Two Northwestern psychology faculty members earn doctorates

July 10, 2018

Northwestern Oklahoma State University faculty members, Leigh Kirby (left) and Stephanie Widick (right), recently earned their doctorate degrees.

Two Northwestern Oklahoma State University faculty members, Leigh Kirby, instructor and interim chair of the psychology department, and Stephanie Widick, instructor of psychology, recently earned their doctorate degrees.

Kirby earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in counselor education and supervision in December 2017 from Texas A&M University in Commerce, Texas.

Widick earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational psychology in May 2018 from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

Kirby’s dissertation is titled “Utilization of Counselor Education faculty and Doctoral-Level Counselor Education Students for Gatekeeping Purposes in Master’s-Level Counselor Education Programs.” Kirby explained that when becoming a professional counselor there are many checks and balances the individual must meet before gaining a license and working with clients. A student must complete a master’s program, which includes multiple supervisors. Once the student graduates they must also complete a 3,000 hour internship before they can become fully licensed. 

Kirby said she wanted to know who was responsible for the gatekeeping procedures of these students. At this time counselor educators and licensed supervisors monitor a counselor-in- training’s progress, but she believed that a doctoral-level student would also provide good insight on a counselor-in-training’s progress.  Kirby compared counselor educators and doctoral-level students’ fitness/performance evaluations of master’s level counselors-in-training.  

 “My study resulted in no statistical significance, but provided insight on the usefulness of multiple evaluators when determining if a counselor-in-training struggles with impairment,” Kirby said.

Kirby is a Stephen F. Austin State University graduate who earned a Master of Science degree from Texas A&M/Commerce. Prior to joining Northwestern’s psychology faculty in 2012, she served as a community based counselor for Services to at-Risk Youth (STAR) and worked as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) for Lakes Regional Community Center. As Northwestern’s psychology department interim chair, she teaches courses in counseling strategies and techniques, family systems and abnormal psychology. She is the treasurer of the Oklahoma Counseling Association and the secretary/treasurer on the Youth and Family Executive Committee. 

Widick’s dissertation is titled “Relationship of Student Online Readiness to Student Perception of Teaching Presence and Sense of Community in Online Courses.” She explained that the aim of the study was to determine the relationship of student online readiness to student perception of teaching presence and sense of community in fully-online undergraduate courses.  

Widick said online courses are becoming a mainstay in higher education. Online classes offer the college student independence, freedom and attendance options not available in attending a schedule of college courses on campus. These offerings allow the student to feel in control of the course and learning, making online courses more appropriate or an ideal option for some students. Less is known about how individual student differences, mainly the variables associated with online readiness, play a role in student perception of teaching presence and sense of community. 

“Examining the relationship will help students and instructors prepare for and formulate courses to provide the best learning experience possible for all parties,” Widick said.

Widick said she wanted to know if the readiness (preparation, motivation and self-confidence) a student had when entering the course had a relationship to the perception of the course instructor’s psychological presence. She said she also wanted to know if the readiness had a relationship to the community the student felt in the online classroom. If the student entered the class with higher readiness, did they perceive presence and community differently than the student with lower readiness?

Widick is a Northwestern graduate who earned a Master of Counseling Psychology degree from Northwestern as well. Prior to joining Northwestern’s psychology faculty in 2015, she worked in the registration office at Northwestern-Enid. As a Northwestern psychology instructor, she teaches courses in motivation, statistics and research.

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