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‘Get Involved’: Meet Our Alumni

Katie Joyce ’13

Katie Joyce

Katie Joyce knew she wanted to come to Keene State – it was the only school she applied to – and she knew she wanted to study psychology. What she didn’t know was that she’d end up being hooked on research. “I came into college leaning toward clinical psychology, but then I took different classes and found that research and experimental psychology was really what I wanted to do,” says Joyce, who graduated with honors, received the 2013 Homer Stavely Psychology Award, and was president of Psi Chi, the psychology honors society.

She points to the department’s variety of course offerings – enough to allow majors to explore the many aspects of the field. “I’m just really thankful for the opportunities that the Psychology Department offered me,” she says. “It was a really nice community to be involved in. Everyone there was so helpful. There were professors with all different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s not like you wanted to just stick with one person – you wanted to talk to everyone and see what they thought about things, and get involved with them in different ways. It was a really great opportunity for me.”

One opportunity she especially appreciates was the chance to do research, both with faculty members and as part of the department’s honors program. Her honors project, “The Effects of Emotional and Neutral Stimuli on Change Detection and Electrodermal Response in Iconic Memory,” looked at the ways words that are emotionally charged, like “guillotine” or “infatuation,” can create an unconscious physiological response in people, as compared with neutral words like “door” or “windmill.” Joyce recruited student subjects, applied for and received a grant to compensate the subjects (four $50 gift cards that were raffled), then used a meter that measures skin changes to test for a response while she quickly showed them the emotional and neutral words.

Joyce plans to go on to grad school, but first she’s spending a year working for Keene State’s Aspire program as tutor program assistant, a position funded by AmeriCorp VISTA. The job is a continuation of work she did as a student, as a supplemental instructor for psychology courses and as a tutor through Aspire, which offers academic support services. She likes the counseling aspects of the tutoring work, and she likes helping people. As tutor program assistant, she is doing tutoring and aiding in the coordination the peer tutoring program. She’s also developing a mentoring program that may be incorporated into the tutoring program, so that tutors will be able to help first-year students with course work but also by giving them other kinds of assistance and advice. The idea is to help them “make the most out of their experience here,” she says.

It’s a job she should succeed at, having made the most of her own time as a student at Keene State. Her advice to students? “My suggestion would be to start small, and then keep building off of that. Get involved in some way; work with a professor or help your fellow classmates. Do more than just go to class every day.”

Timothy Gann ’04

Timothy Gann

Timothy Gann’s path to a career as a cognitive scientist meandered a bit. He spent his college freshman and sophomore years at UMass-Amherst, and originally planned to major in physics. But he’d always been interested in computer programming, so he took several computer science classes. “I came across a lot of discussions of artificial intelligence,” he remembers, “which made me think a lot about how the human mind works, and how people think. That made me interested in how the human mind works, and so I eventually transitioned into studying psychology.”

He also transitioned from UMass to Keene State after taking some time off between his sophomore and junior years, continuing with psychology as a major but also taking enough computer courses to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an associate’s degree in computer science.

Gann thrived at Keene State. He appreciated that Psychology Department faculty members were very supportive and happy to interact with him. “I was one of those students that were always hanging out after class to bend the teacher’s ear a bit,” he says. As part of his thesis for the department’s honors program, he did an experiment that looked at the ways people process things that they see from right-brain and left-brain perspectives.

After beginning graduate work at the University of New Hampshire, Gann moved to the West Coast, transferring to the University of California at Riverside, where he earned both a master’s degree and a PhD. Trained as a psycholinguist, he studies the ways people speak and interact, and how they plan what they’re going to say.

He’s currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute, which focuses on environmental issues of the region. His work there is to study climate change communications to help determine the best way to talk about climate change issues. He’s also working to set up a center for climate change issues at the university.

Word usage – like “climate change” vs. “global warming” – is critical, he notes: the term “climate change” focuses people on thinking more broadly. “It’s not so much about the world getting warmer,” he says, “it’s about the climate in general – for instance, greater frequency of storms, wildfires, flooding, issues with air quality.”

Before taking his current job, and while he was completing his doctoral dissertation, Gann returned to Keene State for a semester to teach. The experience reminded him of how important relationships with faculty can be for undergraduates. He was one of 20,000 students during his stint at UMass, he says, and he doubts that anyone on that university’s faculty would remember him now. But when he arrived to teach at Keene State seven years after graduating, most of his old teachers recognized him immediately. “I had a lot of good relationships with faculty at Keene State,” he says.