There's a university in town that's boasting a recent transformation, and it's not Stanford.
The recently renamed Palo Alto University, formerly the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, announced Friday that its doors are now open to local government and nonprofits. The university accepts community college students from Foothill and De Anza to complete bachelor's degrees all the way to doctorates in psychology programs.
For Franklin “Pitch” Johnson, a relationship with the town of Palo Alto has been a love affair 70 years in the making. Johnson, a leader in venture capitalism who founded Asset Management Company, gave the keynote speech at PAU's inaugural Town & Gown event Friday afternoon at the Stanford Faculty Club.
Johnson moved to Palo Alto as a child in 1940. “It was a very different place,” said Johnson, who graduated from Paly in 1946. He spoke of the tendency the town has always had toward academics—when the Professorville neighborhood was within walking distance of the former Lincoln Avenue (now California Avenue) in what used to be known as “Mayfield” (now southern Palo Alto).
“We've had, for a long time, a bunch of startups in this community,” Johnson said. It's now PAU's turn to foster a new kind of startup, as a nonprofit, private university, cycling local students back into the community as professionals with a commitment to giving back.
Since its original opening in 1975, PAU has had a strong focus on student involvement in the community—doctoral candidates, for example, volunteer 12-15 hours per week in the university's clinic in Los Altos, The Kurt and Barbara Gronowski Psychology Clinic.
Renaming the school to Palo Alto University in 2009 and working with local community colleges seemed a natural progression for the community-oriented program.
With 3 million students in the community college system and only 650,000 in the University of California and California State systems, PAU is expanding its program to reach out and serve community college students seeking full degrees.
The university gives back to the communities of Los Altos Hills and Cupertino, as well, through its affiliation with the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. PAU has limited facilities in its location adjacent to the Arastradero Regional Preserve, so it uses the community college campuses, providing bachelor's-degree completion, master's and doctorate programs in clinical psychology, business psychology or health counseling at PAU.
“We've enriched the two community college compounds,” said Paul Marcille, Ph.D., director of PAU's undergraduate program, “and we're providing students with practical experience.” Seniors on the bachelor's track must fulfill a year-long internship with one of the school's many affiliations, like Pine Hills School, CASA Child Advocates and the local YMCA.
PAU has cooperative relationships with several local clinical-training resources, including Stanford University, the Palo Alto Veterans Health Administration, the University of San Francisco and Golden Gate University.
“As students, we're getting great experience as therapists,” said Jeanna Spannring, a fifth-year Ph.D. student volunteering in PAU's psychology clinic in Los Altos. “I'm very proud to be a part of this clinic and what it does to give back.”
The Kurt and Barbara Gronowski Psychology Clinic serves 270 clients, most of whom do not have insurance. Working with a sliding-scale fee, some pay as little as $2-$3 for assessments. PAU students help cut costs to allow for discounted health care by volunteering their time.
“We're at the beginning of a very exciting adventure,” Marcille said of PAU's transformation and community commitment.
For more information on Palo Alto University, check out its website.