First is to welcome you to the Department of Psychology. Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. Psychologists describe, explain, predict and control behaviour. Psychology borrows from and contributes to other fields of study. For example, the father of scientific psychology, Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), was a medical doctor who pursued physiology at graduate level. We would, therefore, expect psychology to be influenced by medicine and physiology. For example, we have a branch of psychology called biopsychology that is an interplay of physiology and psychology. On the other hand, one of the branches of Psychology, Organizational Psychology, has contributed a lot to the understanding of Management. Theories of work are actually psychology theories applied to the work situation.
The Department of Psychology in the University of Nairobi was started in Kikuyu Campus, about 22 km from the Main campus, in 1988. It was in the now defunct Faculty of Social Sciences. Initially, it was meant to be a service Department to Education and Nursing. When a new Vice Chancellor, Prof. George Magoha took over the University in 2005, he dissolved the Faculty of Social Sciences based in Kikuyu, in a cost cutting measure, and asked the members to join Faculty of Arts that is based at the Main Campus. Ever since then, the role of the department has expanded a lot. Other than teaching psychology courses to Bachelor of Arts, Education and Nursing students, members of the department teach psychology units to Agricultural Education, Design, Journalism, and Economics students. As at 2019, the department has 19 full time lecturers, and 11 part-time members. The members come from diverse specialties of psychology including social, health, counselling, clinical, forensic, special, environmental and psychometrics. We are proud to have had the first female Professor of psychology in Kenya, Prof. Priscilla Kariuki; the only Professor of Psychology who is Deaf in East and Central Africa, Prof. Michael Ndurumo; and the only environmental Psychologist in Kenya Dr. Sahondra Kiplagat.
The department has programmes at various levels: Diploma, Bachelors, Masters and PhD. We have a diploma in counselling psychology and graduate programmes based at the department. We offer a Master of Psychology degree which has several specialties including Health, Organizational, Social, Forensic, and Community. We also have a Master of Counselling Psychology. Several students are enrolled for PhD by research and are at various stages of completion. Clinical Psychology is offered at the Faculty of Health Sciences under the Department of Psychiatry.
I joined the Department in June 1994. Though I have been an Acting Chair of the Department at various stages, I was appointed the substantive chair on 6th August 2019. I will be the fifth substantive Chair of the Department after Dr. Ernest Shivutse, Dr. Don Balmer, Prof. Priscilla Kariuki and Dr. Luke Odiemo. I thank my predecessors for doing a beautiful job at the department. I hope and pray that I will do so too. In addition, I wish to acknowledge the longest Acting Chair of the Department, Dr. Oketch-Oboth, who did a lot for the Department as Acting Chair for two years, not to mention that he was instrumental to the introduction of a Bachelor of Counselling Psychology.
I often remind members of the Department that psychology is about solving problems and not creating some. It should be fun to study in our department. Some students have already expressed this. I hope, as the team leader, that I will enhance this by encouraging my team to solve problems within their reach.
Finally, I am concerned about future directions in psychology. I am concerned about making psychology more practical in Kenya, which could be achieved by developing high impact programmes that define psychology as a unique, and not as a discipline that is riding on others. I expect this line of thought to define psychology as a unique field that is relevant to society. I am enthusiastic to work with any psychologists that believes in this school of thought!