Alex Crowe MSCP ’13 obtained an undergraduate Psychology degree and was hired on as a network administrator. While he liked his job, he discovered he wanted to do something more relevant to his degree and more fulfilling to him, so he decided to pursue more education. Three years after receiving his undergraduate degree, Crowe began looking for a master’s degree program where he could integrate concepts, yet remain in the Milwaukee area. What he found at Alverno was a unique program with unmatched curriculum and outcomes. The diverse MSCP program focused not just on the individual, but the community.

“The education feels more like a partnership. The outcome-based program is a lot more give-and-take with the faculty than a traditional GPA-based program.” Crowe appreciated that the faculty were all licensed, had a PhD or were psychologists or counselors. All adjunct faculty members do relevant community work. The diversity provided him the opportunity to see the possibility of changes that could incur on local, community and global scales.

Crowe also found resources at Alverno who were instrumental in helping him develop his research and complete his thesis. He appreciated the direct contact and that he didn’t have to go through a liaison or a teaching assistant. “Having the one-on-one interaction with the professors and instructors was valuable. There’s a familiarity and comfort level because they are approachable. We were able to have great discussions about how my research could affect policies on various levels.” His thesis project concentrates on researching nursing staffs to analyze their stress, coping and burnout components. He knew nurses could be overworked and overstressed, and he wanted to see how they responded to patients and how it might affect the quality of care. His undertaking targets working with departments and programs to make sure the right people are in place.

Soon Crowe was looking beyond his master’s coursework and found one of his instructors was especially helpful in his application to a doctoral program. “This was a collective experience that guided me through the application process. Having an open-door relationship with faculty was an advantage. Because I have the research background and my thesis was complete, I felt I had a leg up going into the doctoral program and the support I received from the College helped my application.”

Not that Crowe, who completed his MSCP work in August 2013, is stopping any time soon. He is also finishing a master’s degree in Human Relations and Labor Relations at another college and will graduate December 2013. He says that because the Weekend College program at Alverno provided him a flexible time advantage, he could complete the two programs concurrently and work at his own pace.

Crowe will begin his doctoral studies at the Medical College of Wisconsin in January 2014, working toward a degree in Public and Community Health. He plans to publish the thesis work he started at Alverno and, eventually, looks to work in private practice or consulting.

Crowe believes his positive experiences in the MSCP program will run over into his doctoral and professional work. “Alverno offered a collective experience. As a student, I was able to see what my peers were doing and then learn more about different topics and areas. With the tools and resources I learned here, I’ll be able to use them throughout my career.”

About the Program: Flexibility in Designing an Education

When you want a master’s degree program emphasizing health and community involvement in prevention, intervention and treatment of mental health issues, you look to Alverno College. The Master of Science in Community Psychology (MSCP) offers an academic curriculum approved by the State of Wisconsin for those who want to become Licensed Professional Counselors. The program is designed to help professionals tackle challenges and, in the process, make an impact in the community. Alverno does this by offering an innovative approach to teaching and learning.

Sandra Graham, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, first arrived at Alverno College in 1992. In 2011, she was appointed dean of the College’s largest school, which includes Humanities, Arts, Communication & Technology, Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, Mathematics & Technology. The MSCP program was launched around the same time of Graham’s appointment. It wasn’t a coincidence Graham, a psychologist, had experience developing another master’s program for the College – she was part of Mary Diez’s team in developing the Masters of Arts in Education program, which launched in the mid-90s.

Beginning its third year, the MSCP program has already evolved. The major emphasis of the program is to prepare students to become well-rounded, community counselors who have a sound psychology background. “We realized how important it was to involve the students in the community right away and continue with real-life and capstone experiences. The program is flexible so the students have the options to direct their education to meet their needs.”

Like the other master’s programs at Alverno, this one focuses on students meeting key outcomes for being good counselors rather than giving grades for passing tests. “We help the students understand how the real competition they face is with themselves and that they can learn from each other. We stress how a collaborative environment can help them with learning.”

In the program, faculty members guide students to understand how their education at Alverno is similar to what they will do in practice working interactively. In their courses, students learn principles, then practice constructive applications. There is ongoing interaction and real substance in the peer dialogue. “They learn how to identify where the problems areas are and how to help each other develop therapeutic skills. That process alone is so important in therapy. Whether it’s in the classroom or the field, it’s not merely about counseling someone, but having the ability to work well and learn from colleagues.” This lack of competition opens a spirit of helpfulness that matches the varied backgrounds and experiences of the students, which includes counseling, social work and other social agency professions.

Graham notes that while no longer a separate track, the program retains a strong emphasis on research. In fact, one of the required courses focuses on directing students to look at one area of mental health and create a solution to incorporate change. “We want to send professionals into the population who will have a positive impact on mental health professions and the community.” The program is already showing its worth to the community by graduating students who are producing some very exciting community research.