Alumni Profile: Psychology Professor Meagan Curtis 99F
Meagan Curtis 99F will start as an assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York, Purchase in the fall. Her time at Hampshire is one of the key reasons she will be there.
“The provost and dean I interviewed with said that Hampshire was one of the colleges they strive to be like. They like the interdisciplinary, hands-on approach, and obviously that’s what Hampshire is all about,” says Curtis. “I stood out because I went to Hampshire.”
Curtis may not even have entered the psychology field if she hadn’t gone to Hampshire. Her intent to focus on music composition changed after taking a required cognitive science course. The project she conducted in that class led her into the research she continues on a much broader scale to this day.
“I saw that when people were sad, they tend to speak with minor musical intervals,” she says. “That was the beginning of my investigation of structural similarities between music, language, and emotional responses. I look at music in conjunction with other cognitive domains, at how music interacts with cognitive processes, and how language and music are processed simultaneously.”
After Hampshire, Curtis earned her doctorate from Dartmouth College, and finished her postdoctoral cognitive science research at Tufts University. She had actually planned to continue postdoctoral work for another year until she saw the posting for the SUNY Purchase professorship.
“I will be teaching a variety of psychology courses, and I will have a research lab dedicated to pursuing both my ideas and those of my students,” she says.
She hopes to present her students with opportunities and challenges similar to those she found at Hampshire.
“Hampshire prepared me for everything that followed. I learned the skills needed to conduct research, to analyze data. The hands-on experience was pretty unique, and there is an enormously helpful support system here. The faculty involvement makes all the difference in the world,” she says.
Curtis is one of a small number of researchers focused on her particular area of study in the growing field of music cognition. That's something she hopes to change in the future, ideally through getting her own students interested in the subject matter. Classes on the psychology of music and sensation and perception in her first semester at SUNY Purchase may further that goal, but as she learned at Hampshire, you never can tell where a student’s interests will lead them.