At Alliant International University, where he is provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Russ Newman brings two worlds of experience to the table: He’s credentialed as both a clinical psychologist and a lawyer. Besides having served him well for 14 years as executive director for professional practice for the American Psychological Association (APA), that dual knowledge has given Newman, 59, a keen perspective about students’ needs at Alliant, which offers degrees in both psychology and the law.
“We want to make sure that our psychology students have some exposure to what goes on in the law school, because those kinds of skills really intermingle when you get into the real world where everything is mixed," Newman said.
“Professionals have historically been trained as if they practice in these very antiseptic, insular environments. The reality is that they are practicing in a very messy environment," he stressed, where collateral skills are critical.
“I want to see education from the beginning addressing the kinds of needs that are out there in the professional world so that our students are sufficiently trained to deal with them.”
The evolution and increasing complexity of the American health care system, Newman believes, makes it all the more crucial that the psychology professionals of tomorrow know more than just the core skills they acquire in college. “Psychologists more and more have found themselves in management positions in organizations,” he said. As such, it is essential, he says, that these professionals know how to manage and how to lead.
In addition, “Given the development of the recognition of the inner link between the mind and the body, psychologists have really become much more a part of the integrated health-care system,” Newman said. The corporatization of the system has “changed the landscape” of health care, he said, adding “people have to be trained to adapt” to those changes.
Newman was drawn to Alliant by what he calls its “legacy as an innovative way to train psychologists.”
“At Alliant, we’ve tried to do some things with our undergraduate psychology program that actually get some field placement and practical experience for our students," he said. "A number of our graduates are getting some pretty decent jobs out there. We also make sure that they’re getting what they need to do to go to graduate school.”
But there’s work to be done, and Newman articulated some important goals for the Scripps Ranch-based university, which also has campuses in Irvine, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, San Francisco and Mexico City. One is to maximize Alliant’s “interdisciplinary capacity.”
“We’re going to have a small number of professions that in some way link together,” he said. “My goal is to help get those together so the core professional skills are supplemented by collateral skills that will help students be more successful in the profession.
“We also are trying to bring the multicultural together with the international so that not only are we preparing our students to deal with the real world, but with a more global world in which the need to deal with people from all manners and cultures is becoming more important.”