The Behavioral Sciences Department is devoted to the systematic study of human behavior with an emphasis on a scientific approach to real-life problems.
This department offers the following majors:
- Intergroup Relations & Conflict
The Psychology major focuses on the general study of human behavior with an emphasis on human interaction in real-world settings. Examining both theoretical models of behavior and the contexts in which these models are applied, students will be versed in the major theories of the discipline with an emphasis on hands-on interaction via research and internships. Students will learn to do psychological research, discuss ethical issues regarding therapy and research with human subjects, and learn about core areas in Psychology: Child Development, Social Psychology, Personality Theories, Learning Theory and Cognitive Psychology. Additionally, students will be able to take courses in emerging fields such as Health Psychology and Cross-Cultural Psychology. This major provides students with the necessary background to pursue graduate work in Psychology, social work or related fields.
The Intergroup Relations & Conflict major is interdisciplinary and focuses on the ways individuals and groups relate to each other, the development of prejudice and intergroup conflict, and ways to resolve conflict. Both psychological and sociological theories are included to integrate individual and aggregate level analyses of these issues. Classes include such topics as: attitude formation, the development of prejudice and hatred, how prejudice leads to genocide, intergroup processes of consensus development and conformity, and methods of changing prejudice and resolving intergroup conflicts. This major provides students with the necessary background to pursue graduate work in Psychology (as well as other social science programs), teaching in this content area, and working in more applied areas such as law or non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).
DEPARTMENT CHAIR & ADVISOR
Sue Kapitanoff, Ph.D.
UCLA, B.A. (Psychology), 1980
CSU Northridge, M.A. (Social Psychology), 1984
UC Irvine, Ph.D. (Health Psychology), 1992
Dr. Sue Kapitanoff says she always wanted to be a psychologist – not the kind who discusses personal issues with patients in an office with a leather couch, framed art-museum posters, and book-lined shelves, but a social psychologist, a person who studies the psyche of a society and why people in different cultures behave the way they do. “Basically, I wanted to understand why people hate each other,” she says in her usual mild manner, belying the seriousness of the subject under discussion. “As a youth, I was very aware that prejudice existed. And growing up in a liberal, socially-conscious home, I wanted to know how to change attitudes.”
Since joining American Jewish University in 1992, Dr. Kapitanoff has been an integral part of our university community. During her time at AJU, Dr. Kapitanoff has worn several hats: Chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department, lecturer in Psychology, and Dean of Students and Undergraduate Affairs.
Dr. Kapitanoff’s desire to promote understanding and tolerance extends well beyond the classroom. She has worked closely with students on the Prejudice Awareness Summit. This important event brings hundreds of middle school students from the Los Angeles Unified School District for a day-long session on fostering tolerance among youth of various ethnic backgrounds.
Additionally, Dr. Kapitanoff heads-up American Jewish University’s Sophomore Service Learning program. During this program, students learn the history of various social issues, and then work directly with affected populations and the agencies that help them. This program, which is an important part of our Core Curriculum, deepens our students’ understanding of social challenges via hands-on experience in the field.
“For me, one of the greatest benefits of all of these activities has been the amount I have learned from the students,” Dr. Kapitanoff noted. “I grasped early-on that teaching is not lecturing. It’s a sharing of information, a collaborative educational partnership, where we inspire each other.”