What led you to choose to major in psychology, specifically cognitive and behavioral neuroscience?
A neurological illness cut my military career short. I had to undergo over 18 months of monitoring and rehabilitation therapy, which included the Dog Tags canine training program with the Washington Humane Society. I have also been working on my own leadership theory and got into reading journals, and one day my wife bought an organizational psychology journal that included a chapter by Dr. Steve Zaccaro, so I started to look into the program here. The Mason Psychology and CBN programs touch on each area that I dealt with, and I have a greater curiosity because of that experience. The program encapsulates my unique experience perfectly, and allows me to explore the concepts I have crafted over the last 8 years.
What have you enjoyed so far about studying your program in psychology?
It’s a lot of opportunity to initiate new emerging research based on animals. Researchers tend to build animal models for disease constructs and medical treatments but don’t do a lot of models for learning, interaction or behavior. Most of what we’re doing is new or unexplored, so it’s a chance to start something fresh that can interest a lot of people. Animal behavior is always interesting because there are tons of nuances animals show.
What kind of research are you currently working on?
Right now we’re going to be working with chickens and the different responses to food calls, but I’m also going to be working with another grad student with her study on the hierarchy changes within birds. And that will be the principle for future research for me to do an effective model with hierarchy changes with the goats she has, as well as dogs.
Do you have a favorite class?
I don’t have a favorite, but every class I’m taking right now is interesting in its own respect. For example, I’m taking an MRI class right now and I’ve had MRIs for treatment before, so it’s interesting to see how it looks from the other side of that.
What extracurricular or other exciting activities are you involved in?
I’m married and have two kids and two dogs, and I got involved in an informal dog training certification program for soldiers with the Washington Humane Society. I’ve also been involved in Muy Thai for the past three or four years.
What are your career goals after graduation?
The main thing is to teach and also be a leadership coach or consultant. After I have my degree I want to continue my research into my leadership concept and start programs where it can be practically applied. For me it wouldn’t matter if that were to be done in an academic setting or a business setting.
What advice do you have for prospective students to your program?
Reach out, contact different professors, ask them about their interests and share your interests and ideas with them. I wasn’t a psychology major and I had no concept of even attending a Ph.D. program, but reaching out to Dr. Bitler helped give me a chance to come to this program and further my ideas.
Also, be willing to learn new things, and find takeaways even from things that seem difficult or uninteresting, especially with CBN. There’s some aspect of it that applies somewhere in your life, such as with the behavioral element. You’ll be able to understand the nuances of how animals interact, how they develop, as well as to step out into some other branches whether it be human factors, clinical or industrial/organizational psychology.