The 1970s saw a lot of growth at the College, including the addition of the psychology department. Offering the major took a few years while William “Bill” Bischoff ’45, the appointed chair of the new department, gathered faculty.
One of his first hires was Charles Kaiser, who recalls that Bischoff had a fatherly approach to leadership.
“He took each hire under his wing and had a strong personal interest in their success,” says Kaiser, who still teaches in the department. “We couldn’t have had a more supportive chair. Many of us had daily conversations with him that covered all sorts of things, ranging from departmental issues and College concerns to his periodic poker games and interactions with friends.”
Bischoff chaired the psychology department until his retirement in 1993. His time at the College is best summarized by the poem, “Ode to Bill,” which Faye Steuer, psychology professor emerita, wrote for his retirement party. It reads in part: “From ’70 on, up ’til 1-9-9-3, he led the department – my colleagues and me. / Sometimes indulgent, sometimes dictatorial, he had staying power that was truly arboreal. / His management style was benign/consultational. And all will agree the results were sensational. / We went from two people to 14 and growing. Without any signs of slow-down or plateauing. / His wisdom and wit are his greatest attractions. / They’ve seemed to prevent the arising of factions.”
When Bischoff passed away in 1995, the department set up the William Bischoff Memorial Scholarship to provide funds for at least two psychology majors each academic year. Leah Lancellotta ’23, a psychology major and medical humanities minor, was one of the latest beneficiaries.
“Receiving this scholarship meant so much to me,” says the Rhode Island native. “It gave me the support I needed to accomplish my professional goals.”
As a psychology laboratory research assistant, Lancellotta studied maternal depression and child cognitive biases. Her team of peers and two faculty advisers studied how conversations between mothers and their young children influence how the child understands and remembers new experiences. Lancellotta was also involved in a study exploring the validity of a temporal-based scoring system of the Controlled Oral Word Association Test, a neuropsychological measure of verbal fluency.
Analyzing the data of these studies will likely lead to two published research articles and help Lancellotta in future studies and in her career.
Lancellotta also gained hands-on experience shadowing licensed psychologists in assessment cases and therapy sessions at Gershon Psychological Associates, as well as training in active listening, de-escalation and applied suicide intervention at Students 4 Support, a CofC organization.
In addition to serving as treasurer of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, Lancellotta received departmental honors and the Psychology Outstanding Student Award in 2023.
“Receiving this scholarship allowed me to work in and with varying atmospheres, populations and professionals, which will certainly benefit my future,” says Lancellotta, who plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
“I envision working in a university medical center, which will allow me to conduct research and provide psychological services to children and adults. I am very excited about the diverse and numerous opportunities for training within this field, and I cannot thank CofC enough for preparing me for this path.”