This fall marked the completion of a yearlong renovation and expansion of the Weston A. Bousfield Psychology Building, a project that gave the building a new roof; improvements to the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and sprinkler systems; and 30,000 square feet of new office, laboratory, and common space.
These enhancements are already helping the Department of Psychology augment its undergraduate and graduate curricula by providing more opportunities for hands-on research and learning in spaces that promote a scholarly student culture around the study of psychology.
Expansion of the Bousfield Psychology Building comes at a crucial time for the growing psychology department, which in the past ten years has granted more bachelor’s degrees than any other program of study at UConn.
“Every year we seem to graduate more students than ever. Last year it was 450 undergraduates and 32 Ph.D. students, which is the largest across the University,” says James Green, professor and head of the Department of Psychology. “Additionally, we have hired ten new faculty members in the past two years.”
Green expects that the department will continue to grow thanks to funding and resources from Next Generation Connecticut, and says that the new space is vital to ensuring that UConn provides current and future students with an excellent foundational education in psychology.
A place for students
Constructed in 1974 as a graduate and faculty research facility, the Department of Psychology had outgrown its original home in recent decades.
In the late 1990s, former department head Ronald Growney first proposed an expansion of the Bousfield Psychology Building – named for Weston A. Bousfield, a founding faculty member of the Department of Psychology. Growney specifically noted that the building lacked common areas that could help establish a scholarly student culture among psychology majors.
“We had a wonderful building, but we didn’t have the space that promoted undergraduate engagement with the rest of the department,” says Green.
The Bousfield Annex now features a two-story atrium lined with tables and electronic monitors that encourage students to linger between classes. Named for longtime UConn professor and former Psychology Department Head Charles A. “Skip” Lowe, the atrium is already being put to good use, and on any weekday visitors can find the common space occupied by students studying or working on group projects.
“I see students work in the atrium all day. It’s been very gratifying to see them taking advantage of the space straight away,” says Heather Bortfeld, associate professor of psychology.
The ground floor also houses several state-of-the-art seminar rooms with flexible wall space, which department members use for formal gatherings, small workshops, visiting lectures, poster sessions, and thesis defenses.
“All of these events, and others like them, build collaborative networks and collegial relationships among the nearly 50 faculty and more than 100 graduate students that comprise the department,” says Marianne Barton, associate clinical professor of psychology.
Much of Bousfield Annex comprises custom-built, state-of-the-art laboratory space in which students can engage in research and hands-on learning.
For example, there are two brand new wet laboratories housed in the basement, where Green says students can “get their hands dirty” in course work in physiological psychology and animal learning and behavior. Additionally, the third floor houses 12 shared research rooms that will be used by the more than 300 undergraduates who enroll each semester in upper-division individualized research courses with faculty.
Bortfeld, who studies cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology, is one of many faculty members who enroll undergraduate students in research courses based in faculty labs. Her new laboratory consists of a data processing room with two large, independent sound booths which she uses to collect neurophysiological data from infants and young children.Psychological Services Clinic’s new child waiting room (Juanita Austin ’14)
Bortfeld says that the design of her new lab space, which borders that of Professor Letitia Naigles, “increases my undergraduate research assistants’ exposure to multiple research projects” and to the collaborative process that she says is the basis for good science.
Also housed on the second floor is the department’s Psychological Services Clinic, a mental health clinic that provides low-cost psychological assessments of children and adult clients from UConn and surrounding community.
The new clinic includes nine treatment and evaluation rooms; staff offices; a large, soundproofed observation room with state-of-the-art video equipment; and a new waiting room for clients. Barton says that the facility was specifically designed to train 36 Ph.D. students annually in psychotherapy, psychological assessment, and clinical supervision.
“In every possible way, our new space contributes to a sense of professionalism,” says Barton, who is director of the Psychological Services Clinic and director of clinical training for the Department of Psychology.
The annex also incorporates a multipurpose data analysis room, renovated staff offices, and enough lab space to house the department’s 46 tenure-track faculty members on the Storrs campus in one contiguous space. Until the renovation, psychology faculty offices and laboratories were spread throughout several academic buildings and temporary structures on campus.
“We are very fortunate to be able to consolidate our activities into this modern space,” says Green. “All of these new developments help our students feel more connected to faculty and staff, and they help us create an identity that wasn’t really possible before.”