Program founders

In 1955, Carl W. Backman (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1954) and Paul F. Secord (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1950) arrived at The University of Nevada, Reno and joined the then "Department of Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology." Backman, a sociologist, and Secord, a psychologist, collaborated on many scientific articles and textbooks. In 1962, the first social psychology students were admitted.

With the arrival of Jerry Ginsburg in 1963, construction of the program began and was modeled after the well-known interdisciplinary social psychology program at the University of Michigan and Ginsburg's alma mater. The program was explicitly interdisciplinary from its inception and has continued in this proud tradition to the present day. When a vote by the Board of Regents officially created the program in the spring of 1967, there were already four students ready to graduate.

Over the following decades, much of the work on the ground was carried out by Jerry Ginsburg, serving as the program's director for many years. Paul Secord left the University in 1971 for the University Houston. Carl Backman served in a variety of capacities at the University, including Social Psychology Ph.D. program faculty, Sociology Department Chair, and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He retired in 1996 and passed away in 2008 at the age of 84. Ginsburg retired in 1998 and passed away in 2018 at the age of 86. Secord died in 2017 at the proud age of 100.

Our program today

Since then, the program has had a number of successful directors including Mary Stewart (1998-2001), Marta Elliott (2001-2003), and Colleen Murray (2003-2015). The current director, Markus Kemmelmeier, has been able to build on this strong and proud foundation.

The program is administered by a Ph.D. Committee comprised of 21 core faculty members with backgrounds in social psychology, psychology and sociology from the Departments of Psychology, Sociology, Human Development and Family Studies, Criminal Justice, Management, Communication Studies, the School of Public Health and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Similar to all interdisciplinary graduate programs at the University of Nevada, Reno, the program is an autonomous unit, located independently of its participating departments. The program also includes affiliate faculty members who work in research positions at universities and organizations, such as the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technology and the Nevada Center for Surveys, Evaluation and Statistics.

Today, the Interdisciplinary Social Psychology Ph.D. program at the University is the only truly interdisciplinary social psychology program in existence. The program has awarded nearly 150 degrees since its inception.

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Each year, we honor the contribution and memory of our founders through two annual Social Psychology Founders Awards. The first award is for the best research paper by a student in the Social Psychology Program, and the second supports student research by funding the best research proposal submitted by a student in the program.