As he approached 15 years at the University of Indianapolis’s School of Psychological Sciences, Rick Holigrocki felt it was time to move on. The school had gained reaccreditation in 2012, culminating a long, intensive process that he had helped lead. With that effort behind him and a baby girl on the way, he and his wife, Yolanda, wanted to fulfill long-harbored dreams of living in a milder climate.
"My wife and I had been looking for a way to spend more of our life outside," says Mr. Holigrocki, 48, who will step down as dean of Indianapolis’s School of Psychological Sciences at the end of July. "This past winter especially was very long and cold, so I started looking at positions in California."
On August 1, he will become founding dean of the new Graduate School of Psychology at California Lutheran University: "It’ll be a chance to, I think, live in a healthier way."
Both Indianapolis and California Lutheran are private, faith-based universities with psychology programs that host a low-fee local counseling clinic. Both institutions, he says, act as "the gatekeepers for this new generation of psychologists to protect the public."
But, he says, the scope will be different. At Indianapolis, Mr. Holigrocki is in charge of both undergraduate and graduate psychology programs; at California Lutheran, he’ll focus on the latter. There he will work on consolidating the school’s existing divisions—master’s programs in counseling psychology and clinical psychology, and a doctoral program in clinical psychology—into a cohesive school.
"Getting to know the new faculty and their needs will be a challenge for me," says Mr. Holigrocki. "I’ve been at the University of Indianapolis for almost 15 years, and I know my faculty very well. So now, I’ll need to find out again how to best make people feel engaged and excited about what they do."
He says he’ll also need to adjust to the size of California Lutheran’s Community Counseling Centers, which serve many more clients across their two locations than does Indianapolis’s center.
Though there is heavier reliance on pharmaceuticals to treat mental illnesses nowadays, the high number of patients who use the centers "shows that there seems to be no dearth of people seeking psychological services," Mr. Holigrocki says, especially in California Lutheran’s specializations of intimate-partner violence-intervention therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, an approach that draws upon cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy techniques and mindfulness practice.
Mr. Holigrocki plans to distinguish the new school by emphasizing those two specializations.
"Building the brand and recognition and bringing together the different programs are going to be essential," he says. "But until I actually get out there and begin the day-to-day work, I’m still an outsider, and my first job will be working on communication. As a dean, you really fit between the faculty and the school, and the university. It’s a negotiation process to ensure that needs are being met on both sides."