When Argosy University student Kristin Witcher found out that her school and the Doctor of Psychology program was shutting down during the middle of the term, she was at a loss for words.
“It was really tough,” Witcher said. “It wasn’t just my school, it was like my family was dissolving some how. It was really very sad.”
Argosy University locations across the nation officially shut down on March 8 this year. The Honolulu branch’s closure left 800 graduate and undergraduate students without a home, according to a report by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
However, after a three-week transition process, Chaminade University was able to obtain Argosy’s Doctor of Psychology or PsyD program and to continue to teach its former students.
Witcher, who is 28 and recently gave birth in January, said that if Chaminade did not acquire the program, she would have needed to either settle for a license of mental health at the master’s level or move to the Chicago School of Professional Psychology to finish her PsyD program instead.
“It just meant that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things all the things I wanted to be a doctor for, and that was a tough realization,” said Witcher, who is currently doing her practicum at the LD-ADHD Center of Hawaii in Pearl City.
If she had decided to finish her PsyD program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, she would have to relocate to the mainland using her own money.
“They [CSPP] were offering relocation scholarships, but only if you were in your first or second year,” Witcher said. “I was in my third year, so it just wasn’t a real option.”
Now officially a Silversword, Witcher said that the move to Chaminade has been good.
“Everyone has been really nice and welcoming,” Witcher said. “If I’m lost, someone is happy to show me the many staircases I need to climb to get to where I’m going. It’s really nice to have a big library and a nice big campus. … It’s a school that I can feel excited about.”
Dale Fryxell, Dean of the School of Education and Behavioral science, said that bringing the PsyD program to Chaminade has been a huge feat.
“It really happened out of the blue, and I think it’s a great thing for Chaminade and for Hawaii,” Fryxell said.
According to Fryxell, the PsyD program is the only program of its kind in Hawaii that prepares graduates for psychotherapy and psychological testing. The program plays a pivotal role in the state, as it produces the largest group of psychologists. Currently, the official name of the program is The Hawaii School of Professional Psychology at Chaminade University.
“It really is a program that the state needs to have, and we were fortunate enough to bring them on board,” Fryxell said.
Chaminade has brought on the entire PsyD program to its campus, with close to 100 students and faculty members now enrolled and working at the university. The former Argosy faculty members now have offices and classrooms spread across campus, with the program director situated in Kieffer Hall.
Associate Professor with the PsyD program Lianne Philhower said that the transition to a new school has been amazing for her and her colleagues.
“I think that we as a group we decided that this was the best home,” Philhower said. “When we got here, we were just in gratitude because everyone was so kind to us and appreciative, and they showed us such welcome and hospitality.”
Prior to coming to Chaminade, Philhower had taught at Argosy University since 2005. According to her, she was not on the island when the shutdown occurred.
“It came as a shock – we weren’t prepared,” said Philhower, who was notified of the closure via text. “We all thought that we would at least have the term to complete.”
Director of the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology Sean Scanlan also agrees that the transition has been easy.
“It’s excellent [now that we’re here.] We were in a bad place and basically left without a home, so we’re very fortunate to be here,” Scanlan said. “Chaminade has been accommodating way beyond I have ever expected.”
Accreditation and Pricing
Philhower said that she and the other faculty members got together and looked for ways to continue to teach their students and keep their accreditation.
“The number one priority is the students,” Philhower said. “What we know they want is the [American Psychological Association] accreditation, and a lot of lives were depending on that. Most of us have gone through several APA accreditations, and we know how difficult it is to get that, years in preparation. With that in mind, we all decided to stick together and look for the best home or opportunity to be able to keep that priority in place.”
Currently, the American Psychological Association has allowed Chaminade to “teach-out” the Argosy students in the PsyD program.
According to Fryxell, Chaminade is working with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the APA to have an accredited PsyD program at the university. Fryxell also explained that Chaminade can have a PsyD program that is not accredited by the APA, but it is better to have that accreditation.
“If we don’t get it, we’ll just work on getting it,” Fryxell said. “The PsyD program [at Argosy University] has been accredited for 20 years, and we brought the program in whole, so it should be a pretty smooth transition.”
According to Scanlan, Chaminade will receive notification of the final status of the accreditation next week.
In addition to trying to keep the APA accreditation, Scanlan said that students also will still pay the same amount they did at Argosy. The price of one credit is $1,197 in PsyD, which is a five-year program where students have to complete 98 credits.