BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A small psychology and counseling school has made national news after one of its professors, Christine Blasey Ford, accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school — leaving some to ask: what’s Palo Alto University?
Maureen O’Connor, who left the City University of New York to become the president of Palo Alto University in 2016, called the school a “hidden gem.”
“I thought this is an amazing, specialized, deep and broad university in a very important area, and more people need to know about it,” O’Connor told the Post. “I think it’s been known for a long time for its training at the doctoral level.”
O’Connor said the school had been “keeping our faculty and students focused on their education,” amid the distraction of Ford’s allegation. Ford is a full-time biostatistician and research scientist who teaches psychology doctoral students.
O’Connor declined to comment further about Ford, who has co-written more than 50 books and publications on topics including post-traumatic growth after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, acupuncture as a treatment for depression during pregnancy and the relationship between childhood abuse and adult depression.
Originally had a different name
The school was founded in 1975 as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology after a number of universities, including Stanford, stopped training doctoral students in clinical psychology.
“There were very few options in the Bay Area,” O’Connor said, explaining that the school’s founding was driven by a small group of students concerned by the lack of options.
“As the university has evolved, we now have a number of faculty who also do amazing work and research,” O’Connor said. “At the beginning, it really was focused on producing well-trained clinical psychologists.”
Among the school’s faculty members are Paul Marcille, the current president of the California Psychology Association.
The school has a campus at 1791 Arastradero Road, operates a clinic campus in an office building at 5150 El Camino Real in Los Altos and teaches some classes at De Anza College in Cupertino.
About the students
In 2009, the school reincorporated as Palo Alto University and started accepting undergraduate transfer students from Foothill and De Anza colleges. Last year, the school enrolled 134 undergrads in two majors: business psychology and psychology and social action.
Of 1,152 total students, 473 are seeking a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and 326 are studying for master’s degrees in counseling.
More than 170 are studying for psychology doctorates in a consortium with Stanford, and 45 are seeking master’s degrees in psychology. Almost 850 attend classes on campus while 253 are taking classes online, with 50 in a residential-online hybrid program.
Graduation rates are 79% for undergrads, 66% for master’s students and 77% for doctoral students.
The student body is 79% women and 46% of its undergraduates qualify for the Pell Grant.
In 2015, $30.6 million of the school’s $32.3 million budget came from tuition, according to the university’s tax forms.