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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Psychology dept. pioneers inspiring approach to research, learning
     Rochester, Mich. – A little more than a year ago, Oakland University introduced new master's and Ph.D. programs in psychology to not only meet growing demand for knowledgeable and skilled professionals in the field, but also to offer students truly unique educational experiences.

     In the short period since that time, the Department of Psychology has already twice demonstrated how its students – not to mention scholars from across academic disciplines and the globe – are diving into that unique experience.

     In a word, the uniquely defining characteristic of OU's approach is diversity.

     Todd Shackelford, a professor specializing in evolutionary psychology and OU's department chair, explained that while the study and practice of psychology already touches significantly on related disciplines including sociology and biology, there is little reason not to explore where additional intellectual intersections might lie.

     As such, students and academicians have been invited to take part in broad-based discussions such as "The Evolution of Violence" and "The Evolution of Sexuality." What has made these discussions groundbreaking is that world-renowned scholars in disciplines ranging from English and anthropology to genetics, law and political science have contributed both novel and intellectually inspiring insights.

     "After these discussions, you have very brilliant and very accomplished people saying, 'There are different ways of asking the questions I've been struggling with,' and you can see that asking the questions in new ways will lead to new ideas and new answers," Shackelford said.

     "This could very well impact the work that many of these scholars are doing, but it will also inspire students to begin learning in truly novel ways."

     An additionally compelling aspect of the department's work in interdisciplinary discussion is a departure from old-world, ivory tower contemplation. Conferences organized thus far have focused on real-world issues with real-world consequences. In fact, these are familiar consequences that frequently appear in newspaper headlines and on pressing legislative and political agendas.

     Exploration into the evolution of violence, for example, focused on what drives criminal activity, terrorism and war. In a similar way, discussion on the evolution of sexuality focused on interpersonal conflict and double standards that are at the root of a number of today's most compelling and challenging social issues.

     Encouraged by positive feedback and growing interest in this academic approach, Shackelford said the Department of Psychology plans to continue hosting interdisciplinary discussions on topics with strong social relevance and that provide students opportunities for practical application of psychological concepts they're learning to master.

     "I would be shocked if the people who've participated in these discussions aren't talking to other students and other colleagues about what they've experienced," he said. "This approach is super rare and a little weird for people who haven't looked at their work in this way before, but I'd say that it's weird in a very good way."

     To learn more about psychology programs at Oakland University, visit

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Oakland University is a doctoral, research-intensive university located in Oakland County, Michigan. The university has 139 bachelor's degree programs and 127 graduate degree and certificate programs. Dedicated to delivering a distinctive undergraduate experience that is complemented by the strength of its graduate offerings and research accomplishments, Oakland University is organized into the College of Arts and Sciences, the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and the Schools of Business Administration, Education and Human Services, Engineering and Computer Science, Health Sciences, Nursing and The Honors College. Visit Oakland University on the Web at