History of the Program

50th anniversary of social psychology banner

The Social Psychology Program celebrates its 50th year

at the University of Nevada, Reno!

Program founders

In 1955, Carl W. Backman (Ph.D., Indiana University, 1954) and Paul F. Secord (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1950) arrived at UNR 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 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 19 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 Community Health Sciences and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Similar to all interdisciplinary graduate programs at the University of Nevada, Reno that involve faculty from more than one college, the program is an autonomous unit, located independently of its participating departments. The program also includes adjunct faculty members who work in research positions at universities and organizations, such as the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technology, and the Nevada Center for Surveys, Evaluation and Statistics.

The program has awarded over 130 degrees since its inception.

Photos of our program alumni, faculty and current students

Dr. Carl Backmanand Dr. Jerry Ginsburg
Three female and one male alumni of Social Psychology
Three female Social Psych students
Group of five Social Psychology students
Group of three Social Psych students
Three male Social Psych alumni
Four female Social Psych students
Social Psych students
Group of five Social Psych students
Group of seven social psychology students
Nine alumni of Social Psychology Program
Group of nine Social Psych students
Social Psychology Program
large group of Social Psychology students
Group Social Psychology students and faculty
Group of five Social Psych students

Click thumbnail to open a larger image in new tab.

Additional Information