Psychology graduates first doctoral students

Psychology graduates first doctoral students
Michael Pham and Yael Sela are the first two students to complete Oakland University's Department of Psychology doctoral program.

Oakland University’s very first class of doctoral Psychology students is graduating this semester in a program that continues to grow.


Yael Sela and Michael Pham are the two Psychology graduate students who will be receiving Ph.Ds. during spring commencement.

Sela and Pham are two of the first four Ph.D. students admitted to the Department of Psychology doctoral program in the fall of 2012. Now, said Department Chair and Distinguished Professor Todd Shackelford, there are 14 doctoral students and 40 master’s level students in the program.


“To graduate the first Ph.D. students in Psychology at Oakland University is an important moment in time for the Department of Psychology, for the College of Arts and Sciences, and for Oakland University,” said Shackelford.


Who’s who

Sela and Pham study in the Evolutionary Psychology Lab, under Shackelford's direction and supervision. Both have published over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and have presented at numerous national and international professional conferences.


Sela, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University-San Marcos, said she decided four years ago on Oakland University for a graduate program in order to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Shackelford. Her primary topic of research is mate retention, or the strategies that men and women use to retain a long-term mate. She also studies sexual behaviors and religion.


Pham studies sexual conflict between men and women, physical violence between men, and mate preferences. Pham received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California-Berkeley. His dissertation investigated oral sex from an evolutionary perspective.


Widespread support equals success

Shackelford said there were challenges developing and implementing the graduate programs, but that this was to be expected when founding graduate programs in a department that was previously focused exclusively on undergraduate education.


Shackelford joined Oakland University in 2010 as Department Chair and was charged with building graduate programs.


Everyone involved in building the program has been up to the challenge, said Shackelford. “We’re all on a steep learning curve, but administration and faculty have been remarkably supportive, with the goal of providing a graduate education of excellence and distinction.”


There are 16 full-time faculty members in the Department of Psychology, with 50 graduate students and 1,300 undergraduate majors. For more information about the master’s and doctoral programs in Oakland University’s Psychology department, visit