‘Get Involved’: Meet Our Alumni
Katie Joyce ’13
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’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.
Emma Laramie ’13
“I like the study of the brain,” says Emma Laramie ’13. She’s also interested in the body. Laramie has followed both paths in her life and in her career. After majoring in psychology and simultaneously becoming certified to teach group fitness classes at Keene State, she now works for Monadnock Family Services, a community-based mental health services agency, and sidelines as a fitness instructor.
As a student, Laramie interned at The Samaritans, a crisis hotline, which cemented her desire to work in the mental health field. After doing extensive research, she discovered her two greatest passions, fitness and counseling, go handin- hand. “You can’t really have one without the other,” says Laramie. “You can’t treat your mind without treating your body, or vice versa.”
Her passion for fitness blossomed when she first decided to participate in a group cycling class at Keene State her first year. She developed close friends within the group classes, becoming a regular participant and then an instructor at the Bodyworks fitness center in Spaulding Gymnasium. “Group classes were the kick-start to where I am right now,” she says. “If I hadn’t started working there, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”
She continues to lead fitness classes at Bodyworks and also at the Keene Family YMCA, where her classes have included those for people with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy.
At Monadnock Family Services, Laramie is a health mentor and personal trainer with clients of all different backgrounds, ages, and fitness levels. “The best way to alleviate any type of symptoms is to exercise. It helps people connect with their body,” says Laramie, who stresses that even a brisk walk can benefit not just the body but the mind as well.
In the future, she hopes to go back to school to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, which she calls a perfect combination of mental and physical health. “It’s a balance,” she says. “Life is always a balance.”
Christine Holland ‘15
Christine Holland made a special talking piece for the healing circle she co-facilitates at the Cheshire County Jail. A wild turkey feather embellished with beads, its quill bound in leather, the talking piece gives the person who holds it the right to speak without interruptions. “I felt we needed something that felt sacred and grounded in the natural world,” says Holland, a nontraditional Keene State student who has been leading inmate groups at the jail all year as a practicum for her psychology major.
As they discussed the talking piece, Holland said to the women in the group, “Remember, as you take this talking feather from the person beside you, that the one who’s passing it to you is also passing a piece of herself. As you will to the person you pass it on to. Thereby, we’re all connected.”
Holland, who has Blackfoot heritage, structured the group on the traditional Native American healing circle. “I think that my role at the jail is to help in healing the spirit, a person’s spirit. That’s what I want to do. I want to help the spirit heal,” she says.
“People need to be viewed with empathy and humanity,” adds Holland. “They have to have their humanity given back to them. We’re incarcerating a population that has a disease – addiction. Incarceration in itself is traumatizing.”
Holland knows that first hand. She has a history of substance abuse that goes back to her teenage years and that escalated after she was prescribed OxyContin following back surgery. “I ended up a heroin addict,” she says, “and because it’s all about doing anything and everything to acquire your drug, I ended up in jail.” Four months at the Cheshire County Jail gave her time to get the drugs out of her system and to start thinking clearly – and making some decisions about her life. What she decided was to go back to school.
“I was released on June 28, 2011,” she says, “and I started at River Valley Community College that September.” A year later, she transferred to Keene State, where she has learned much about psychology, about addictions – the focus of her health science minor – and also about herself.
“The degree?” she says. “That’s just a bonus. I’ve learned so much here about me. Just so much selfdiscovery as far as some of the choices I’ve made and how they occurred.” Her goal, after she graduates in December, is to take what she’s learned and help others – specifically, inmates – to make changes in their lives as well.
One of the groups she facilitated this year at the county jail focused on restorative practices. “That’s about helping people find their own humanity,” she says. “Once you have your own humanity, it’s easy to look at others with humanity.”
That sense of finding one’s humanity permeates the other groups, too. In the healing circle group, in which inmates share their experiences and emotions, Holland works to build trust. “They have to trust that I’m not going to pass judgment. That’s not my job. Who am I to pass judgment? I’m trying to help these women and men heal.”
And, given her own past, she’s also showing the inmates a new path. “It’s good for them to see somebody get out, make changes, and then try to give back,” Holland says. “That’s huge.”