History of the Department

Psychology is one of founding disciplines at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Reflecting the original mission of the campus, our early faculty, who included M. Brewster Smith, Ted Sarbin, Bill Domhoff, and Bert Kaplan, emphasized the importance of situating psychological processes in real-world contexts and of developing a socially relevant discipline. This real-world vision is even stronger among our faculty today.

The early faculty comprised two graduate areas, Experimental and Social/Personality Psychology, and began admitting students in 1969. In 1989, a third graduate program in Developmental Psychology brought in eight faculty who studied cognitive, social, and personality development. Concurrently, the Social area began to strengthen its emphasis on issues of social justice. In 1999, the Experimental area changed its name to Cognitive Psychology to better reflect its emphasis on the study of perception, language, and memory. Our first Ph.D. was awarded in 1972, and we quickly grew to awarding 8 Ph.D.s by 1982. Since then, our annual yield of Ph.D.s has remained fairly steady.

In 1995, we consolidated in a new building, Social Sciences 2, and organized the three graduate areas into an integrated program. This cohesive integration was partly achieved by recruiting faculty who built on existing research strengths rather than filling gaps across a broad range of areas. We developed a single Ph.D. Program with a consistent set of requirements. We strengthened the undergraduate program by introducing a pre-calculus requirement and by requiring ladder faculty to teach almost all of the required courses in the major, including our large basic courses in Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, and Statistics. This pedagogical practice is highly unusual in major research universities and on other campuses of the UC system, and helps to account for our department being a center of excellence not only in faculty research but also in teaching and research mentoring.