the editorial positions with another editor-in-chief and associate editor from other campuses.

In addition to the journal, there have been eight online, real-time research symposiums during which students and faculty from five different universities have presented their original research.

The goal has been to encourage international research, and as a result, UNK students and faculty have published 33 articles and abstracts in refereed publications, and presented at three international and five national conferences.

Dr. McFarland presided over the certificate presentation and noted that planning was underway for the ninth international symposium for the coming spring. In the past, symposium participants have included representatives not only from Lithuania, but also from South Korea, Thailand and Poland.

The UNK department holds numerous other accreditations including that of the National Association of School Psychology.