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SAS Clinical Psychology Students Visit St. Petersburg University

SAS students in John Mueller's clinical psychology class listen to Yanina Ledovaya, a psychology department administrator at the St. Petersburg State University, explain the department's history and Ivan Pavlov's work there.

The first port of St. Petersburg provided a few linguistic hurdles for students on the Fall 2013 voyage, but they rose to the challenge of the Cyrillic alphabet and navigated their way through the city’s subway system, along the Nevsky Prospect and to the many churches and museums of Peter the Great’s grand city to discover the wonders St. Petersburg had to offer.

St. Petersburg was also the city where students in many classes participated in the first of several field labs that faculty on the voyage are organizing in each of the ports on the voyage itinerary. Field labs are required, in-country educational trips that are extension of the classes held aboard the MV Explorer.

Students studying in John Mueller’s Clinical Psychology class visited the St. Petersburg State University’s department of psychology and the Sigmund Freud “Dream” Museum as part of their field lab.

At the university, the SAS students met and talked with several Russian undergraduate and graduate psychology students and department leaders. They also visited the research rooms where Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov conducted his first studies on dogs and saw the chair in which Pavlov often sat to do his work or have meetings.

SAS student Josh Haber, a junior at the University of Rochester, discusses life in St. Petersburg with Russian PhD psychology student Ivan Ivanchei.

Though more than 100 years ago, remnants of the cages where the dogs were said to be held during the time of the experiments still stood, very ragged and rusted, against the side of an old building in the psychology department’s courtyard.

“I was really interested in how they organized the psychology department into so many different areas of psychology versus how they do it at my college, where everyone comes out with a general psychology degree and not specialties,” said Molly Wasserman of the Univ. of North Florida.

SAS students learned that the St. Petersburg University’s psychology department, founded in 1966, has 14 divisions including crisis psychology. The department’s founder and first dean, Boris Ananyev, was instrumental (and famous for) helping Russia disguise cathedrals and churches during World War II to save them from German bombers.

Prof. Mueller, who regularly teaches at the Univ. of Calgary, in Canada, said the field lab to the university was intended for students to translate the textbook information about Pavlov and his work into reality. “We get to see not only Pavlov’s chair, but a real university where they are really doing interesting things.”

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