Vlad P. Glaveanu is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology at Webster University Geneva, Switzerland. He’s also director of the Webster Center for Creativity and Innovation (WCCI). His work focuses on creativity, imagination, culture, collaboration, and societal challenges. We caught up with Vlad about what goes on in the psych department.
What kind of activities and research is the psych department involved in? What’s the goal for the department?
We have a few programs; the BA, the BS, the minor in general psychology, and the counseling masters that adds a level of professionalism so that students can actually become a counselor and practitioner once they finish.
We have a large variety of research topics in the department. Many of them relate to mental health and wellbeing, trauma, and growing out of trauma. So that’s a lot of the clinical counseling part. Then we have social psychology topics. We’re looking at online spaces, politics, IR, and creativity and innovation, which are of special interest because of the center we have. So we’re looking at how creative innovation transforms society. Then we have a lot of other specific topics, like family dynamics and even some related to spirituality. We have worked on it all.
What opportunities does Webster provide students studying psychology?
Well, first and foremost, to graduate with a solid foundation in psychology. So you’ll emerge with either the BA or the BS in psychology and then you can specialize further. It’s a very good academic foundation. You know, we offer courses in all major areas of psychology.
We have all of these events and all of these experts coming in. So we try to keep people up to date and then you have possibilities to do something practical. So if you are an undergrad and you want to go for an internship Webster helps students find them. Then as a counseling student you have 700 hours of internship and practice that you have to do. There is a lot of theory and hands-on applied experience and I think the big value is that being a small tight-knit community, we know each other and we have a better chance of understanding what people actually are interested in and responding to that.
There are many jobs that require a masters, if you want to work in human resources or something around management or education. If you want to work in the clinical side that’s where we have the masters that helps people become counselors. It’s not psychotherapy, it’s a different thing, counseling is a bit of a more inclusive profession.
How can students contribute and participate within the department?
So first is the psychology club. I’m hoping it’s coming back because it is a student led initiative. So we, the professors, are trying to support it, but not to officially run it. I’ve always offered that I can help with the academic part, meaning whatever speaker students would want, we can try to find a way. Whatever topic you want to approach, we can try to do that.
Second one is we have many events that require help. We have departmental meetings and WCCI meetings that students can volunteer at to gain the practical experience of organizing events and contact with the speakers.
Finally, I would love to see students engage in hot topics of debate. I’d like proposals from students where they mention intriguing topics that they care about, like conspiracy theories, anti-vax, nationalism and what it means, depression and anxiety. There’s so many things that psychologists could address and it would be nice to have student feedback.
What is the psychology and society group?
When I joined three years ago, I wanted to understand what kind of research we do, and what we do is we meet every couple of months and we each present our research as members of the staff. So that it’s a way of keeping us up to date with the latest in the discipline. It’s open to many people; faculty, students, undergraduate, and postgraduate, minors in psych. Anyone interested but you have to be associated with psych because it’s a bit more specialized.
Is there anything that you’d like for prospective students to know?
For prospective students, I think one of the biggest questions is what is the difference between the BA and the BS. Content wise it’s more or less the same degree but the BS adds more on methodology, research, and on the hard science kind of components like genetics or biology. So you would definitely become a psychologist with both but you would be a more experienced researcher if you do a BS, which is a very good skill to have. For students who want to continue with the masters a BS is the best route. We also have the option of a BA with an emphasis in mental health. Students interested may need to check the Webster St. Louis psychology catalogue and talk to us about tailoring a program.
What is the WCCI?
Oh, it’s fabulous! This is a center that’s not within psychology, but it includes everyone on campus because it’s an inter-departmental center. So we recognize creativity, innovation and the things everyone is interested in from business, to the world of politics and IR, to media and photography, and obviously psychology. So this became an emerging theme and that’s why we have a center around it and we organize so many events.
We have several different series. One of them is Meet the Artist, which is run by Julianna Bark, in collaboration with the center and within the department. So that’s one way of meeting actual creators. We also have workshops, seminars, an expressive arts lab, the Spotlight Seminar (with Francesco Arese Visconti), and a series of lectures with a speaker every couple of months.
We also have a Creativity Week every year in June, with a whole week of lectures, workshops, and even artistic exhibitions. People come from all over the world, so we’re really into experimenting with all sorts of things.
How do you foster creativity and innovation in yourself and in students?
What I’m very concerned with is building up climates or environments for creativity. It’s important to think about yourself as a person, but also about the world you live in. Everything we surround ourselves with matters for one’s own creativity, so what I would recommend is to be open to multiple perspectives at all times, even the ones you don’t agree with. Also, be a bit less linear in the way you think. A lot of times people jump from problem to solution. Give yourself that time to just wander around the problem and look at it in different ways. Finally, I would say there is something valuable about flexibility. Don’t make up your mind immediately and talk to other people.