Faculty Profile: Reinvigorating the Undergraduate Program

Erin Murdoch, Psychology Faculty Member
Erin Murdoch, Psychology Faculty Member

Within her first year at George Mason University, Erin Murdoch has reinvigorated our undergraduate research curriculum and brought new life to the undergraduate professional development course, ‘From College to Career.’

Murdoch was drawn to George Mason based on her passion for undergraduate statistics and research methods, but in the process has fallen in love with the Mason community. “My colleagues have been so welcoming and supportive, and I have truly enjoyed getting to know the students,” she says, “I look forward to coming to work every day.”

Her training as a social psychologist lead her to teach undergraduate Research Methods in Psychology and Statistics in Psychology. Murdoch draws on her current research on self-objectification in women and on strategies for confronting prejudice to showcase how such concepts have real world implications. “Academically, I am always trying to make my courses more applicable to students' lives. Statistics and Research Methods are courses that students often feel negatively about, so it's fun to show them how often these skills can be of practical use.”

To get students more engaged in undergraduate research opportunities, Murdoch piloted a special section of Research Methods that allowed students to conduct a research project from start to finish. This involved conceptualizing the idea, designing the materials, obtaining IRB approval, collecting and analyzing the data, and presenting their results at the Undergraduate Research Symposium - all within one semester! “It was challenging to complete these projects in such a short amount of time,” she admits, “but the students enjoyed the process and gained such valuable skills and knowledge from being able to do their own projects.”

Beyond the research, Murdoch is an integral part of the psychology department’s professional development course, From College to Career. Her goal this semester has been to reinvigorate the course and tailor it to fit the growing demands of the 21st century. Murdoch works with each of her students to ensure they are getting the most out of the course and out of Mason. The constant communication ensures she can modify course content to cover the students’ interests and maximize their knowledge about possible careers and graduate programs."

Murdoch recommends to current students that they stay active in the Mason community and do their best to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on and around campus. “In hindsight, my students wish that they had taken advantage of more volunteer opportunities and that they had made more connections to people on campus,” she notes. “Four years goes by so quickly, and there are so many great opportunities available to Mason students.”

Further, those experiences can lead to positive career growth. “Psychology students develop knowledge and skills that will serve them very well when they enter the workforce,” she adds. “They have in-depth knowledge about human behavior and interpersonal interaction, which will be an advantage for any position where they are working with people. They have developed skills in research, data analysis, and critical thinking. Psychology students tend to be surprised at how many options they have for jobs, even at the undergraduate level.”