Boasting one of the first psychology programs in the nation, Randolph has always been on the cutting edge of psychological research. In order to maintain that reputation and tradition, the College recently revamped the department’s facilities to better meet the needs of its current faculty and students.
The renovation was made possible through a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) along with gifts made in memory of Alexandra Knöppel ’10, a graduate of the program who passed away in April 2016. The fundraising effort to honor Knöppel’s memory was led by Stacy DeLano ’71, her mentor and a family friend. DeLano also intends to establish an endowed fund in Alex’s name through her estate gift.
Holly Tatum, the Mary Sabel Girard Chair in Psychology, said the department is incredibly grateful for the support.
“Alex was an outstanding student,” Tatum said. “She was very dedicated, loved psychology, and we were really sad to learn of her passing. We’re really proud to honor her in this way.”
Two of the most significant improvements to the psychology laboratory include a virtual reality testing room and a children’s research space. Other additions include new chairs, desks, and other furniture in the main psychology lab, two-way mirrors for its observation rooms, locked storage containers for research materials and collected data, new energy-efficient lighting, new carpeting, fresh paint, and HVAC climate control systems. There is also a display shelf filled with antique equipment in homage to the College’s history as one of the first institutions in the nation with a psychology lab.
The new virtual reality testing room will complement ongoing research by psychology professor Blair Gross and her students, and psychology professor Sara Beck and her research on children’s cognitive responses to music.
“I’m excited to have a space that is dedicated to the research we do here and that will make our students and faculty more comfortable,” Tatum said. “The lab hadn’t been renovated since 1993, so it’s a welcome change and something our students will really benefit from. I also think it’s important that we now have facilities that match our faculty’s research needs.”