Staff Perspective: Winter Reflections on the Summer Institute

Staff Perspective: Winter Reflections on the Summer Institute

Dr. Libby Parins

Each winter I write about the Center for Deployment Psychology’s Summer Institute (CDPSI) being a fantastic opportunity for doctoral students considering a career as a military psychologist to learn about military psychology, internships, and career paths. Typically, the CDPSI is an in-person, five-day course held on the campus of the Uniformed Services Health Science University (USU) in Bethesda, MD. As with most other in-person events in 2020, the CDPSI was converted to an online event last summer due to COVID-19. Although it was a disappointment not to meet the students in person and spend the week together in the nation’s capital, it was a great opportunity to see how quickly the students, the presenters, the administrative staff, and the military guest speakers were able to pivot and produce the same top quality training experience as in previous years. All of the students had been notified in advance of the possibility of shifting to an online platform, and the decision was to host the program virtually was made over six weeks prior to the actual event.

Each day our amazing, and robust group of graduate students logged into Zoom by 0745 looking camera-ready and professionally dressed. They turned their microphones on, utilized the chat features of the Zoom platform, and engaged in cross talk even more than our typical in-person cohorts. When we held a panel with the internship training directors, students were easily able to raise their virtual hands, use their microphones, and ask their questions directly to the panelists. After the formal question and answer session with the panel, students were able to join smaller, informal Zoom breakout rooms to meet and talk with the training directors for the service branches they were most interested in joining. The Training Director Panel has always been a highlight of the CDPSI, and our staff had been worried about not providing the same experience in an online platform. Although there were a few Internet bandwidth problems for one or two participants, overall the virtual CDPSI, including the Training Director Panel, provided the high-quality interactive experience that we strive for each year. The training directors fielded questions about the impact of halting practicums and the reduced clinical hours for graduate students as the nation went on lockdown last spring. Students expressed this concern across the board, and it was reassuring to hear that the military internship programs were aware of the pandemic’s impact on trainees and working to adjust their internship screening criteria. Such timely question and answer sessions are one of the most valuable experiences a doctoral student can have when they are considering a commitment such as becoming a military psychologist.

The CDPSI offers unique glimpses into military psychology from internship and beyond. After the success of our first-ever online CDPSI, we are considering ways to extend this training to more graduate students. The online platform is more accessible to all students and doesn’t require the expense and time of travel to USU in Bethesda, MD. In addition to planning for our annual summer course at USU this July, plans are underway for delivery of our first online Winter Institute, which would be positioned in early 2022. Using lessons learned for this past summer’s virtual program, the Winter Institute would be shortened to three full days, focusing on the military-specific core content and panels. For any student interested in a military internship this is a terrific opportunity to learn more without a lot of expense or hassle of travel and it requires less of a time commitment. Look for more information on the 2022 Winter Institute coming up this spring. If you are interested in attending the CDPSI scheduled for 26-30 July 2021 at USU, applications are being accepted now through 5 March 2021. To apply, visit While the July course is supposed to be offered live, we will be following safety guidelines for the pandemic and determine if that is possible.

The opinions in CDP Staff Perspective blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science or the Department of Defense.

Libby Parins, Psy.D., is the Assistant Director of Training and Education at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP). Dr. Parins has worked at CDP since 2007, serving in many different capacities including as a faculty member on APA-accredited psychology internship programs, and as a project developer and trainer in military and civilian programs. She began her professional career as a Naval Officer where she served in San Diego, California and Bremerton, Washington as a psychologist