Psychology & Social Work

Psychology & Social Work

The department is Christian community of liberal learning that explores the insights into human nature and activity distinctive to psychology and social work. The department’s core values are free inquiry, diversity, responsible citizenship, and service to God and humanity.

Fast Facts


The psychology department scored at the 99th percentile of all college and university psychology departments administering the MFT exam in 2012.


73 student/faculty research collaborations in psychology took place during the 2011-2012 academic year.


PUC Psychology majors are successful at gaining acceptance into prestigious graduate schools including Yale, UCLA, Purdue, Palo Alto University, the California School of Professional Psychology, Loma Linda University, and Fuller Theological Seminary.


Four students presented research posters at the 2012 annual meeting of the Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors—two students receiving “High Honors”—second best poster in the nation.


Our social work graduates regularly get accepted into the most prestigious Master of Social Work programs in the country (e.g., Columbia University and University of Michigan).


  • Clinical psychology
  • Counseling
  • Teaching
  • Research coordinating
  • Public relations
  • Child welfare
  • Community organization
  • Gerontology
  • Social Work

Erica McCray’s Scholarship Surprise

PG&E had already selected her as one of ten statewide recipients of the $30,000 scholarship, renewable for four years of education.

Erica McCray

When PUC social work major Erica McCray went in to the PG&E office in Napa, Calif., on May 30, she thought she was interviewing for a chance at the company’s Bright Minds Scholarship.  She was in for a surprise—PG&E had already selected her from a pool of 8,000 as one of ten statewide recipients of the $30,000 scholarship, renewable for four years of education.

“When I walked in, there were balloons, cake, and a giant check with my name on it!” says McCray, emotion still ringing in her voice a day after the surprise award ceremony.  “I just started praising the Lord…It blows my mind, and I still can’t stop smiling.”

To McCray, the moment seems to be a turning point after many difficult years.  When her husband abruptly left her six years ago, he took everything but their three children.  McCray suddenly found herself without a partner, a significant income, or even access to what had been their joint bank account.

Despite the sudden, unexpected hardships, McCray never stopped trusting God to sustain her through the most difficult times.  “I had just been walking on faith,” she says.  “I thought that the lessons I had to learn were how to endure, to be longsuffering, and to live with dignity, no matter what.”

Before her divorce, she had worked as a childcare provider and would often go out of her way to help single working mothers gain access to necessary family services like food and health care.  Now on the other side of that equation, she found herself working with social service workers who helped her provide for her own family.  “I discovered that the thing I already loved to do was something I could actually do for a living.”  That discovery in turn led her to the realization that she needed to return to school.

Living temporarily with her parents in American Canyon, Calif., at the southern tip of the Napa Valley, she began seeking out social work training programs that could eventually lead her to a Ph.D.  From her first visit to PUC, she “felt it was the right place.”  Despite the price tag of a private college, she felt it was time to prioritize her education for the sake of her family’s future.  They moved to Angwin and she enrolled in PUC’s social work program, taking out loans to pay for her first year of tuition.

Meanwhile, friends at her home church encouraged her to apply for PG&E’s new Bright Minds Scholarship.  The program awards renewable funding to students who show a desire to lead in their communities, a drive to overcome significant challenges, outstanding academic achievement, and financial need.  Although she seemed to fit all the criteria, she was reluctant to devote hours to filling out the lengthy application, having her hands full already just getting a handle on the return to school.  “I thought, why even bother?  What are the chances?”

But she made the effort anyway.  For months she heard nothing from PG&E and had all but given up hope when she received a call late in May informing her that she was a finalist.  “When I found out there was an interview, I felt a lot better,” she says.  ‘I’ve always been good at connecting with people face to face, and thought my chances were better.”

The night before what she thought would be her interview, she laid out a very simple strategy.  “I wanted to try and show them that I would represent them well, because I try to live my life in a way that represents the Lord,” she says.  “I didn’t know what they would ask me, but I just said, ‘Lord, give me the words to say.’”

It turned out that God had the situation even more under control than she had known.  Walking into the interview room, she discovered her mother, her cousins, representatives from PG&E, and members of PUC’s social work faculty waiting in front of an enormous banner that read “Congratulations Erica!”

The scholarship will provide McCray with a full ride at PUC, eliminating the need to take out any further loans and giving her family a better chance to get ahead financially once she’s done with school and back in the work force.  “God has just been so faithful to me,” she says.  “I am so grateful…Now that this has happened, I keep wondering what else is in store for me.”

His Passion is Serving

Zach Benton

After keeping his head down and working hard through four years of psychology studies at PUC, Zach Benton, Class of 2009, was ready for an opportunity he had missed as a student: a year serving abroad. A friend encouraged him to go to the impoverished Salta province in Argentina, and so he signed up for a six-month stint with ADRA—only to fall in love with the people and the work and remain for three years.

During his time with ADRA, Benton has helped forge a partnership with TOMS Shoes to provide needed footwear to local villagers, and self-sustaining community food programs. His passion is serving as a resource to help people break the crippling cycle of poverty. “[Volunteer service] allows you to use your talents to make a significant impact in places that are in desperate need,” he says. “There are so many intelligent and gifted people in Adventist education institutions throughout the U.S. Even what seem like ordinary skills to us re extremely valuable in helping vulnerable populations around the world.”
Benton’s passion for service led him to be selected as Pacific Union College’s Young Alumnus Award-winner in 2013.

Social Work in Action at the Angwin Food Pantry

Students put theory in to practice

Angwin Food Pantry

Back in 2009, then-senior social work major and president of the Social Work Forum Alisa Jacobo discussed the possibility of starting a weekly food pantry with fellow social work majors and faculty. "I realized we needed to develop some type of sustainable program so that social work majors can learn and serve," she says. "A food pantry was the most practical solution." Professor Monte Butler, the eventual faculty sponsor of the pantry, helped kick-start the project.

The consolidation of the food pantry occurred simultaneously with a food study also conducted by the social work department. The study purposed to discover whether the Angwin community suffered from lack of food. Surveys were administered door-to-door and available in the market, gas station, and laundromat. Almost 600 responses were collected. The conclusion: Yes. Many local families go to bed hungry each week. For Jacobo, who now has her masters in social work and serves on the department’s faculty, the study confirmed what she had already suspected and further pushed efforts for the food pantry.

The pantry now assembles every Thursday evening in the PUC church complex from 6 to 9 p.m. Around 25 families attend each week and are able to pick up various food items depending on their need. Bilingual volunteers are readily available to overcome any language barriers. The PUC Church donates food on a monthly basis and helps sustain the pantry with financial donations.

For students and social work majors in particular, the food pantry offers the opportunity to apply theory to practice. "In my experience, going through classes based on theory, we learn about grant writing, development and policy but haven't necessarily had the opportunity or an avenue to learn or practice outside of our internships," said Jacobo back in 2009. "The food pantry is a structured place where we can learn and ask questions with our professors." Butler agrees. "It is our job to take students beyond knowing about social work to being able to do social work," he says. "Projects like the Angwin Food Pantry give students the opportunity to serve the community while helping them practice some important skills in running, monitoring, and improving a small social welfare program."

PUC Students Research Wins Top Honors

Psychology students are recognized by the Western Psychological Association

Over 30 Pacific Union College psychology students and faculty attended the 93rd Western Psychological Association (WPA) convention in Reno, Nev., April 25-28, to present undergraduate research projects. This year, a PUC group was awarded the top honor in the Psi Chi poster session, which included an accompanying cash prize.

The topics covered humor in political advertisements; learning and memory; racial and ethnic perspectives in politics; and social psychology, among others. All of PUC's projects were accepted into the prestigious Psi Chi poster session this year, an honor reserved for selected projects from students who are members of the international honor society in psychology.

Participation with professional conferences gives students an opportunity to present their research before a wider, professional audience. They also provide students with a chance to attend lectures by prominent psychologists, learn about recent research in the field, network with professionals from throughout the region, and prepare themselves for careers in psychology.

"Going to WPA gives us the experience of presenting our research, gaining more opportunities for the future, and keeping up to date with developments in the field," said Holly Batchelder, a senior psychology major whose group's research on humorous political advertisements in the 2008 election won the Psi Chi poster award.

Faculty and students find the annual trip to the convention to be an integral part of the departmental philosophy of promoting undergraduate research. Aubyn Fulton, a PUC professor of psychology who serves on the Western Psychological Association's Council of Representatives, described the department's "extremely well developed" research program as a "distinguishing characteristic" for the College.

"I believe there is nothing more satisfying than working hard and developing new interests in research and psychology," Batchelder noted. "I am grateful for PUC's research-oriented program and am confident it will lead me into a successful future in psychological research and practice."

The titles of six research posters presented by students this year were, "Effects of Video Games on Immediate and Delayed Memory," "The Consequences of Multitasking for True and False Memory," "The Obama Effect: Race, Gender, and Children's Presidential Selections," "Like A Boss? Asian Americans, Leadership and the Bamboo Ceiling," "Do We Know What It Takes? Expectations, Schemas and Tots," and the "Effect of Humorous Political Advertisements on Candidate Likability."

Founded in 1921, the Western Psychological Association is the professional organization for psychologists in the western region of the United States. Students and faculty from the department of psychology have made the annual trip to present research at the convention since 1990.