History of ASPS

History of ASPS

      One Night on Bourbon Street…

      One sultry April night in 1983, after a day of professional meetings, I was strolling through the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans with my psychology buddy Randy Smith.  Music-Cajun, country, rock, and especially jazz, converged from the open-air bars and clubs as we slowly made the requisite tour of Bourbon Street, from Canal Street down to somewhere near St. Peter’s and back again.  The smell of seafood, po’boys, and Dixie beer wafted on the warm midnight breeze off the Mississippi; barkers swung doors open, affording brief glimpses of sad young strippers, and street people danced, sang, and performed magic in the street, or played instruments in dark storefronts, instrument cases open in front of them to receive their donations.

      We’d earned this break, Randy and I, having meetings since 8 a.m. or so: still, we were talking psychology, rather than Dixieland jazz or fine food.  It was a student research that had us going.  I was on my soapbox, arguing about the superb research that students were conducting, studies that went unrecognized beyond the Hendrix campus, studies that had an Andy Warholish 15 minutes of fame and were never heard from again.  Randy had similar frustrations to spill; maybe it was the French Quarter atmosphere, or maybe we felt thwarted because we had poured so much of ourselves into undergraduate experimentation, only to see it treated with indifference or snobbish disregard.

      We made a commitment to each other on that evening that during the next school year we would jointly put together a meeting for our undergraduate researchers.  We would invite undergraduates and their faculty from all over the state, but – dammit! – even if no else came, Ouachita and Hendrix would be there for the first undergraduate research symposium ever held in the state of Arkansas.  That commitment made more than a decade ago profoundly influenced the direction of undergraduate education in psychology in our state… good undergraduate research deserves an audience beyond the walls of a college classroom.

Ralph J. McKenna, PhD

From The Undergraduate’s Research Handbook; Creative Experimentation in Social Psychology