Psychology – Innovation Grant

Curriculum Redesign

Faculty Lead: Jessica Caporaso

Many psychology students are experiencing the same difficulties throughout their courses at UNCG. In the classroom and when acting as advisors, faculty have noticed that these students lack important academic skills and are frequently unaware of the required courses they need to graduate. Combined, these issues can cause students to deviate from their original plans at UNCG, costing them significant time and money, or may push them to leave college altogether.  

To address this serious concern, Dr. Jessica Caporaso spent the Spring of 2023 researching and developing a new curriculum to intervene in these areas of difficulty before students experience major struggles. To ensure that all students are aware of important major information, necessary academic skills, and have a solid plan of study, these elements are being added to an existing required course- PSY 122 Careers and College Success in Psychology, a core course for all Psychology majors. PSY 122 was previously a 1-credit course which met once a week but has been expanded beyond its prior focus solely on careers in psychology. The course has been redesigned to function as a standard 3-credit course loosely modeled after MAC foundations courses. The updated version of the course will now have three distinct units: College Orientation and Student Success, Psychology of Learning, and Careers in Psychology.  

These units will be used to teach students important skills for academic success, both within their psychology courses and at UNCG as a whole. During the first unit, an emphasis will be placed on key topics like time management, self-advocacy, major requirements and degree planning, resiliency, and available campus resources. In the second unit, students will learn about the psychological theories and research that have implications for learning and classroom success, combining content knowledge with study skills. The third unit will focus on the previous careers in psychology curriculum and provide students with concrete steps that they can take during their college years to achieve their career goals. Speakers in a diverse set of career paths will be invited to campus to talk to the students in the course, with a focus both on careers that require graduate-level education and those that do not.  

Mental health and self-care will be an important subtopic within this course and there will be three days throughout the course dedicated to mental health curriculum. Many students across UNCG have faced difficulties with their mental health, sometimes in the short term as they adjust to life in college or undergo acute personal struggles, and sometimes it is a long-term issue. Shae Nester, M.A., a UNCG Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student and practicing Masters-level clinician in UNCG’s Psychology Clinic, has been collaborating with Dr. Caporaso to develop the mental health curriculum and will lead instruction for this portion of the course. Ensuring that students are aware of the support available to them and providing them with the basic tools to take care of themselves can help them to feel more prepared for college and lead to resiliency when difficult personal circumstances appear.  

In addition to the direct course content, the redesign of PSY 121 has incorporated ways of establishing community for students. Senior-level psychology students are being recruited to act as peer mentors for the course. The aim of involving peer mentors is to provide additional classroom support, develop role models for incoming students, and create informal spaces of discussion where students can ask peers questions and address concerns. Alongside this, PSY 121 will be integrating the idea of “neighborhood” groups within the classroom. A “neighborhood” is a group of students who are sitting near one another and will be asked throughout the semester to discuss and collaborate in the classroom. By creating these discussion groups, students will be encouraged to get to know more of their peers. Psychology is a very large major with large cohort groups. Consequently, Psychology majors report that it is difficult to meet the other students in their classes and it can make new students feel isolated. Encouraging students to build relationships with one another will provide an additional layer of support and help them to succeed in the courses and adjust to college effectively.   

As a whole, the aim of the new PSY 121 course is to give students the strongest possible foundation to excel as psychology majors and as UNCG students. The skills they learn in this course will allow them to develop essential skills for college success, generate a clear plan of study, and set goals for the career. With the support provided by this course and their newfound knowledge of learning strategies and academic resources, students should be able to graduate on time and be well prepared for life after college. A visible outcome of this course will ideally be a drop in DFW rates for psychology majors and fewer students being denied graduation at the time of application because of incomplete requirements. As psychology is one of the largest majors at UNCG, this should also notably improve retention rates as a whole.  

Want to Learn More?
Visit the Department of Psychology’s website or contact Jessica Caporaso (