An academic who specialises in how arts activity can facilitate mental wellbeing is leading the new Psychology degree course at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln.

Olivia Sagan has moved from University College London (UCL) to take up the post of Academic Co-ordinator for Psychology at BGU.

For the first time from September 2013 BGU undergraduates will be able to combine the study of psychology with another degree subject, such as drama, history or sport.

Olivia’s background in fine art and her work with mental health and community organisations mean she will bring a fresh approach to the teaching of psychology.

“Psychology at BGU has got a particular flavour and draws on expertise in education, special educational needs, drama, arts and sport,” said Olivia . “We are really focusing on the arts and therapies, and social, developmental and community psychology. That makes it quite distinctive from other courses.

“This focus, with its eye on community applicability, reflects my research and background in art and engagement with disadvantaged groups in the community.”

Interest in the new course has been encouraging, says Olivia. “Those who have expressed an interest on the course are mainly those who want to go into education but who want to keep other doors open,” she said. “They may be interested in drama therapy, or they may want to apply a social psychological understanding to historical events; sport and psychology and English and psychology are also good combinations.”

Olivia, a chartered psychologist, began her career as a psychodynamic counsellor but moved into education, becoming first a senior lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire and then a researcher at the Institute of Education in London, where she gained her PhD.

She then took a post as Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London before being appointed as Programme Director for the MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology based at the Anna Freud Centre at University College London.

“I’ve continued my research into mental wellbeing, interviewing people who have been using art as a means to aid their recovery journey,” said Olivia. “One strand of this work culminated in a film which was shown at Tate Modern last year and I am currently writing a book based on narratives of wellbeing to be published by Routledge in the coming year.

“My appointment at BGU is an exciting opportunity for me to bring together my passion for psychology with my experience in pedagogy, the arts and community applications and provide a stimulating and critical psychology degree course which draws on the substantial existing strengths of this university.”

The new psychology degree at BGU complies with the criteria of the British Psychological Society and the university is working with the BPS to achieve accreditation in the near future.

30th April 2013